Cian O'Connor
Olympic Bronze Medallist

Cian's Blog: 2009

Olympia - A Runaway Success

  • Rancorrado, 2nd in the Olympia World Cup, and winning the Grand Prix

Olympia is a real British institution situated in Kensington, about five minutes from central London. It is a magnificent exhibition hall built during Queen Victoria’s reign, and its Christmas International Horse Show has become the venue's flagship event.

The organisers really know how, and have succeeded, in putting the 'show' back into show jumping. In terms of getting backsides on seats, column inches in the print media and hours of tv coverage all over the world, they are light years ahead of other venues.

It must be said that the time of year, the setting, kids on holidays etc., all contribute towards its success, but they have managed to sell show jumping like theatre, where the people pay for an afternoon's performance or an evening performance.

We are the guys on show, and with small numbers in the classes, it's fast, easy to follow, and makes for great sport. Hats off to the organisers and of course - thanks for my invitation!

I had probably one of the best shows in my career to date. Splendor placed 2nd in the Accumulator, Echo Beach was 2nd and 3rd in two different speed classes, and Calista shared 1st place in the Puissance.

Rancorrado, however, was the star of the week. I gave him one class on Friday as a warm-up, and then kept him fresh for the two main events - the World Cup Qualifier on Sunday afternoon and the Grand Prix on Monday night.

He has been improving all the time and you may recall I said a few weeks ago in this blog that we would win something big before Christmas. Thank God I haven't lost the plot just yet, and Rancorrado delivered two magical performances. We were 2nd in the World Cup Qualifier, and then won the Grand Prix.

What an amazing Christmas present and reward for all who are part of my team. To quote my late grandfather Dr. Karl Mullen: 'there's no substitute for hard work and success is reward for effort'.

At times this job is frustrating. We all work tirelessly - grooms, stable staff, truck driver, vets, farriers, etc., and so often horses can jump well but have a fence down or the rider makes a mistake and the work seems in vain. However, one show like this and I realise once again why we go through it all in the first place - there's no better feeling than being a winner.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Paris, Gucci Masters - Sensational

  • Splendor in action

Just sitting in the lounge in Charles de Gaulle waiting for my flight home from Paris where I've been for the last number of days competing at the CSI 5 star Paris Gucci Masters. I had a good week overall, covering exes and getting a few bob on top. However I must admit the top spoils seemed to be elusive, as a vital pole denied me a chance of a jump-off in both Saturday night's and Sunday's big classes.

Everything about the show was world class. It was really well organised in every possible aspect The venue was beautiful, situated five minutes from Charles de Gaulle airport, and the main sponsor was Gucci, which in itself added a classy dimension to the event. It was very comfortable for the horses in terms of the stabling and two large warm-up arenas.

Rodrigo Pessoa is heavily involved in the organisation of this show, and having a competitor with an in depth knowledge of the game giving their input was a real bonus to the whole event, and set it apart from other shows in many respects.

Rancorrado was placed all the same in the three big classes in which he jumped and I have to say that Conrad Holmfeld the American course designer really tests both horse and rider, especially when using his signature trap - a forward distance to a short combination built beside the wall at the end of the course. Today we mastered that, but unfortunately touched off the last vertical behind which was a costly pole, let me tell you!

Rancorrado is jumping better than ever and today's course was probably one of the biggest I've jumped indoors. I do feel we are knocking on the door and what I keep telling myself is not to get frustrated, stay focused, stick with the plan and the big win will come.

I would like to congratulate Denis Lynch. He was the only other Irish rider at the show, where he produced two superb clear rounds with All Inclusive to finish second in the Grand Prix.

Splendor was also in the money for me, placing 4th and 6th respectively in the opening and the final 1m40s.

Busy week ahead, at home for a few days before travelling to Olympia which kicks off on Thursday. Check back next week for more news.

Best wishes,

Marseille - A Pleasant Weekend

  • Rancorrado in action

It was my first time at the 4 star show in Marseille last weekend, on the south coast of France.

It's a beautiful picturesque place, and I'm told it is the second biggest city in France. Wonderful scenery along the coastline and staying in the Pullman Palm Beach hotel overlooking the sea made for a great weekend. My mother Louise came with me for the weekend, which was good company for me, and a pleasant break for her.

Rancorrado and Echo Beach both paid their way. Rancorrado was 2nd in the main event on Friday night, and Echo Beach was 3rd in Saturday's two-phase. Both horses are in great shape and they join Splendor this weekend coming at the 5-star show in Paris.

