Cian O’Connor has been one of Ireland’s best riders for several years and looked like one of the strongest cards for the Irish team, until he recently sold three of his top horses. WoSJ met up with Cian to find out more about the sales and his plans for the future, and discovered that O’Connor is a man whose focus is on opportunities instead for limitations.
“It’s been a busy year for me so far. Back in May Abdullah [Al Sharbatly] bought Larkhill Cruiser from me, and not long after that he was second with the horse a Grand Prix in Poland. A few weeks ago Aleksander Onishchenko approached me to buy two of my horses; K Club Lady and Temple Road. Of course it’s sad to sell, but I’m on my own to make it and this sets me up a little bit as I was a co-owner in the horses,” Cian explains about the recent sales of his three best horses. “My father was a car dealer and used to say that you never get broke making a profit,” Cian smiles about the thoughts around the sale. “Also the owners get a return, which is very nice, and hopefully they will do some new investments. I need to look after them as well,” Cian continues. “I also think it’s fantastic that so many countries are coming into the sport; it raises the game,” O’Connor says about the new ownerships, while letting us know that he will ride K Club Lady for a few more shows to get her back in top shape.
O’Connor also lets us know that he has a nice string of up and coming horses, and that he is looking for additions. “I have two very nice horses coming up; an eight year old called Dacaletto arrived at the yard where I’m based in Germany very recently, and I also have Phin Phin Shooting Star. I believe that the next star is around the corner,” Cian smiles letting us know that he has one or two horses that he is watching as well.
Cian seems to be able to spot the right horses for the top sport, and has brought several horses up to five star and championship level – the three horses he has sold where all picked by himself. So what is his secret? “I don’t know if it’s just luck or a gift, but I definitely know what horses that suits me and what kind of horses I like to ride. Some say it’s really hard to find good horses out there now, but I believe they can be found if you look hard enough for them,” Cian explains and continues “I trust my own judgment.”
Being one of the few riders with a big name who is still based in Ireland is something Cian is happy about; “I’m a big fish in a small pond. I’m the highest ranked rider based in Ireland, and get to enjoy that. My horses stay in Frankfurt in Germany from April to August though, before they head back to Ireland in the end of August or beginning of September,” the Irish rider says.
This optimistic guy also believes that Ireland has every chance to qualify for the Olympics during the Europeans in September. “We have some strong riders, such as Denis, Billy, and both the Shane’s [Breen and Sweetnam]. There is good team spirit, and people who are fighting together! If we qualify in Madrid I will aim towards the Olympics, but a possible future championship horse needs to be in a new and Irish ownership before the 31th of December this year so that is a challenge,” Cian explains.
Cian lets us know that Gerry Mullins is a man who has meant a lot for his career, and says that “Gerry motivated me and helped me a lot. I was also lucky to have a godfather who supported me for the first ten years of my career. Then I had even more luck when I at the age of 20 was picked to ride on the Irish team in Drammen, Helsinki and Falsterbo – and the team won all three Nations Cups. That gave me the motivation and will to do this, along with being backed up by Gerry and the federation. For me it was a good time of getting into the sport,” Cian says of how he reached the top level of showjumping.
“I think upwards and onwards, and try to balance everything – the sport, the dealing and my life at home,” Cian says about his frame of mind and his present situation. “I’m at a different stage in my life now, and on New Year’s Eve I’m getting married to my girlfriend Ruth back home in Ireland. Some might say that we picked the New Year’s because it’s a beautiful time of year, while the cynical one’s will tell you that it’s the only time of year when there isn’t a show going on,” O’Connor smiles.
Cian is a man who clearly prefers to have more than one thing going on at the time, and in the winter months of 2011 he went to the Middle East to compete, teach and do clinics. “I’d do that again. I was invited down by a good friend of mine – Paul McAuley who runs the Emirates Equestrian Center. It was a great way to promote myself, and I did quite a lot of teaching in Dubai and Egypt. It was good; a little bit like the American market. It was also a nice place to be to compete and build up some of the less experienced horses,” Cian says about the opportunities he found whilst away from Europe.
O’Connor promotes himself in other ways as well; he has website which is up to date with his own blog, he is on Facebook and Twitter – not to forget that he writes for a newspaper called the Irish Field. “Different strokes for different folks,” Cian says when approached with the question on whether he thinks other riders should make themselves more visible. “I learned a good lesson after the whole thing with the Olympics in Athens and the media frenzy that came along with it. I now have a much better way with words, and find that getting things down with my own pen is good for my development as well as fun. You need different aspects in life,” says Cian. “I would hate to end up without the possibility of doing other things when my career as a rider comes to an end.”
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