Cian O'Connor
Olympic Bronze Medallist

Cian's Blog: 2010

London - A Real Buzz

  • Umberto in action at Olympia

Hey everyone,

I was lucky to get home from the UK, as I know so many others were less fortunate with the poor weather and as a result major airport disruptions.

A few of us took a chance and drove through the night following the Grand Prix in London and headed for Birmingham. We got the first plane home the next morning just before Dublin airport was announced to be closing - phew!!

I just love competing at Olympia. The atmosphere, the arena, the enthusiastic public and the Christmas feeling make this event so special. It has been a lucky show for me also and it was great to return this year and win two major classes with Umberto and Splendor.

I'm just at home for the next 10 days which is nice to get a break and get everything organised for my up coming shows in the United Arab Emirates and Spain. The horses fly to Dubai tomorrow and Im really looking forward to competing there.

Christmas for me is a lovely time to catch up with friends and family and just go on "a go slow" for a few days. I hope all of you enjoy the festive season and I will blog again on New Years' Day.

Merry Christmas,

Geneva - A Classy Event

  • In action with Umberto in the Geneva Derby

Hi everyone,

The World Cup show in Geneva is without doubt one of the biggest and best indoors in the world. It is staged in the Pal Expo arena, just minutes from the main airport and the riders’ hotel is right outside the arena. This year the show added a few extra classes to their schedule which gave great diversity for the spectators.

All my horses jumped really well. Larkhill Cruiser was in the winners' enclosure when I was part of a winning European team in a groups competition. He jumped great and was so fast against the clock.

Umberto won the feature class on Saturday. The speed derby in Geneva is the only indoor show I know of, that has a lake at one end of the arena and in this class we have to gallop through it. Great craic and the crowd loved it. It was a serious class though with 8,000 Swiss francs to the winner and 50 valuable world ranking points.

I also partnered Asturias to equal third in the Puissance, clearing 6 feet 6 inches- not bad for his first puissance. My most pleasing result came in the feature class of the weekend - the Rolex World Cup. It was a really tough track and Splendor jumped his socks off for just four faults to place 11th.

It's always exciting when you have new horses to ride and see how they improve and develop with good mileage.

Home just for a day then pack the suitcase again for London. The horses get there Wednesday and the international action gets under way on Thursday. It's always a great show and I'll certainly be trying to pick up a few ribbons before the Christmas break.

Check back on my home page during the week for a list of coverage of Olympia.

Best wishes,

A Tough Week Everywhere, It Seems...

  • Brrrr...

Hi Everyone

I think we all like to see the snow for a day or two, but the persistent bad weather we've been experiencing all around Europe in the last week has been pretty unpleasant to say the least.

For people in the horse world it presents all sorts of problems, not least trying to get feed to horses in the field and indeed water pipes in the stables freezing over. I think everyone will be glad to see the back of it.

I've been in Holland for the last few days working my horses as they head off to Geneva this week. Interestingly enough I've been driving in similar weather conditions to Ireland but the car I hired in Holland had winter tyres - it really made a difference, and as our winters seem to be getting more severe it's perhaps something I might invest in for next year.

I jumped Larkhill Cruiser at a training show in Roggel yesterday and he jumped very nice in the 1m35. It was good to be able to give him a pop in a show environment ahead of the next two weeks' competitions. I fly home tonight and fly back out to Geneva on Wednesday where I will jump Splendor, Umberto and Larkhill Cruiser, and Asturias in the Puissance.

Two out of those four are fully Irish bred, not bad heading to a 5 star show - things are looking up!

Check back next week to see how we get on.

Best wishes,

A Weekend In The Snow

  • The Globe arena in Stockholm

Hi Everyone

Just on the way back from Stockholm, queuing up for the Ryanair flight to Dublin. Not surprisingly, I suppose, Ryanair's Stockholm airport is a good 120km from the city! But I won't complain, for at least it's a direct flight.

We'd a very nice show here in Stockholm with a special Christmassy feel about it. I don't want to go into it too much now as it will be part of my article for the Irish Field next Saturday.

Both Splendor and Umberto were consistently placed. Umberto was 3rd and 6th and jumped very well each day. He's still green when going at the pace required to win at this level, but as I do more shows I've no doubt he will improve more quickly. He's without doubt one of the most careful horse I've ever ridden.

Splendor was double clear in the big class on the opening day, placing 4th, and today was clear in the Grand Prix and made just one mistake in the jump off to finish 5th.

My horses have a week off this week in preparation for the World Cup shows at Geneva and London coming up in the following two weeks. At these shows I will take these two horses plus a new horse I'm trying out over the Puissance wall this week at home, and if he's successful he'll go on the truck!

In addition I've bought a very prominent Irish Grand Prix horse who I'll be able to tell you about in the coming week.