I've been back to the miserable weather at home for the last few days and I head off to Paris tomorrow where there is a warm-up class ahead of the three days jumping at the Gucci Masters.

I also got some great news today when I received a personal invitation to appear at the World Cup Show in London, Olympia. This is one of the greatest indoor shows in the world. It gets huge crowds, great tv coverage and there's a huge buzz around London anyway, because it's coming up to Christmas. One of the highlights of the year and a show I'm really looking forward to.

Check back next week for more news and to see how Paris went.

Best wishes,

On The Move In Europe

Sorry I'm late in writing this week, but I've been pretty busy travelling around Europe trying some horses. I find this is a good time of year to try horses as people are keen to sell, coming into the winter, and with younger horses about to become a year older in January, you can sometimes do a better deal.

I competed at Maastricht over the weekend, Splendor jumped really well, placing in both the two competitions he entered. He now gets his weekend off as we are only allowed to bring two horses to Marseilles in France this weekend.

Rancorrado will jump the Grand Prix here and he's in great form, and I feel ready to deliver. I haven't jumped him since Verona, and Maastricht was the ideal warm-up to get him in the right frame of mind for Marseilles.

Irish Independent Echo Beach will be my second horse this weekend. She's simply a wonderful mare who owes me nothing and who no doubt will try her heart out as always.

Check back next Monday when I'm home from Marseilles for an update.

Meeting Myself Coming Back!

  • Pictured at one of my previous workshops

Hey everyone, it's been quite a busy schedule since I wrote last. We recovered and tidied up from the party, then I spent a few days in Dubai and coaching over the weekend in Helsinki and only home in Ireland for the day today.

I suppose it's good to be busy but sometimes you get the feeling that you'll meet yourself in the airport coming back! Tomorrow I'm giving a clinic in the UK, before meeting back up with my horses Rancorrado, Complete and Splendor, whom I jump in Maastricht, Holland this weekend. The horses have been rested over the past two weeks to have them in the best possible shape for an action-packed schedule that I've planned at some of the most prestigious shows in the world, which I intend to do over the next month.

I've also been planning January of next year, where along with Johnny and Liam I've designed a new workshop at Karlswood. I'm also giving demonstration evenings in Sligo and Killarney. Click here to find out more about both.

Best wishes,

A Night To Remember

  • Me with my sisters Pippa and Susanna and my dad Tadhg

All my family and friends gathered for a great night at Waterside Stud on Friday, where we had a big marquee erected to celebrate my 30th birthday.

It was a fantastic night, and we had super music from Pete Fagan and his band, while special thanks must also go to Jim Kiely from Kerry, who kept everyone entertained long into the early hours with his wonderful piano music.

I'm really too tired to write any more, but if you want to see some of the pictures from the party, just click HERE

Check back next week for more news.

Best wishes,

Verona - A Show Steeped In History

  • Echo Beach - 2nd at Verona on Saturday. Cian says: The mare has fantastic consistency, placing 2nd in the Grand Prix Qualifier at Tripoli and then going on to win the Grand Prix at the same eventThen coming here to Verona to place 2nd proves that she is the one who's paying for the diesel!

I've just come back from the World Cup show in Verona, a city that was not only the setting for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, but has also been a trading centre since the time of the Romans. This tradition was maintained at the weekend with acres of trade stands in the exhibition centre where you could buy anything from a cow to a helicopter. There was a record attendance of 153,000 people over the course of the show. I've quite honestly never seen anything like it.

From the jumping point of view the competition was good, the courses built by international course builder and former American competitor Conrad Homfeld. Rancorrado performed well all weekend - he was clear in the big class on Saturday but I decided not to jump him off and save him for the World Cup show the following day.

I feel sometimes you can't have ten goals and while it didn't pay off in this instance I think it was still the best decision to have the horse in the best frame of mind for Sunday. In the World Cup competition he had an early fence down and coming towards the last line he uncharacteristically veered left rather than right, and I think I did well to stay on!

I then had to turn him round in the direction I wanted to go, pick up a canter and pop the biggest fence on the course, the triple combination, which he jumped with ease. I'm not quite sure if he spooked or if he was just responding to my left rein. I was merely asking him to stay straight but he thought I meant him to take a sharp left.

Despite not having crossed our tracks the judges gave us four faults for 'resisting to go forward'. We also incurred two time faults, so this gave me a score of ten but realistically we only had a fence down. I have to say the horse probably jumped better than he did the previous week, but that's just sport - sometimes you need a bit of luck.

