Cian O'Connor
Olympic Bronze Medallist

Cian's Blog: 2016

Great week for Karlswood students

Sometimes its harder to watch from the ground than be actually competing yourself. 

 Last weekend’s thrilling Furusiyya Nation’s Cup Final was a great competition and went down to the wire with Germany’s Marcus Ehning beating Big Star and Nick Skelton in a jump off. It was fitting for Ludger Beerbaum’s last team performance that they would win and for good measure he produced a double clear. 

 My involvement there was coaching American young rider Lillie Keenan. She was called up to jump in the second round at what’s arguably one of the biggest Nation’s Cup competitions there is and she did it in style. 

Lillie and her partner Super Sox have a great partnership and they skipped around like it was easy for them to post a clear round and help Team USA to a third place podium finish. I was thrilled for Lillie and her family but particularly her mum Pam who loves the sport more than anyone I know and I could see on her face that this one evening was somehow a reward that her belief in her own daughter and indeed her own work and effort put in over the years was all well worth it and justified. 

We all need a break and American Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland is always trying to develop new talent. I’m a great believer in that you make your own luck and more important than getting the opportunity is to be ready in case it comes your way and when it does to grab it with open arms and realise that today is the day. 

Lillie did that extremely well and she delivered when it counted, which in my book is what winners do and this should be the basis of greater things to come hopefully. 

The following day Nikki Walker, whom I’ve been coaching for the last four years, was competing in the $86k Caledon Grand Prix in Canada. Nikki is from Aurora outside Toronto and has progressed through the hunters and equitation to small show jumping classes and now this year has won two major international Grands Prix with Deko de Landetta Z. 

I was in Angelstone show outside Toronto helping Nikki a few weeks back and as she is based at home this time of year we discuss all the plans for the horses, their work and show schedules and I study all her videos. 

I have two of my Karlswood staff with her full-time and they assist Nikki to keep all in our programme and structure. I’ve always maintained that we want to coach people to become professionals as opposed to keeping them amateurs. By Nikki doing some shows on her own and reviewing them after with me it has allowed her to develop as a horsewoman and make decisions about warm up, distances, turns, time allowed etc. She rode the quickest jump off I have ever seen her ride last week to claim victory in a competitive international field. I wouldn’t have liked to try to catch her! 

It’s amazing listening to both girls following there super performances. The enthusiasm, confidence and outlook all got a boost. Let nobody try to tell you that taking part is what it’s all about. We all have to start somewhere and winning is not instant but I for one won’t celebrate mediocrity- winning is not important - it’s everything!!! 

You can watch Lillie in action here and Nikki Walker here

I’m writing this to you on my flight from Dublin to Los Angeles, where I compete this weekend. You can follow my competitions on my Facebook link here

Chat soon, - Cian

Ready for home!

Hey Everyone, 

 We have just completed the 12 week Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida. 

Team Karlswood had a total of 25 horses and 13 staff in our group for the duration. The pace is fast here, with classes on in multiple arenas at the same time. Organisation is key and I’d like to thank all my staff and background team who made sure everything ran so well. 

As a group myself and my three students have had an incredible circuit, which I believe is largely due to the extraordinary group of people who make it happen behind the scenes. Michael Kelly and Ross Mulholland are, apart from being two of my closest friends, a major contributing factor towards any success we have. They both help me coach the students, flat the horses and compete and do all to a top standard which I firmly believe sets Karlswood apart from other coaching yards. 

It’s a long time to be away from home and it really is a different world out here - not necessarily America of course but just this equestrian world of Wellington. It’s fairytale stuff- like Disney World for horses! We try to stay somewhat grounded and focus on our goals and targets. I always wanted to use the circuit to build up the horses and riders so they are ready after this to compete, and the hundreds of rounds we have all done should have us in the groove when we all return to Europe. 

I’m proud of the accomplishments of my students. Nikki Walker had two younger horses to develop and she produced them both to a higher level successfully as well as winning the $25k classic in Ocala last week with Deko

Emily Short used the circuit to get used to some of her new horses as well as move up to the bigger level with Coco, which they did extremely well - fourth in a young rider Grand Prix, second in a ranking class in Ocala and second in a $130k Grand Prix in Wellington. 

Lillie Keenan also developed her younger horses and formed a successful new partnership with a new ride, Be Gentle. Super Sox, whom I competed in Olympia just before coming to Florida has really developed over the past number of months and catapulted Lillie into the big league, where she will hopefully have the opportunity to be considered to be a part of a senior American team later this summer. Sox and Lillie were double clear and placed third in a five star Grand Prix at Wellington and had the same result in the $1million Great American Grand Prix in Ocala last weekend. 

All my horses improved throughout the circuit. I think our plan of not overusing them worked well, so that they are fit to jump when we get home as opposed to needing a long break due to over jumping them over the winter. My new horses Calisto, Crespo and Sam Du Challois all proved themselves with solid performances. Calisto was second in a 1.50m and seventh in the World Cup in Live Oak. Crespo stepped up to jump a few Grand Prix classes well and had a number of good placings in the ranking classes throughout the circuit, as well as winning a 1.45m class. Sam du Challois has proven a great find. One of the highlights for me of the circuit was being last to go in the Nations' Cup in Wellington and jumping clear with Sam to help the team secure victory, and also making it my 105th appearance on the senior team. 

Saphir had multiple placings in ranking classes and stepped up to 1.50m level well, producing a great clear in the Suncast final. 

Good Luck has been sensational. He was always an amazing jumper long before he came to me but the biggest change has come in his rideability. He is much straighter to the fences, a lot easier to collect, and jumping a 1.60 m course feels like 1.30m on another horse - it’s all so easy for him. We did three major Grands Prix and were clear in all of them finishing eighth, fourth and the biggest result came last weekend when we were double clear in the Great American Million Dollar Grand Prix to finish second. 

It was a great course built by Ireland’s Alan Wade, who is one of the most popular course designers in North America. He got the right result with only three double clears, which meant a podium finish for those who made no fault over the two testing rounds. We will all take a few easy weeks before our European tour kicks off at the end of April. 

Check out the great video that Noelle Floyd made: A Day In The Life

 Chat soon, 

 Cian.

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