Cian O’Connor: The tide always turns — and you must be ready when it does

All experiences, good and bad, mould us to be the people we are
Cian O’Connor: The tide always turns — and you must be ready when it does

Cian O'Connor on his way to victory with Good Luck in the World Cup qualifier at Live Oak International in Ocala, Florida, on Saturday, March 21, 2015.

I grew up in a house with three ladies; my mum and my two sisters Susanna and Pippa. I was always very close to both my sisters, Pippa had a little bit of interest in horses when she was younger as well. She used to ride out with me and Susanna. Susanna was actually the best at horses in the family when we started off riding when we were younger everyone said that she sat the best, she was much more elegant on the saddle than I was! It was certainly different being the only male in the household, but we all got on very, very well.

We were a very close-knit family. We spent a lot of time with my mum’s parents, Karl and Doreen. My earliest memory is the love our grandparents had for us, particularly my grandmother Doreen who used to always spoil me a little more than the rest!

I think you make your own luck in life, you find your own path. You're influenced by those who are around you and those who are closest to you, but everyone finds their own niche.

The greatest challenge I’ve faced... there are many ups and downs in show jumping so I deal with disappointment regularly but it’s what happens in the ‘real world’ that hits you the most. Nothing compares to the pain of losing someone close to you.

Without a doubt, my proudest achievement in life are my two kids Ben, eight, and Cara, five. I always say to my wife Ruth they are the best part of my day. Win, lose or draw, you’re still daddy when you walk in the door. I had a great memory with Ben a few weeks ago. Prior to this, he wasn't totally into horses. I remember bringing him to a media launch for the Dublin Horse Show a few years ago. He kept saying ‘when are we going, when are we going.’ I had to do one more thing with the press, and then we heard this scream from nowhere; 'I hate horses!’ Of course, everyone was saying ‘who’s that?’ and it was Cian O'Connor’s son...

Since then, things have changed a little bit. He's got more grá for it now. A couple of weeks ago, Ben was with me at a show in Knokke, Belgium. There was a good crew from our stable there and they were taking bets on who was going to win. I said, ‘well Ben, don't be backing me because it's my first time jumping this horse over this height.’ And he said ‘no, no, Daddy I think you're going to win.’ And by some miracle, I won the Grand Prix and the face of him... the sheer delight when he came out to the practice arena and saw me and petted the horse... that really was a major moment for me, to see him get a bit of craic out of me doing well. It was a really, really good moment.

Cian O'Connor. Picture: Donall Farmer/Courtesy RTE
Cian O'Connor. Picture: Donall Farmer/Courtesy RTE

I think my greatest quality is I’m generous to those closest to me.

The people I turn to most in my life are my dad, Gerry Mullins, Ross who works with me and of course my wife Ruth.

The life lesson I would like to pass on is to never ever give up. I'll give you an example — the London Olympics in 2012. I was a reserve in the original selection, and then with two weeks to go, I got the call up to go. People say, 'oh God, how did you prepare for the Olympic Games in two weeks?' I'd been preparing for eight years. When I got there, I had one average round in the middle of the tournament. For the Olympics, the top 30 qualify for the final. I was 31st. So I wasn't qualified the night before for the final. I remember getting up early the morning of the final and my wife saying ‘where are you going?’ and I said well, just in case anybody doesn't get a chance to jump... You have to go and present your horse [before the final] and the last horse presented had a sore foot and wasn't able to jump. I got to jump. And I won an individual bronze medal. That really sums up never give up to me. From not being selected originally to Olympic bronze.

The greatest advice I have ever been given is, even when things aren’t going the way you hoped stay positive, as the tide always turns and you must be ready when it does.

How would I like to be remembered? I’ll let others decide that. You can’t please everybody and to try is a waste of energy.

I think it’s good to have no regrets. All experiences, good and bad, mould us to be the people we are and from each experience, we become wiser and stronger.

My greatest skill is finding solutions to problems.

What surprises me in life is how negative people can be towards one another, particularly in the era of social media. It’s actually sad.

What scares me most in life is the over usage of computers. I feel we currently use less of our brains on a daily basis. For example, 25 years ago if I dialled a phone number once I remembered it and knew everyone’s number in my head. The same with directions to a place. But now with the smartphones we don’t know anyone’s number nor do we know how to navigate anywhere...

If I had taken a different fork in the road... my mum had hoped I’d go to university and study law as she felt I was a good debater. It might have been a good career for me.

  • Cian O'Connor will be taking part in this year's Dublin Horse Show at the RDS in Dublin from August 17 – 21. For information and tickets see

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