Farm Ireland

Saturday 22 July 2017

O'Connor takes Irish bred Larkhill Cruiser to new heights worldwide

Cian O'Connor and Larkhill Cruiser show how it's done
Cian O'Connor and Larkhill Cruiser show how it's done

When it comes to producing marketable Irish-bred showjumpers, Meath-based Cian O'Connor aims to produce animals capable of jumping 1m60.

"If you aim for a 1m60 horse but it turns out that the horse is maxed out at 1m20, there is still a market for that animals at the lower levels," he says. "A brave, honest 1m20 horse will be easily sold to an amateur rider.

"The danger is that if you aim to produce a 1m20 or riding club horse and he doesn't make that target, then you won't have even covered the costs of producing him," he warns.

So what does Cian look for in a horse?

"With the technical courses we have today, you need a horse that will come back when you need to and will do what you ask. A difficult horse is not going to cope with a technical course," he says.

Hand in hand with rideability is temperament. Cian looks for a horse that does not get stressed out by a competitive atmosphere, travelling or the myriad of other factors that might affect its performance in the ring.

Front-leg technique is also key.

"A horse needs a good fold in front -- the King of Diamonds horses have that good fold, for example," he says.

In terms of breeding, the Irish Sport Horse mix is the Irish Draught brain, refined by a thoroughbred cross. Athleticism and scope are obvious requirements in a showjumper but toughness, durability and soundness are equally critical.

Cian is currently enjoying great success with the Irish-bred Larkhill Cruiser, which he bought in December last year.

The chestnut gelding by Cruising, out of a Crosstown Dancer mare, had already made his mark at home under John Floody, who piloted the chestnut to no less than 14 Grand Prix in Ireland.

Since then, Cian has steered the gelding to places at all of the World Cup shows in the United Arab Emirates in January and February and was named leading horse of that circuit.

"Winning a class on an Irish-bred horse is extra special," says Cian. "And there is a great affinity for Ireland and Irish-bred horses abroad.

"No matter where you are in the world, someone will tell you about the great Irish horse they once had."

However, the showjumper warns that Irish producers must be careful not to price themselves out of the market.

"There is loads of business to be done if everyone is realistic about the trade," he insists. "But there is no point in asking a fortune for a horse if you are short of customers."

Good horses attract good customers but few can see the difference between potential and reality and, as a consequence, frighten off serious interest with fancy valuations.

Indo Farming