Cian O'Connor
Olympic Bronze Medallist

Cian's Blog: July, 2009

Hickstead - Job Done!

  • Rancorrado at Hickstead, where his solid performance helped Ireland to third place and ensured that the team will not be relegated from the Meydan Series at the end of this season

Hickstead as always is a wonderful venue. One of thing that makes it so special is the arena, which adds difficulties for the riders with its differing gradients, and also the material - some of the poles are a bit longer and the equipment a little old-fashioned which I feel is nice as many of the shows you go to these days look the same and don't have the same character as Hickstead.

The topic of the ground conditions is one of much debate and also one that people point to when things go wrong. There's no denying that the ground was definitely on the soft side and as our horses are worth so much we have to endeavour to have the best surfaces to avoid injury. However I do feel that many of the riders and horses themselves have gone a bit soft about jumping out of surfaces that are less than perfect. Surfaces cannot be consistently perfect everywhere, and maybe they shouldn't be, either.

I was absolutely thrilled with Rancorrado, who gave one of the most solid performances in the class. He jumped really well in both rounds, producing one error each round. When he landed after the second fence in the first round I could feel him getting stuck in the ground a little bit and he clipped the back pole off the next fence probably because of this. I then put my leg around him and rode him forward, and the horse answered my question superbly and jumped super the rest of the way round.

All my international horses will be rested this weekend to have them in top shape for the Dublin Horse Show, which begins on Wednesday week (August 5). I will however jump some of my other horses at the South County Dublin Show which is on at Coilog in Co. Kildare this weekend, Saturday and Sunday. Check back after that for an update.

Best wishes,

La Coruna - A Profitable Weekend

  • The very consistent Baloufina, who took third place in Sunday's big feature class at La Coruna

Last weekend I competed at the four-star show at La Coruna in the north of Spain. At this venue they have an indoor and an outdoor show, the indoor show being in December at which I jumped a few years ago, but this was my first time at the summer event.

All my horses jumped well. Rancorrado jumped the Grand Prix with just a single fence down which I was very happy with following my fall in Estoril. He wasn't fazed in the slightest and jumped the big course very well, which sets him up for the Nations' Cup in Hickstead on Friday of this week.

Baloufina was as consistent as ever, being placed 2nd and 4th in two 1m45 classes which were also for World Ranking points. Splendor topped off the weekend with a great result in yesterday's feature, the 1m50 jump off class, being beaten by only 0.16 seconds to finish in a very creditable 3rd place.

My horses feel in great form and while they have been jumping for several months I haven't been using any of them too much and I am looking forward to plenty of success in the coming weeks at Hickstead and Dublin.

Check back next Monday for more news.

Best wishes,

Mixed Fortunes At Estoril, Portugal

  • Rancorrado, 4th in the main event on Friday night at Estoril

Estoril in Portugal is situated on the coast about half an hour's drive outside Lisbon. The weather was perfect, the ground in good shape, and the riders put up in a five-star hotel just a two minute walk from the showgrounds.

This was only a two-day show and in the main event on Friday Rancorrado jumped a really good double clear to finish 4th. For anybody who watched the jumping last night on Eurosport, I imagine it made for strange viewing, as 23 of 43 combinations jumped clear in the first round and only 4 jumping a second clear.

I believe the second round being under lights made a considerable difference. At some shows the lighting is so good it's better than in daylight, and while I don't want to criticise there were quite a few shadows in the ring and especially in the warming up. Rancorrado had a superb first round clear and was going clear in the second round until the final line. He stalled off the floor at an oxer beside the pocket and hit the back pole quite hard. The next fence was the triple which caused great difficulty throughout the class and after jumping in well, he hesitated and put down at the second part, throwing me over his ears!

So as you can imagine Estoril is not on my list to return to for a holiday anytime soon! However at this stage of my career you learn to take the knocks and work through them. As I said last week about Denis Lynch, we all have our good days and bad days. The important thing is to stay patient and focused and follow your plan. In the main, these things come round and everyone gets a turn, and I just hope mine comes soon!!

Rancorrado will pop a few small classes next weekend at the 4* show in La Coruna, Spain, just to be on the safe side, but as he's such a genuine horse, I know Estoril won't have affected him. I also take Splendor and Baloufina.

Best wishes,

Csio Aachen - One Of The Greats

  • Doing the lap of honour with Baloufina after winning the Speed Derby at Aachen

When you've competed at the CSIO at Aachen for six days as I just have you certainly know you've been there. Every morning your body is aching and you're just physically drained! Yes, it's a really long week with the jumping starting on Tuesday and finishing on Sunday, but the Irish in general did exceptionally well overall.

Baloufina had four starts, she was placed three times and won the Speed Derby in great style. Rancorrado was exceptional in the Nations' Cup, where he jumped for just a single time fault in round one, and in the second round had just four faults to help the team secure a creditable fifth place.

Denis Lynch made history on Sunday, becoming only the third Irishman ever to win the Grand Prix of Aachen. He and Lantinus jumped three superb rounds to clinch victory and I'm sure in time it will be one of the most memorable days of his career. I was genuinely delighted for him.

When I was flying home on Sunday night I was thinking about Denis's victory and the thought came to my mind of the ups and downs of show jumping and the challenges it presents. What I mean is that on Thursday Denis was very unfortunate, as the same horse pecked on landing in the combination during the first round of the Nations' Cup, and unfortunately unseated Denis, resulting in elimination.

So if you can imagine, here we are at one of the biggest shows in the world and due to bad luck he gets eliminated - you can only guess at how that must have affected him. But then think how mentally focused he must have been to get stuck back in and end up winning the Grand Prix. In this game you can be up one minute and down the next. Even from my own point of view, I was best of the Irish in the Nations' Cup but then in the Grand Prix I had a couple of fences down. But I have to lift myself up from that and work towards the Global Champions Tour in Estoril next week. In show jumping at this level you have to be strong mentally or you might as well throw your hat at it.

This week, as I said, I go to Estoril in Portugal for the Global Champions Tour on Saturday night, which will be live on Eurosport. I jump Rancorrado and Irish Independent Echo Beach and as we're only four weeks away from the Dublin Horse Show the planning and preparation from here on in is vital as Dublin - the RDS - is always my main goal.

As I said before, Aachen is one of the best shows in the world but there's no place like home! Dublin supersedes it, and you know what - the ground is better too!

Check back next week and I'll fill you in on Estoril.

Best wishes,

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