Loads happening - it's great to be busy!

Chat soon.

Best wishes,

Busy Week At Home

  • Splendor

Hi everyone,

Just recovering from a busy week at home at Karlswood. The place was a hive of activity with several groups of clients, coaching and working our horses.

It was a very productive week and the great thing about my job is that I have a wonderful balance between travelling and being at home.

Tonight the horses left for Stockholm in Sweden where I will compete over the weekend. I'm looking forward to getting away again. I take Splendor and Umberto, both of whom were clear in the Grand Prix yesterday in Kill, Splendor placing third.

Umberto is a new horse to me, which I will compete in the second classes at the international shows in the coming weeks. He's fast and careful and has a super technique in front. I expect him in the winner's enclosure before Christmas!

Kill was a busy show yesterday. We took nine horses there from Karlswood and all jumped very well. There was a great buzz around the place and it was great to see so many people competing still at this time of the year in Ireland.

With not much else happening this side of Christmas on the national front we will wind down many of our young horses now, which allows both horses and staff to have a bit of an easier time over the next six weeks.

Ruth and I fly to Stockholm on Thursday evening. Check back on Sunday night to see how the show went.

Best wishes,

Back To Normality!

  • The very relaxing setting of the Lough Erne Resort

Hey everyone,

I've just got back from a beautiful weekend in the Lough Erne Resort in Enniskillen.

It's a beautiful setting, as you will see from the picture above, and it was great to be able to switch off for a few days. Ruth enjoyed the spa and I feel recharged and ready to get stuck in to my work.

I've got quite a good bit to do this side of Christmas, between shows, clinics and having to find horses for clients. In addition I'm planning my trip to the Emirates for January and also have to work out the logistics for the Sunshine Tour which I'll do in February and March.

I'm in the middle of restructuring my string of international horses and have bought some new ones and have also acquired the ride on a few decent horses as well.  I'll be doing a new horses page on this site before Christmas where I will introduce my string for 2011.

I'm home for the next ten days before my next international show in Stockholm in Sweden. I'm looking forward to riding at home every day, helping Mark and Deane and getting a handle on how all the horses are improving.

Next weekend I'll be jumping at Kill International Equestrian Centre's two day show on Saturday and Sunday. If you're around drop in and watch the action.

Best wishes,

Verona - Top Show, Fantastic City

  • The beautiful city of Verona

Hi Everyone,

I've just returned home from a productive week in Verona. The horses jumped really well with Splendor jumping clear in the Grand Prix and having just one fence down in the World Cup. I'm very fortunate to have the ride on Splendor until the end of the year as he is sold to an Egyptian friend of mine, Ahmed Tolba.

Ahmed bought the horse some months ago and because he is busy at college he left the horse with me to ride until he takes up the reins in January on the Emirates Tour. I plan to do a few more big shows with Splendor before the end of the year and as K Club Lady is resting I'll be aiming Splendor at some of the major classes at Olympia before Christmas.

As is often the case, when your top horse is resting all your horses below that are forced to step up a gear and usually do so better than expected. I jumped Arabella in the 1m50 section at the show where she was clear every day and placed 8th in the Accumulator, not bad for a 7 year-old!

The organising committee at Verona have really put a lot of effort in over the last few years to improve the show, and it now compares to any of the top shows around the world. One of the great things I love about going there is that Verona itself is such a beautiful city. Ruth came with me and we went a day early where we did some sight-seeing and even managed a visit to the house on whose balcony Romeo wooed Juliet, the Casa di Giulietta. Showing my romantic side!

If any of you ever venture to Verona one thing that is not to be missed is what I consider to be one of the best restaurants in the world called Il Desco. It's just a fantastic experience from start to finish.

I travel to Paris tomorrow to look at some young horses over the next few days and I come home on Thursday which is actually my birthday - I'll be 31 and Ruth and I will be going away on one of our rare weekends off to relax at a hotel in Ireland, which I'm really looking foward to.

Chat soon.

From Caen To Cairo

  • In coaching mode!

Hi everyone,

Apologies for skipping a week with the blog, but I really haven't had a minute.

The show at Caen went well for me. Splendor jumped superbly, placing 3rd in the Grand Prix Qualifier, and just knocking the last fence in the Grand Prix itself.

Arabella, a 7 year-old mare I own together with Mary Hughes, really proved her worth and stepped up to this level extremely well. She was double clear in the 1m45 on Saturday, placing 6th.

Following the show I flew to Cairo where I conducted a four day clinic. I must say the Egyptian people are so friendly and a pleasure to work with. I was giving out about the weather being too hot - 33 degrees - but having spent the last few days here at home you'd nearly need a pair of waders to get around. It's hard to find a happy medium!

