Cian O'Connor
Olympic Bronze Medallist

Cian's Blog: 2013

Let’s not all jump on the bandwagon!!

Hi Everyone, 

I hope you are all like myself relaxing at home after a long but good year! Last weekend I competed in London Olympia which was as usual a top class show, well run with a full house packed each day into the grand hall. The spectators are what make the show happen. They come year after year, creating a unique atmosphere which encourages the riders to try harder. 

There are so many 5 star shows now with top money, run over just a few days that the riders are becoming accustomed to it, in some cases forgetting about tradition and how they got to where they are. It really bugs me to hear constant whinging from some riders who cannot see further than the end of their own noses! 

I can see both sides of the argument. Shows like Dublin and Olympia, while very different, are both traditional sporting events in Ireland and the UK. Nostalgia alone will not attract the world’s best riders but I think it would be a great shame if the sport became about two day shows with bland arenas over the same type of fences, albeit jumping for big prize money while performing to a handful of spectators. 

There is no doubt that the sport has developed hugely in the last few years and obviously the traditional shows need to keep up somewhat with the amount of world ranking classes on offer, and keep the prize pots big enough to ensure that they are in line with other shows. But having said that there is a certain onus on the riders to think laterally and not just have tunnel vision! 

I personally would like to see much more TV coverage live from our top shows (whatever the cost) as this creates interest at grassroots level which will undoubtedly filter through the whole industry, the same way it captures the imagination of the young child who becomes fascinated by the sport on a visit to Dublin or Olympia. When the riders climb the long ladder up the world rankings they somehow tend to lose a sense of realism. After all, it’s called SHOWjumping and competing for huge money in front of empty seats may not be sustainable forever where the traditional shows have proven that they can and will survive the test of time. In addition an increase in TV coverage attracts sponsors, develops new owners into the sport and gives riders the opportunity to become sports stars themselves. This will be another way to increase their revenue stream and develop their businesses which will last far longer than their riding career. If it were not for the traditional shows many of us would never have gotten the breaks we got, but eaten bread is soon forgotten!! 

Hope you all have a good Christmas and wishing you every happiness for 2014. 

Best wishes,

Interesting Times!

Hey Everyone,

I'm writing this blog on a flight from Milan to Dublin that I very nearly missed but for a decent friend who assisted my late check in! I'm coming from a beautiful new show in Parma (see news story), where all my horses jumped great. Last week German rider and dealer Holger Hetzel held a one day national show at his stable in Goch, Germany that attracted some of Europe’s best riders largely due to it being on a Tuesday afternoon. A great initiative by Holger and his team and one that I hope will help them garner interest in their showjumping auction which takes place there on Dec 3rd. I rode Blue Loyd in the national class there and he jumped really well, finishing 4th. This week my horses travel to Magna Racino where Ross and I have 10 horses in action.

While in Germany and Holland last week, I spent considerable time travelling to various yards trying horses. These horses are often proposed to me by agents/spotters and breeders. I do my homework by studying videos and results which are so easily accessible now on the Internet which I believe is only a good thing.

What surprises me is the huge increase in prices in even young horses in the past 12 months. I understand good grand prix horses due to their scarcity being expensive, but what you were being asked for a 7 yr old 12 months ago is now the average price for the same horse but one year younger. The sport is ever evolving and while we as riders, producers and horse dealers must move with it, we should also be cautious not to be drawn into a false world.

It's my firm belief that top horses of course must have talent but the vast majority of horses are made by the good education given to them by the horsemen and women who train them up the ranks. In my view when a buyer is wanting to buy the ready-made super star who has results and is well trained then this horse should be expensive to cover the work done, remembering many of the horses who are produced won’t make the grade so the producer will not strike gold all the time.

What I have no time for are people with badly ridden horses, middle men and imposters professing to have re-invented the game, jacking up prices of horses to just jump on the bandwagon of the current hype of big priced sales. Hope value is always the best time to sell. I must admit I'm probably braver than most and I regularly give a good throw for a horse but now it's becoming increasingly hard as everyone wants to hit the jackpot without doing the work. I now just decide what I think a particular horse is worth, make an offer and walk away. I will miss some but others in the depths of winter may pick up the phone and dial 00353!

