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Jack Ryan: “We need more opportunities for young riders to get into the higher-level shows”

Tuesday, 24 January 2023
The Next Generation

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Along the likes of Simon Delestre, Julien Epaillard, Harrie Smolders, Jerome Guery, Andre Thieme, Pius Schwizer and Kevin Staut, Ireland’s 22-year-old Jack Ryan and BBS McGregor jumped clear in the first round of the 2022 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final in Barcelona. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

Along the likes of Simon Delestre, Julien Epaillard, Harrie Smolders, Jerome Guery, Andre Thieme, Pius Schwizer and Kevin Staut, Ireland’s 22-year-old Jack Ryan and BBS McGregor (Cardento 993 x Mark Twain) jumped clear in the first round of the 2022 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final in Barcelona. “I have been riding him since he was four, so when you can do something like that together, it is just incredible,” Ryan tells World of Showjumping about BBS McGregor. “McGregor is kind of a family horse, he has been very good to us – and having my parents in Barcelona as well made it even more special.”

Inside out

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ "I been riding him since he was four, and he turned eleven now, so we know each other inside out," Jack Ryan tells about McGregor. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Ryan and BBS McGregor were part of the winning Irish team in the CSIO3* Nations Cup in Vilamoura in November 2021, placed 4th in the CSI4* Grand Prix at the same venue a week prior and placed second in the CSI5*-W World Cup in Sharjah in February 2022. However, their biggest achievement so far is their victory in the five-star Nations Cup in Abu Dhabi in January 2022, where the two delivered one of only five double clears of the class – in their five-star Nations Cup debut. “Finding the horses and getting the owners is the biggest challenge for any rider,” Ryan – currently ranked 223rd in the world – says, as he points out how lucky he has been to have a top horse his family has bred themselves. “BBS McGregor is my best horse at the moment, and he is home bred. He has helped me massively in my career, and so far he is the best horse I have ever ridden. I been riding him since he was four, and he turned eleven now, so we know each other inside out.” 

When you get that special relationship with your horse, it is something different, it is a fantastic feeling

“For me, the relationship I have with my horses is the most important,” Ryan says. “However, it is not something you can pick up on the first day you ride them. If you listen to any of the top riders, everyone says the same; when you get that special relationship with your horse, it is something different, it is a fantastic feeling. I have been lucky in this regard, and all I can do now is to continue and try my best. Like Cian O’Connor says, success is a reward for effort.” 

Learning from a legend

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ “When I got into the Young Riders Academy, I got a month’s training with Jos and when the month was up, he asked if I would want to stay on – and I took the opportunity,” Ryan tells. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

For the past year, Ryan has been working for one of the most respected horsemen in the world – Jos Lansink. “I went to Shane Breen’s in November 2019, after I had finished school. I worked there for just over two years,” Ryan tells about the path that led him to Belgium. “It was fantastic, and Shane gave me a lot of opportunities; during my time with Shane, I won my first five-star Nations Cup.”

His horsemanship is so impressive

“When I got into the Young Riders Academy, I got a month’s training with Jos and when the month was up, he asked if I would want to stay on – and I took the opportunity,” Ryan tells. “It has been fantastic. Jos has done everything and to learn from someone like him is an incredible opportunity. With horses, you learn every day. Trying to figure them out and to work with someone like Jos, who has ridden every type of horse in the world, is incredible. His horsemanship is so impressive; he knows how to figure the horses out, and he can help me along the way and guide me on how to best work with the horses I have.”

Letting horses be horses

Photo © private collection “BBS McGregor is on a break at the moment, I have put him in the field back home in Ireland for a couple of months to freshen up for the new year,” Ryan tells. Photo © private collection.

“Now, I have a lot of new horses, some younger and little bit inexperienced that in a few months’ time hopefully will be ready for bigger shows,” Ryan tells about his current string. “I go to Spain in February for six weeks – and at the end of that stay I hope my horses have gotten plenty of experience and will be ready to go.”

A horse also has to be a horse

“BBS McGregor is on a break at the moment, I have put him in the field back home in Ireland for a couple of months to freshen up for the new year,” Ryan continues. “Last year, he was my main horse and we got to do many bigger shows with him thanks to our Chef d'Equipe Michael Blake. He jumped all the bigger classes last year, but because a horse also has to be a horse, I thought it would be good to just give him some time off now and let him relax for a while – the new year will be long enough. He is currently out day and night.”

