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The Next Generation: Michael G Duffy

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping "I suppose I never wanted to do anything else," Michael G Duffy tells to World of Showjumping about his career choice. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping


Text © World of Showjumping



From the west of Ireland, Knockmore in county Mayo to be precise, comes two brothers that both have made a mark for themselves in the showjumping world. First, Alex Duffy jumped on to the international scene – now his younger brother Michael has. 

Over the two last seasons, 23-year-old Michael G Duffy has impressed again and again – especially as the GCL team Madrid In Motion’s U25 rider. With his two top horses Lapuccino and Chappo Chey, Duffy has consistently been on the podiums at five-star shows across the globe. 

Duffy’s family is an equestrian one, with his mother, father and siblings all involved in horses. “We all started with the ponies,” Michael tells. “Seeing all my brothers and sisters riding and being successful I suppose I never wanted to do anything else.”

“We still have our yard at home with over a 100 horses, my father does a lot of buying and selling as well as a bit of breeding. It was a great way to grow up, being younger there was a new horse in the yard every week so you never knew what you were getting on next. It was a good education as a young rider, to always be on different horses!” Michael tells. 

“Although we are spread out, we all work together,” Michael explains. “My older brother Martin has his own dealing stable at home and produces young horses, Alex is in Switzerland now and me in Germany. If Martin has a really nice young horse, he will always send it out to us when it is five or six.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping “As soon as I finished school, I went to Germany," Michael tells. The Irish rider has worked for Carl Hanley Sporthorses for the last three years. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Michael has followed in his older brother Alex’s footsteps, and now works for Carl Hanley in Germany. “My mum wanted me to finish school, although I did not have much interest in it. But, I put my head down, got it done and I’m happy I did,” Michael smiles. “As soon as I finished school, I went to Germany. For the first year, I worked with Alex. Then Cameron Hanley had a small shoulder injury, so I rang him and asked if I could come to help while he was out. I stayed for three-four months and loved it. Then Eoin McMahon, who worked for Carl, suffered a back injury and could not ride so Carl offered me a job. I have been there ever since.”

The Duffys and the Hanleys have built a strong relationship, and it started decades ago. “My mother actually worked for Carl’s father, forty years ago at their riding centre at home in the west of Ireland,” Michael tells. “We have known them for years and years. When he was 18, Alex did a few shows abroad and needed somewhere to stay – he rang Carl. It ended up with Alex staying for four years, and now I have been there for three years. The Hanleys are nearly like family to us.”

“Our main focus and goal is to find and produce young quality horses,” Michael tells about his job at Carl Hanley Sporthorses. “Carl’s wife Nadja also produces some of the young horses at home, we work together. Usually we try to keep the horses until they are 8 or 9, normally then they get sold. Sometimes we find an investor to buy a horse, or a part of a horse, so that we get to keep it a year or two longer for the sport – or until its true value has been realized. We did that with Castlefield Rubinus. I had him from he was six until he was ten – we produced him to the top and then sold him to Athina Onassis,” Michael explains. “To have someone to hold on to some of the horses for me like that, so that I can compete at that level, means the world to me.”

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping “Where I was very lucky was with my horses, they are absolute machines,” Michael tells – here with Lappuchino. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Although seeing the horses get sold can be hard, Michael knows the name of the game. “I grew up in a trading stable, so I am used to the horses eventually getting sold. Obviously, I would have loved to have kept a horse like Rubinus but it’s also with a real sense of pride and achievement to see your horse go on and do even better and have fantastic results. It’s what we strive to achieve, so to see that happen is brilliant,” Michael tells. 

Michael’s step up to five-star level seems to have happened effortlessly, and with immediate success. However, he is quick to credit his horses for the many good results. “I had good horses, Lappuchino, Chappo Chey and Rubinus,” he says. “I had been doing the 2* and 3* shows with them, when I got accepted for the Young Riders Academy. The opportunities I got there were unbelievable! Suddenly, I got the chance to ride in Geneva where I managed to qualify for the Grand Prix. From there I got to ride in Amsterdam where I had the show of a life time – I was leading rider and won two classes. I think that was the right weekend to be on form, I got talking to Eric and Maikel van der Vleuten and they were looking for a U25 rider for Madrid In Motion. They gave me the opportunity to go on their GCL team. Suddenly, I was on the five-star shows every week. At my first show in Shanghai, we were already double clear for the team. I did not really know what I was doing, it all just happened so easy!” Michael laughs. “Where I was very lucky was with my horses, they are absolute machines,” Michael smiles. “I am so lucky to have them, and they made the transition so much easier. If I did make a mistake, if I was a bit too far away or a bit too close, the horses were there to help me out.”

Michael’s top horse Lapuccino has a special place in the Irish rider’s heart. “He’s a real family project! He is bred by Nadja, Cameron rode his father SIEC Livello and Nadja his mother Cabaret. He’s a special horse, and a bit a funny one – he has his own way of doing things but he is a real trier! I also got to ride my first Nations Cup Final with him in Barcelona last year, where we ended third. I can’t ever repay what he has done for my career!” Michael smiles. 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping “You should definitely not be afraid to work hard, there are a lot of long days involved!” Michael says when asked about his best advice for young riders who want to succeed. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping

“One thing is for sure, riding at that level helped me to improve week after week as a rider. I got used to it, once I got into the groove of it. Seeing the other top riders every week also helps you develop as a rider,” Michael explains. “I was going into it a bit out of my depth but the likes of Cameron Hanley, Darragh Kenny and Bertram Allen all helped me out. They pushed me on and told me I was good enough to do it. When the day is over, you chat about your rounds and watch videos together – it’s one of my favourite parts about this sport, everyone is helping each other out and you get new ideas all the time.”

While he enjoys competing at the highest level of the sport, Michael also likes to spend time with his younger horses. “The last two years I have been doing a lot more bigger shows, and less of the younger horses – but I really enjoy working with them and it’s something I want to spend time on. I love the little improvements along the way, the little goals and little achievements – they mean a lot. In our sport today, you have to be able to produce the horses yourself unless you have a big sponsor buying them ready for you,” Michael tells. 

“I have a really nice group of young horses, that are looking very good for the future. The 6-year-old Clitschko by Christian x Check In and the 7-year-old Money Penny by Favorit Ask x Zeus are two that I am very excited about – I think they are going to be very good,” he smiles. 

Only 23, but already he has come so far – what is Michael’s advice to other young riders that want to reach the highest level. “You should definitely not be afraid to work hard, there are a lot of long days involved!” he laughs. “Also, never be afraid to ask for advice. There are so many good riders around, and most are happy to help!”


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