We saw what happened in Ireland with people getting carried away paying over the odds on the notion of a bigger day - I most certainly don't want to be that mug!

Chat soon,


Short indoor campaign kicks off!

Hey Everyone,

Following Cooper’s second place in the GP in Birmingham I wanted to challenge him a little more so decided to take in a few more indoor shows than originally planned (see calendar). This week the horses travel to the beautiful city of Verona, Italy for the 3rd leg of the World Cup Series. I'm taking Cooper, Dual Star and Carolus Z. All three horses are in great shape and I'm really looking forward to the week ahead.

Following that we have a week off and then stay in Italy to compete at Parma with the same horses plus my Cavan 6&7 yr old champion, the exciting 7 year old grey gelding, Saphir. The indoor shows that I've planned allow me to develop my horses to the next level and get those ones who had a break back to full fitness. I'm looking forward to competing at Olympia again before Christmas. It's one of my favourite shows and has always been lucky for me. Following Olympia the horses make their way to Amsterdam where they fly to Miami for the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida which goes from Jan 8th - March 30th.

A lot of logistics and anything can happen along the way so fingers crossed that all goes according to plan!

Check back next week for the news from Verona.

Chat soon,

Sky TV and bums on seats make the difference!

Hey Everyone,

I’m writing this early Monday morning in the airport lounge in Birmingham airport waiting for my flight home. We had a successful week at Birmingham, finishing with runner up spot in the Grand Prix (see news).

Birmingham was a three star show but like no other - the coverage, the crowds and the atmosphere is akin to any top indoor show in the world. We all love to perform and it’s great to have an appreciative audience such as here in Birmingham, who filled the stands from the opening class right to Sunday’s finale.

Sky Sports have revolutionised the sport in the UK with an incredible team who are now expert in bringing showjumping to your living room as never seen before. Detailed interviews, course walks and behind the scenes are all ways that they have moved the coverage forward and combined with unique camera angles and informed commentary, it really is a remarkable package. Sky Sports have covered Birmingham and Hickstead for some years now and in my view have been a huge factor in both increased interest and financial backing coming into British showjumping. A rising tide lifts all boats and people want to be involved with success - well done to all concerned!

Chat soon,

Cavan a class show with great activity

  • Saphir winning the 6&7 yr old final in great style
  • Serendipity and Ross in the 6&7 yr old final
  • Cooper showing his perfect technique
  • Homebred ESI Florence with Andrea

The Cavan Indoor Championships was as good a show there that I can recall for 15 years. There was a super buzz around the place and a hive of activity between a successful foal sale and with numerous Irish and foreign buyers trying out horses it certainly gives the whole sport a welcome boost. The competition was good all week and I was delighted to see young Michael Duffy (Vinnie and Sandra's son ) claiming an amazing double when winning the derby and the Grand Prix with the same horse - full marks to him and it was especially nice to see how happy he and all his connections were following the GP.

The foal sale was a great success and should act as an encouragement to breeders to breed performance mares with a good stallion and you will have a fair chance of yielding a handsome return. I bought two colt foals by Flexible. It's a bit like the lotto I know, but if you don't play, then you definitely have no chance of winning the jackpot!!

All my horses jumped great with Karlswood horses placing in the top 3 in all the young horse finals (see news).

Kernan’s Equestrian Centre is next for us on the weekend then we're off to Birmingham for horse of the year show the following week.

Chat soon,


A win like none other!

  • Little Ben, getting his rest
  • Proud moment - delighted to welcome home Ruthie and baby Ben - feels great to be a daddy!!

Last Tuesday 17th September Ruth gave birth to our little boy Benjamin. It was an incredible experience and will no doubt change our lives, only for the better. I'm improving at changing nappies and getting used to the fact that now there is someone in the house more deserved of attention than me!!

Last week we heard of record prices paid for a top showjumper and I see this as only good for the sport. We all like to have goals and aim high and the reported €11 million paid for Paloubet for Edwina Alexander to ride certainly created a stir in the equine world! As I see it the market has changed considerably in the last 5 years. The middle market is weak and the only two types of horses that are easy to sell are "easy ones" or "top ones".