“Usually, this is something I also do with the younger horses; when they do a lot during the summer, I like to send them back to Ireland over the winter to be out in the field, to let them re-energize and be horses,” Ryan explains. “I have a rider at home who rides the young ones there and she can start McGregor up a bit, by just lunging and hacking out to bring him back gradually. I plan to start with him again at the Z-Tour in Lanaken in April, I think that will be time enough for him. He has a lot of blood, so it does not take a lot to get him fit and ready to go again. My general goal is just to progress gradually in my riding, but I would love to do a senior championship – that would be my main aim for this year.” 

The green jacket

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ “Any opportunity you can get to ride for your country is an honour,” Ryan says about being part of the Irish team. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“Any opportunity you can get to ride for your country is an honour,” Ryan says about being part of the Irish team. “To be able to put on the green jacket is something truly special and it is always fantastic to get a request to jump on a Nations Cup team. Our Chef d’Equipe Michael Blake is very good, he has done great things for us, including having Ireland qualified for the Paris Olympics already – which is fantastic. Thanks to Michael, I got to do many big shows last year. I also got into The Dutch Masters through the Young Riders Academy, but other than that I am unfortunately not high enough on the ranking to get invitations to any of the bigger shows – so if it wasn’t for Michael I would not have had the chance.”

You just have to be open, and brave enough to ask – it is always best to really understand the why behind everything

“This is something I would like to see the sport improve on; we need more opportunities for young riders to get into the higher-level shows,” Ryan says. “Unless you are high on the ranking, have a connection or get into a Nations Cup team, even to get into a four-star show is very, very difficult. There are wildcards for U25 riders, but I think more should be done to help young riders get into bigger shows.” 

“When you first get there and see all these riders you have watched on TV, you feel small,” Ryan continues to speak about his first experiences on the five-star circuit. “All of the top riders are absolutely fantastic, and when you can ride on that level and see them working with their horses, you learn so much. It is amazing to be able to get into those shows and watch the likes of Henrik von Eckermann and Steve Guerdat ride their horses, see how they work them, how they warm them up… As a rider, you are always trying to pick up something that you can use for your own system. At this level, I think that even if it can feel intimidating, when you see someone doing something, you need to go up to them and ask why they are doing what they do – and most of the time, everyone is really helpful and open to explain how they think. I think it is a very respectful and helpful community we have. You just have to be open, and brave enough to ask – it is always best to really understand the why behind everything.” 

The Young Riders Academy

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ “Without the Young Riders Academy, I don’t think I would have gotten the chance to train with Jos," Ryan tells. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

“My mother used to ride a bit, more as an amateur though, and not on a very high level. She used to go to the Malloney’s in Kilkenny for training, where they have a riding school and that is where I started to ride. Then I ended up with a pony, and then another… and it all escalated from there,” Ryan smiles. “I kind of always knew that I wanted to be a professional rider. However, back in Ireland, I used to do other sports too. I would train with them during the week, but then they would get annoyed when I was not there during the weekends – because I was always at horse shows,” he laughs. “So, I kept on with the horses.” 

“I think my parents have been the most influential in my career, they are massive supporters,” Ryan tells. “They have helped me all the way, and have supported every decision I have made. However, having people like Shane and Jos in my corner has helped a lot; they have kept horses for me and that is the most important thing. If you don’t have the right horses, it is impossible to do this sport! Thankfully, both Shane and Jos have given me very good horses to ride and I am very grateful for that.”

Having people like Shane and Jos in my corner has helped a lot

Being a part of the Young Riders Academy has also been a huge help to Ryan’s career. “Without the Young Riders Academy, I don’t think I would have gotten the chance to train with Jos. The education, the people you get to know, it is great for any young rider – I would definitely encourage anyone to apply. I was nominated by Michael Blake at the time, when I was working for Shane and he agreed it would be a good idea. We went to Peelbergen for a selection day in February 2020, and not long after I got a call about my selection. During the time I was at Shane’s, I actually also got to go to Scott Brash for training and he was a fantastic help as well. That was done through the Young Riders Academy too – so I have gotten many amazing opportunities thanks to them.” 

“Long-term – not now, but at some point – I would like to have my own business and be successful enough so that I can make a living of it and do the sport at a high level as well,” Ryan says about the future. “However, I do want to be able to still enjoy it all. Just working with the horses every day is what I enjoy the most.” 

 

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