I've a busy schedule planned over the next six weeks and I feel that Rancorrado and I have been knocking on the door and I believe we will win something big before Christmas.

Echo Beach jumped superbly each day, picking up 2nd place in the world ranking speed class on Saturday afternoon.

It was nice to see the news of the new Rolex World Ranking list published this week, where I had moved up to my highest place ever, ironically to 30th, in the week where I celebrate my 30th birthday.

This Saturday afternoon coming I'll be at Thoroughbred Remedies' store in the Curragh from one to three to meet fellow enthusiasts, so please come along. I've no shows for a fortnight now, the next one being Maastricht, starting on November 26th.

But please check back next week for more news.

Best wishes,

Lyon - A Show To Remember

  • Rancorrado (Left) and Complete in action at Lyon

The CSI 5* World Cup Show at Lyon was an amazing spectacle. The main arena was spacious, had great crowds, and with the best riders and horses in the world present, each competition was outstanding.

I must say it was one of the most competitive shows I've ever been to. This was largely due to the good prize funds on offer and the fact that every class carried world ranking points. On the opening day I had a late draw with Complete in the 1.45/1m50 2-phase where he shaved over one-and-a-half seconds off the very fast French rider Patrice Delaveau and scorched to victory.

It gave me a great boost at the start of the week and I was absolutely over the moon the following evening when Rancorrado jumped two clear rounds in an amazingly fast jump off to land me the double.

On Sunday was the World Cup Qualifier where Rancorrado unluckliy rubbed off the third last jump for four faults. This was his first indoor show, having had a break since Calgary, and it just goes to show the calibre of a horse he is to come here and take on and beat some of the best combinations in the world.

Robert Splaine, Irish Team Manager, travelled out to keep his eye on the Irish riders and it was great to have him there on hand to advise on the various technicalities of the courses. I'll be at home now for a few days, but the same horses travel down to Verona where I will join them on Friday for the World Cup show there.

Check back next week for an update from Italy.

Best wishes,

Tripoli - A Worthwhile Experience

  • Winning the Grand Prix in Tripoli with Irish Independent Echo Beach

Hi everyone

I'm just enjoying my weekend off at home following my three days in Tripoli last Tuesday Wednesday and Thursday. I received an invitation from the Libyan Federation through an Irish-based company called LibDevCo, which I was delighted to accept, and I must say the people, both spectators and organisers, were very welcoming.

The weather was beautiful and I stayed in the centre of the city which is very interesting to walk round and see a completely different culture. I really enjoyed my few days in Libya and the horses jumped really well. Splendor won a class, Echo Beach was second in the Grand Prix qualifier and then won the Grand Prix, following which I received a very special and prolonged ovation from the crowd.

I returned to Ireland on Friday where I joined William Micklem at an evening that he called 'The Go Rules' which was in aid of the training fund for Paralympian Joan Salmon and which was held in Spruce Lodge in Co. Wicklow. Joan Keogh's new place is a fantastic venue and I was delighted to be a part of a very special evening, and where I spoke about my own experiences. When you hear the story of Joan Salmon it makes you realise what a wonderful person she is and explains why she is an inspiration to many.

On Saturday my older sister Susanna got married in Dublin and she went off on her honeymoon today, so that was a busy and enjoyable few days.

My truck is leaving tonight for Lyon in France where I will compete Rancorrado, Complete and Irish Independent Echo Beach. That show begins on Friday. Check back on Monday for more news.

Best wishes,

Hoys - A Cracking Week's Action

  • With Baloufina at NEC, Birmingham

The Horse of the Year Show at the NEC Birmingham concluded on Sunday. It was a very successful week for the show, with superb coverage by Sky Sports really making the event accessible to millions of homes around the world. It reminds me once again how important tv coverage is and the power that it has. It is something we must endeavour to do within the sport - to get as much tv coverage as possible in order to source new sponsors and to give something back to the ones we have.

Overall for me I had quite a good weekend. Splendor was placed three times, Complete twice and Baloufina finished a close second in one of the big money classes of the week - the Speed Horse Championship. She jumped an amazing round, very fast, and was just pipped at the post by Ellen Whitaker by .4 of a second.

Back at home this weekend I will jump Rancorrado and Markopoulo at the Grand Prix in Cavan. Rancorrado has had just a month off since Spruce Meadows and I want to get him going indoors to be ready for the Lyon and Verona World Cups which are coming up back to back over the next few weeks.

Check back next week for more news.

Best wishes,

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