In Ireland too often we like to crib and blame others as to why we are not attracting more international clients. There are several reasons for this but one obvious one is the current system of young horse classes throughout the summer is majorly flawed. It encourages riders to jump the young horses too often, to gallop against the clock and in doing both you are neither producing the horse correctly to either market it for sale or to develop it to the next level. Emphasis should be on training the horse to ride nicely, jumping him less often and maintaining a healthy sound animal as all these traits will help with either sale or further career.

Breeders and riders should be honest with themselves and look to the market and move accordingly - all the emerging markets and high prices paid can only be good for the sport and the industry but we must educate ourselves so we can service the demand otherwise we will get left behind!

Having said that well done to all the Irish who did well in Lanaken at the World Breeding Jumping Championships for Young Horses, especially Greg Broderick who won the 5 yr old final.

Off to Cavan for the week.
Check back next week for more news, 

The Waiting Game!

ANYBODY who knows me well will know that I get restless when on a break. The idea of it sounds fun but after a few days I'm like a box walker, anxious to get out and take on the world again! Ruth and I are expecting our first child in three weeks’ time and while the time has flown by (for me anyway!) these last few weeks seem to be taking forever! We're both really excited and a little nervous about our new arrival but it will be great to start our family and open up a whole lot of new areas in life to explore. The intenseness of my business can become overpowering and I feel that it's important to have a balanced life and this new arrival will certainly be a welcome addition and create more important matters for us to attend on a daily basis!

I really enjoyed watching the European Showjumping Championships last weekend from Denmark. Fantastic competition with no margin for error. Victory went to Roger Yves Bost aboard Lady Forbes's brilliant mare Myrtille. My good friend Ben Maher who led the whole week had an unlucky back rail in the first round of the final but went on to take silver to add to his growing tally of medals! The ever cool Scott Brash rode some of the best rounds of the week to take bronze. From an Irish perspective it gave us a reality check about where we need to be if we are serious about winning medals at next summer’s World Equestrian Games and nailing Olympic qualification. I was disgusted to read in several publications in the aftermath knocking Bosty's riding style as if to say, "well it just shows you any style can win". This is complete rubbish. Roger is one of the most professional, organised hard working and competitive riders who has been at the top of the sport for the last 20 years. He wins more classes than most and has an incredible eye for a stride. Horses love him and try their hearts out for him, which for me is indicative of the world class horseman he is and I was thrilled to see him take gold. It annoyed me when people who themselves wouldn't ride a rocking horse criticised his style of riding because it is perhaps less pretty than others - but give me a fighter any day and you can keep the posers!!

With time on my hands currently, it gives me a great opportunity to take stock of my own business and sporting goals both achieved and that I am aiming for. So far this year has been a great success on both fronts and I find I get a lot more business done when I take a little break from riding like now as it allows me to both buy and sell some horses. I bought two super 5 yr old horses in the last two weeks and look forward to training them over the winter. I also sold the very talented Gain Line. Following his win in the 7 yr old championships at the global tour in Chantilly and his double clear during the RDS he drew considerable attention to himself by numerous buyers. He will now join the Ukranian team and I wish them all the best. I sold them Temple Road a few years back who went on to finish 12th at the London Olympics so hopefully we will be seeing Gain Line in Rio 2016. I make no apologies for selling good horses. New money buys new goods. Over the last number of years I have always sold my best horses and this has allowed me to become a significant player in dealing at the very top end of the sport. Some never sell, others only the ones they don't like but I am now known as a seller so therefore people know I buy the best horses I can find, to compete and produce and ultimately to trade on. The key to this working is buying the best quality available and not to settle for anything less. I enjoy the deal in the same way as winning a class and the adventure of finding the next one and turning that into a superstar is my motivation on a daily basis.

