Cian O'Connor
Olympic Bronze Medallist

Cian's Blog: July, 2010

Aachen Victory A Huge Boost

  • Riding the lap of honour at Aachen

Hi Everyone

Back at home now slowly recovering from a very long week in Aachen and indeed coming to terms with our great victory there. Sometimes when you're closely involved with something you don't recognise the significance of its success.

For instance the Irish team prior to Aachen was lying close to the relegation zone, 6th out of 10 teams. Robert Splaine was able to pull his best four riders and horses available and they were in turn able to organise themselves and  arrive at the show with their horses in top shape to deliver a world class performance.

It's not to be cribbing but sometimes you can't help get a bit disillusioned by the lack of coverage such a victory gets back home. I know for a fact the results are sent out - people in the media get the results - and the Irish Federation has a very good press office that gets the information out almost immediately to everyone who matters.

In show jumping terms we all know how significant Aachen is but it's perhaps difficult for the editors of the papers to know the difference between that and something of less significance. I certainly don't want to dwell on this or create negativity but on a personal level I know how hard it is to secure owners and horses, and be able to produce the goods at world level. When you hear of other small sports getting coverage you wonder what can be done to convince the decision-makers in the media to understand what our sport's about. It's a vexing question, and one that needs a great deal more thought and maybe persuasion.

It looks now we're fairly safe for the Meydan series, being in third place on the table, although many of the teams are quite close. Robert Splaine today announced a very strong squad for Hickstead on July 30, with Shane Breen, Dermott Lennon, Shane Sweetnam, Denis Lynch and Billy Twomey. My mare has done quite a bit of jumping and I would like to give her just a small class at the South County Show the week after next in the run-up to the RDS.

It's amazing what can be achieved when everyone has a common goal. Have no doubt Aachen is one of the best shows in the world. I've said it before and I'll say it again - all the best riders and horses were there, but it was us who won.

If we can bottle that concept I believe the team has a chance of winning the final two legs at both Hickstead and Dublin, but perhaps more importantly, there is no reason why we shouldn't aim for gold at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in 11 weeks' time.

Splendor also performed superbly at Aachen for the week, jumping clear in two big classes and finishing 3rd in the 1m45 on Sunday. K Club Lady was again superb in the Grand Prix, but was unfortunate when touching one pole in the final line.

This weekend I take Splendor to Tattersalls for the Grand Prix and I have also picked up a horse just this week to try for the Puissance in Dublin, who I'll take to Tattersalls to get to know. Tattersalls International Horse Show is a three day 2 star show running from Friday to Sunday, situated just outside Ratoath opposite Fairyhouse Racecourse. I'd encourage anyone to come along and watch the jumping and indeed meet the international riders.

Best wishes,

A Night We'll Never Forget

  • The winning Irish team at Aachen with Robert Splaine in front

Hi Everyone

I'm still coming to terms with the reality that we actually won the Nations' Cup in Aachen last night.

Aachen is the mecca of show jumping and it's the place where everybody wants to go well. All the best riders and horses in the world are here, but as I stated in my previous blog, we were focused and determined to deliver a solid performance, and deliver we all did.

I'm lucky enough to be riding on a team with such great competitors as Billy, Dermott and Denis and when K Club Lady delivered a foot perfect double clear round I had also done my bit. It just shows what can be done with solid team performers who pull together and aren't afraid to put their shoulders to the wheel.

For Robert Splaine it's a tremendous victory. He works tirelessly trying to do the best for the team and when it all comes together as it did last night he can sit back and take a bow.

Onwards and upwards to Hickstead and Dublin for the Irish team. Check back on Sunday night for further updates.

Best wishes,

Ireland Need A Good Cup Performance

  • The vast main arena at Aachen under floodlights

Hi Everyone,

We've just arrived in Aachen, which is without doubt one of the greatest shows in the world. To give you an example of the calibre and class of the show the practice arena would be good enough to hold any international Grand Prix!

It's a six day show and will be a long week. I've taken K Club Lady and Splendor. The first day of jumping starts tomorrow, Tuesday, where I will put K Club Lady in the 1m45 class and Splendor in the 1m50.

The Nations Cup is on Thursday with the second round under lights at night, and promises to be, as always, a great competition.

Because of the sheer size of the arena the courses here tend not to be that technical but the jumps are bold and impressive and probably bigger than anywhere else.

The Irish team is lying in sixth place at the moment in the Meydan series and with four of the ten teams being relegated this year a top three performance is imperative. With only three legs left - Aachen, Hickstead and Dublin - we won't be sure of staying up in the league until the last horse comes out of the ring in the RDS next month.

Robert Splaine has called on his strongest team riders here, all of whom have vast Nations Cup experience and who are capable of delivering under pressure. It will be a tough battle but we all understand the importance of it and one thing is for certain - everybody will be trying their absolute best.

Check back on Thursday night for updates. Meanwhile, you can follow the live scores on the Horse Sport Ireland website (www.horsesportireland.ie) from about 6.30pm on Thursday or for live video see www.feitv.org

Best wishes,

Estoril - A Different Kind Of Show Jumping

  • K Club Ladylearning all the time

Hi Everyone,

Estoril is situated on the coast about 40kms west of Lisbon, Portugal.

The riders were put up in a beautiful 5 star hotel and with 30 degree temperatures, the swimming pool and deck chairs were occupied by the top 30 riders during the day, trying to top up their farmers' tans as the jumping was at night!

Unusually the show was only two days long and with only two classes a day it seemed a long way to travel.  However with the big money on offer last night most of the worlds top combinations lined out.

The Global Champions Tour is an extraordinary concept and Jan Tops' brain child has without doubt raised the bar and basically forced the FEI to improve the Meydan Nations Cup league in order to be able to stay with the GCT.

Having said that however, I can't help feel when I'm at these shows that it is solely geared around the Grand Prix.  The other classes although offering prize funds between 20-25k are somewhat of non-events i.e. many not trying or saving for the bigger pot. Perhaps it would be an idea to have a little less money in the Grand Prix in order to spread it out to the other classes and therefore creating good sport and better atmosphere over the weekend and not just in one competition.

K Club Lady is learning all the time.  If selected, my next goal is to jump her on the Nations Cup team in Aachen, the second round of which is at night time under lights.

As I only have her 3 months and also as I like to leave no stone unturned one of the main reasons I brought her to Estoril was for a dry run under lights.  Some horses don't take to it at all and can be very spooky, but the mare was fantastic and jumped a super clear round in the Grand Prix on Saturday night.

In the second round she jumped all the hard lines very well but was unlucky in just touching the middle part of the combination for 4 faults, finishing 8th and picking up €6000 for our efforts.

It's incredible really and far beyond my expectations what we have achieved as a partnership in only 12 weeks - 3rd in the Grand Prix in Lummen, 8th in the Grand Prix in Hagen, 3rd in the Nations Cup in Rome, jumping a clear in the 2nd round, 4th in the Nations Cup in St. Gallen, 2nd in the Grand Prix in St. Gallen and 8th in the Grand Prix in Estoril.

I am very conscious of planning my campaign methodically and knowing when to say 'no' and decline an invitation, such as Cannes and Monte Carlo.  It is important to have long and medium term goals and to not get distracted with the day to day temptations of jumping at every dog fight.

K Club Lady and I have jumped ourselves into a very strong position, and now we must consolidate that and continue to deliver on the big day.

Next weekend I've no show but will go to Geesteren in Holland to help Ahmed, my Egyptian pupil and work my own horses also.

Check back next week for more news.

Best wishes,

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