He’s an Olympic medalist and one of the top show jumpers in the world, so we wanted to know what kind of magic Cian O’Connor is using at home to produce those results. We caught up with the Irish show jumper to learn about his targeted and surprisingly simple approach to training at home.
On the horses’ weekly schedules:
“We train all the horses as individuals and we train them specifically for whatever their plan is. We have our schedule in terms of the calendar worked out 12 months in advance – obviously subject to change but you know you’re building horses towards specific goals.
Horses might have down time, or horses might be building towards, say, somewhere like Aachen… so it would be a very specific program for building (to that show). I plan exactly he’d be doing every day – when he will jump, how many jumps he will jump, what kind of jumping we will do with him, what kind of flatwork he needs. We have a very nice hacking area with the woods beside us where we will go for a walk every day as well. We have the spa – hydrotherapy – that we use. Each horse will have a routine building towards specific goals.
The flatwork we will do on a daily basis consists of transitions, asking the horse to go forward and back easily without resistance, then we use poles on the ground to adjust the horses’ stride, encouraging and improving rideability, and then if we’re jumping we do small gymnastic exercises.
On how often Cian jumps his horses per week:
Maybe…once? Not often.
It depends on what stage they’re at as well. If you’re still training a horse and developing a horse (you might jump more often). But when you get the very experienced horse, I don’t think you need to jump that much you more, you just need to train the control. I wouldn’t just jump them for the sake of it, I think you need a specific exercise.
If I’m training a student, it’s different. That student needs to jump regularly to train themselves. So we have some horses as training horses or school horses for the students so that they could practice as much as possible. When you have an experienced rider or experienced horse, you don’t need to jump that often.
How he warms up for a big class:
I have a routine and I’ll bring everything back to my best horse, Good Luck – he jumped 1.45 the other day and he jumped at most, six practice fences and 11 or so in the ring (during the class.) With Good Luck, to warm up, I started with 2 verticals then 4 or 5 oxers and then 1 vertical – 8 jumps total (before going in the ring). But I probably jump less than most and smaller than most in the (warm up). I don’t think it’s the time to be getting the horse anxious so we just warm the horse up for his muscles and jump some width – a little bit of a wider fence so he’s good on the back rails – and then a taller vertical so that he sets himself and knows to be careful. That would be my basic routine.”