I went to Cavan show on Saturday and watched hundreds of horses jumping. It really is a tremendous facility by any standards and the Clarkes just add that personal touch that makes you want to go back. Although when I study the difference in the national circuit now and 10 years ago it's a little scary. It's clear to me that many of the massive entries are people who keep a few horses and go to the show as their hobby. We have less and less professionals based here in Ireland and that has had effects down the line. Don't get me wrong, I'm not criticizing those who left, in fact they had no choice in most cases for themselves but from the sport’s point of view going forward I think we need to sit up and take note. If all the young riders who are coming through now decide to base outside Ireland, then as has been the case in the last 10 years, the standard of competition on the national GP circuit deteriorates, the fact that the better riders aren't here then their young horses aren't being produced here so our standard slips and the few buyers that come won't return if all we are marketing is nice riding horses. Higher prize money, training grants (with trainers who have a record of producing winners) developing and using the wonderful Abbottstown facility which HSI have full use of, are all ways to keep the future stars here. I know the ferries are a hassle and the longer drive, but the myth that you need to be at shows each week is a complete farce. Being based here allows the horses to do three shows abroad, regroup, rest and attack again. We all talk about how to improve the sport at national level but until riders feel that it's possible to succeed from home they will keep leaving. My bronze medal, my GP win at the Dublin Horse show and my record of jumping on 94 Irish teams to date while producing and selling world class horses all from being based in County Meath surely shows that nothing is impossible!!

Hopefully next time we chat, I'll have a healthy new born to introduce!!
Best wishes,

A typical Monday at Karlswood

  • Gain Line enjoying the Spa at Karlswood

Hi Everyone,

I always enjoy returning home to Karlswood Stables at the end of the summer season and getting some much needed downtime after the excitement of the Grand Prix win in Dublin. The horses are back home now, enjoying the spa we have installed here, and also doing a bit of hacking along some of the scenic trails and pathways we have around us.

This week Billy Twomey, Conor Swail, Cameron Hanley, Shane Breen and Shane Sweetnam are competing for Team Ireland in the Jumping Nations' Cup at the European Championships in Denmark, and I wish the lads the best of luck while they're over there.

It doesn’t get much better than this!!

  • Blue Loyd double clears in a fast timePic:

Hey everyone,

What a week! Dublin horse show is simply a buzz from start to finish. You can feel the enthusiasm and excitement from everyone present, public and exhibitors.

The Irish team fell slightly short on Friday in the Aga Khan finishing third but all the horses jumped well. It’s my 10th time on the Dublin team and it’s without doubt the most enjoyable competition to ride, in the world.

Unique won a good speed class on Wednesday and Gain Line was fifth in both the young international horse qualifier and final. Blue Loyd was super on Friday just making a single mistake in both rounds but jumped out of his skin in Sunday’s grand prix - recording one of only two double clear rounds with a faster time to take the honours at one of the most prestigious grand prix events in the world. It feels great to win anywhere, but to do it at home for the home crowd is something special.

I'm extremely grateful to Blue Loyd’s owners Frank Stronach and his granddaughter Nikki for giving me the opportunity to ride Loyd in Dublin, and on two occasions this year we were able to contribute to the team’s score in the league. At the end of the league now, Team Ireland ultimately qualified for the final in Barcelona and indeed for next year’s top league, and I'm thrilled that we were able to play our part.

This week we travel to Millstreet for the 3 star international show and Blue Loyd will also be in action with Nikki in the international classes.

Check back next week for more news,


Beautiful but hot Chantilly - Town of the horse

  • Cian racing on the famous track at Chantilly
  • Cian racing on the famous track at Chantilly

After our long summer tour in Europe we finished it at the beautiful and chic Global Tour Show in Chantilly, France which has a rich tradition of equestrian sport, set in the middle of a race track with a beautiful backdrop of the iconic chateau and Grand Ecuries.

Overall, a very successful weekend with Gain Line, my 7 year old being the star of the show jumping clear the first day and then winning the 7 year old championship at ease on Sunday against some stiff competition. Unique didn’t fail to deliver, continuing his winning streak by placing 1st in the 1m45 on Sunday morning. Cooper finished off on a good note yesterday in the Grand Prix with an early 4 faults. We are still getting to know each other at this level and after tweaking and analysing a few things I think we are ready for Dublin in 2 weeks’ time!

All the horses are on their way back to Ireland now and myself and the staff are looking forward to a short break before gearing up for my favourite week of the show calendar - Dublin Horse Show!

This weekend, I will do a local show, Tattersalls, with some other horses. Let’s hope the weather stays fine!


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