Like with any business when you spend a considerable time away from home there's always a mountain of paperwork to tackle when you get back, so I'm heading to Verona tomorrow to compete at the World Cup show. I'm really looking forward to getting back in the saddle and doing what I enjoy most.

My groom Frenchie has kept the horses ticking over quietly since I've been away, and I've no doubt they're in great shape. As Verona is a World Cup show, Ireland is allowed one nomination and Billy Twomey got the nod on this occasion. I was delighted to receive a personal invitation from the show and I will jump Splendor and Arabella again as well the super competitive PS I Love You.

Verona is a magical city and I'm delighted that Ruth is joining me for the week, where perhaps we may even get a chance to go and visit the homes of Romeo and Juliet!!

Please check out my new YouTube Channel which I'm uploading new stuff to all the time.

Best wishes,

New Balls

  • Splendor in action

Hi everyone,

The great thing about show jumping is that there's always tomorrow. Always another show, another goal, another circuit. As soon as the outdoor season has come to a close the indoor circuit commences.

Yesterday I jumped Splendor in the Grand Prix in Cavan where he was double clear and finished second. I have sold him to Egyptian rider Ahmed Tolba but I will still compete him until Christmas. Next weekend I take Splendor and the very promising seven year-old Irish mare, Arabella, to the four star show in Caen, France.

K Club Lady is enjoying her break presently and I will aim her along with Splendor and Ballymore Eustace at the five star shows at Brussels, Paris and London Olympia, which all take place in the weeks prior to the year's end.

I always try to make an outline plan six months in advance and am working out the logistics of travelling to the United Arab Emirates for five weeks early in the New Year. Directly after that, the Sunshine Tour in Spain is on the menu and I plan to jump some promising but inexperienced horses there, as well as taking some students along with their own horses.

I find it exciting to make such a plan, watch it come together and develop the horses and riders along the way. It has been a fantastic year so far, both with competing and trading. I am fortunate that through my world top 40 ranking I get invitations to almost any show I would like to compete at. The only hard part is having enough horses to jump at that level. My goal over the next few months is to find two Grand Prix horses that can go along with K Club Lady, thus making her job easier, and also some exceptional young horses that can be produced with a view to selling after Spain.

Goals are a vital ingredient towards achieving success. Sometimes you may fall short of your target but in my experience deciding on the goal and the target is well over half the battle.

Check back next week to see how Caen goes.

Heading Home From Weg

  • Left: Abdullah al Sharbatly and winner Philippe LeJeune at the WEG individual finals

Hi everyone,

I am just sitting in Cincinnati airport waiting to board the flight to Newark and then Dublin. The Alltech FEI WEG was a huge success. Packed crowds watched all disciplines and for those who stayed throughout the Alltech festival, they were treated to a lot more than just horses. The Irish team were guests of Dr Lyons from Alltech at a lunch in the Makers Mark Marquee followed by an evening with Kenny Rogers in the opera house in Lexington.  It was great craic and when he sang 'The Gambler' I thought it was worth coming just to hear that alone!

As I've said in my WEG diary we were all deeply disappointed with the team’s result, especially knowing that these same horses and riders won over what was arguably a stiffer track in Aachen just a few months ago.

I hear rumblings already of people concerned about the cost of sending us all here which I've read to be around €300k. Just to put this into perspective for you, the American riders have much larger resources at their disposal than most. They have held trials for these games, have a much larger pool of riders and horses to choose from than other countries and have the added advantage of a U.S. course builder whose track they are familiar with jumping. The result of all of this is - no Olympic qualification for the team and no individual medal.

Next we can compare with the team from Saudi Arabia, who have reportedly spent €10m on horses and did achieve an individual silver medal with Abdullah al Sharbatly’s tremendous performance all week.

These comparisons are self explanatory and the reality of the situation is the Irish federation is never going to be able to afford the horses that we need at this level so all they can do is offer us support, help to defray costs and offer bonuses for performance, all of which they do presently.

These small nuggets ease the pain on our owners who keep these expensive horses and make them available to the Irish team- please think twice before criticising HSI's spending on us or I might just have to enter the debate!!

On a positive note it's great for Ireland that Alltech, an Irish company founded by an Irishman was the first title sponsor ever of a WEG. Their support and enthusiasm for the sport gives a new lease of life and great hope going forward for show jumping, especially given the tough times the world is facing.

As I drove from the Horse Park to the airport today I commented on the beauty of the various different colours that were evident on the trees as the seasons change. We had built our hopes on delivering the goods at these championships but unfortunately it wasn't to be. Like the changing of the seasons, it is time to regroup, set new targets and move to the next chapter.

After the Nations Cup this week, a wiser man than I reminded me of what Rudyard Kipling once said: "If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same....”

Back to normality tomorrow, for a while anyway!!

Best wishes,

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