Cian O'Connor
Olympic Bronze Medallist

Cian's Blog: April, 2014

Dundalk - Perfect Warm Up

Hey Everyone,

Despite the cold weather and showers it was a great first day to the Horseware show in Louth last Saturday. I jumped three horses in the opening leg of the National Grand Prix and, with 100 starters, the course designer, Tom Holden, did a superb job to get just 15 clear rounds. Quidam's Flower jumped a super clear but picked up one time fault - so pleased with her as it was our first GP together and she's only 8 yrs old. Quidam's Cherie jumped a smooth clear and as she was the only one that I was jumping in the 1.50m Grand Prix the next day, I opted not to jump her off. Blue Loyd shows no signs of his 14 years’ young and jumped out of his skin and was double clear. A good start to what will hopefully be a good season with these three great horses!! (See video of Quidam's Flower).

On Sunday, Quidam's Cherie was 4th in the 1.50m opening leg of the National Premier series in Dundalk. Great clear in the first round over a difficult track and an unlucky rub in the jump off for four faults, but I feel this show should set her up well for international travel starting this week. Full marks and well done to Kenny Graham who took top spot - delighted for him as he has worked very hard.

This coming weekend I will be jumping Quidam’s Flower, Quidam’s Cherie and Blue Loyd in Fontainebleau, France. (See Tour Calendar)

Check back next week for more news.

Safety is a must but let's not lose the plot!

Hey everyone,

Great day today at Coilog for the final leg of the Showjumpers Club Spring Tour. A big turnout was always expected with over 70 horses in the class. My horses have had a few weeks off since Florida and it was the perfect warm-up class before Louth County next week. Saphir and Cooper were both double clear in the feature class, placing 2nd and 5th respectively. The show ran like clockwork. Both classes in the main ring were pre-entry and ran smoothly, and (for a pleasant change) the main class started exactly on time - full marks to all involved! 

One thing that struck me though is a new policy - I presume within Showjumping Ireland - to have barriers in the warm-up ring where people should stand when warming a rider up for the competition. I saw these brought in last year at certain shows, following some very unfortunate accidents that occurred. Safety is of utmost importance so anything that can be done to make the shows and the warm-up areas safer for all really is a must. But I think it needs to be revisited and looked at in a practical way, as today it seemed to me to be overboard, bordering on counter-productive. There was a chicane-like tunnel of mesh fencing between the main ring and the practice ring, presumably to make the place safer, but, in fact, it was possibly more dangerous than if it was not there at all. The barriers in the practice just don’t work. Stewards are giving out to trainers for stepping outside them which of course you can’t avoid doing in order to change the fence - unless you have Inspector Gadget arms! The World cup finals were held this weekend in Lyon and there were no barriers in the warm-up nor were there at one of the smallest arenas in London, Olympia. A possible solution is to have an extra person monitoring the safety of the ground in front and after the practice fence, and also observing everyone warming up and generally keeping an eye that all is in order. This should not be the steward - that is an entirely different role.

Full marks to Ger O'Neill from Castlefield Stables for supporting the new initiative in the league to reward the highest-placed young horses. A great initiative and a super stepping stone for the young horses to go on to greater heights.

Chat soon,

Strategy for the Future

  • Minister Simon Coveney and Prof. Pat Wall at recent forums to develop a strategic plan for the future of the industry

Hey Everyone,

We've been home now for two weeks following our American stint and all the horses are enjoying some down time. We take a few easy weeks here before building up to travel to France at the end of the month. I plan to jump at CoilÓg on Easter Monday and then the following weekend at Horseware Ireland’s show in Dromiskin. Robert Splaine named the La Baule team last week and I'm thrilled to be a part of it. On paper it looks like the strongest team of riders we have had together in a long time for the opening leg of the Nations Cup series. I join Denis Lynch, Billy Twomey and Cameron Hanley for the French fixture and all are performing well, so I'm really confident that we can repeat our 2011 victory there!

Horse Sport Ireland, Teagasc and the RDS have completed 4 regional forums which were attended by the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to try to develop a brief that could strategically guide the sport horse industry forward. This initiative should be supported and complimented. Holding open forums to any interested party in the current climate of shortage of funds and decline in the industry nationally over the last number of years was a brave move. The Chair of Horse Sport Ireland, Professor Patrick Wall, chaired the meetings and did an excellent job in allowing everyone have their say and managed well to co-ordinate all comments into structured headings. Some years ago I recall my grandfather saying to us calmly when people were arguing, "everyone is entitled to their point of view!" And that is just the issue - everyone sees the situation from their own goldfish bowl and if we are to move forward, there must be give on all sides and cohesiveness on some common points that will better the whole industry.

I was shocked at the request by many looking for handouts and demanding the government fixes their problem. If I buy a horse that is not as good as I thought I sometimes end up selling for a fraction of what I paid. New money buys new goods. This is a business and should be run as such rather than the romantic notion of bring your mare to the closest stallion and hope for the best. Drastic times require drastic measures and it’s up to all of us to cut our own cloths to measure and in my view the government support that should be given to the industry must concentrate around excellence and development rather than passports and culls. People must look at the situation with a 10 - 20 year plan.

It bothers me that those who are at the top of this sport are often referred to as elite. I don't see it used as a word to describe the top rugby players. Prejudice is always irrational. Those at the top fly the flag around the world and promote Ireland on the world stage. I'm not just saying that the best in their profession should be supported but rather anyone in the industry who is forward thinking and crucially, striving for excellence. It could be a school set up to educate grooms or identifying top mares and supporting their breeders, or supporting those who open new markets for trading Irish horses. We have an abundance of talented horse people in Ireland and if we could all pause and look to the big picture, we have the ability to create great changes. It is always the talent not the money that counts in the end.

 Chat soon,

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