I AM of the mind-set that you learn by doing.”

There are not many riders that have put themselves in a better position to ‘learn by doing’ than Co Clare show jumper Eoin McMahon. The 26-year-old is learning from the master, German legend Ludger Beerbaum.

The Cratloe native joined the four-time Olympic gold medallist’s stable in 2018, starting at the bottom of the pile despite already having plenty of international experience. His rise was rapid; he made his Irish senior team debut in 2020 and championship debut in 2021.

As he chats from his base at Riesenbeck International just days into the new year, McMahon is preparing to head to Florida for the Winter Equestrian Festival for the first time.

“I didn’t get home for Christmas. The horses were going to Florida on January 1st so I stayed here and kept them ticking over,” McMahon explained, adding: “My mother and sister are both nurses so I didn’t want to risk them and I also didn’t want to get stuck anywhere. I am going to Florida on Thursday.”

Beerbaum Stables was purchased by the Global Equestrian Group hedge fund in 2021, as was the Palm Beach International Equestrian Centre in Wellington, host of the Winter Equestrian Festival. McMahon got the nod to take his team of horses to the venue to get the 2022 season underway, alongside his German colleague Philipp Weishaupt.

And that is the thing - the osmosis of learning at Beerbaum Stables doesn’t just come from Ludger himself. McMahon is riding alongside the likes of Aachen Grand Prix winner Weishaupt and 2021 Olympian Christian Kukuk, also of Germany, every day. It is a recipe for success.

Hunting field

Horses were always in the picture for Eoin. His parents, John and Patricia, were keen riders and his younger brother Conor is now based in England with Richard Howley. Eoin started on the hunting field and progressed through the pony grades and mentions his cousin, Andrew Ryan, as having a big influence on him in the early days.

“I wouldn’t have been as successful as the likes of Bertram Allen, but I was always there or there about, trying to qualify for Dublin. I actually started to ride horses earlier than some. I did the Children on Horses Europeans and while I didn’t have any success, it was an eye opener in what we needed to do.”

When the Kennedy family from Tralee opened their Limerick-based stable close to McMahon’s home, he began riding young horses for them. “That was a great education when I was only 15 and 16. I got plenty of help there, and at that point I knew I wanted to pursue it as a career,” he explained.

School wasn’t high on his priority list, but his mother was adamant he finished his education. “I really wanted to stop school after the Junior Certificate but my mother put the foot down. Instead, I went to boarding school for two years in Roscrea. When I was there, I got in contact with Marion Hughes, whose yard wasn’t too far away. She used to pick me up at the weekends and I spent the summer holidays there, I rode for her for about a year and half.

“In hindsight, my mother was absolutely right. I absolutely loved Roscrea, I made great friends there, and it is the best thing I ever did. I wasn’t ready to go away from home at 18, never mind 16!”

He acknowledges the help from Marion and the Kennedy family in his career. “It was good to not have a Grand Prix horse when I was young, but instead to find a way to ride the younger horses, that was a good education.”

German move

Next on the agenda after school was a move to Carl Hanley’s yard in Germany. It was through his good friend Alex Duffy, who was riding for Hanley at the time, that McMahon got the job. “I always had it in my head to go to a place to learn and I knew that was a great place. Cameron [Hanley] was there too and he was like a god to me at that time!

“Carl said I could come, but there wasn’t going to be enough horses. I was adamant anyway, started off with a few horses and one thing lead to another and I think we did very well together.”

Alex moved on and Eoin became the number one rider in the stable and had great success, including a bronze medal at the World Breeding Championships in Lanaken with Talks Cheap in 2015 and a young rider European team bronze medal in the same year alongside Michael Duffy, Michael G. Duffy and Jonathan Gordan, who were all, ironically, from the West of Ireland.

Eoin McMahon jumping Nickoletta E at the 2016 Dublin Horse Show when he rode for Carl Hanley

“Carl and Nadja were so good to me. Nadja was like my second mother, I was useless! They are great craic, and would do anything for you. And the thing people forget is that Carl was so young as well, he was only in his 30s, only starting out. We were all hugely ambitious.”


A frightening accident in May 2016 was the start of a tough few months for the then 21-year-old. During the Grand Prix of Munich, McMahon fell from his mount Questfinder when the horse put a leg down in the middle of the open water and flipped over, landing on his rider.

In a scary few moments, it took some effort to get Eoin out from under the horse and he was then airlifted to the nearest hospital. He had fractured his neck, which subsequently healed well, but there was an undiagnosed problem in his lumber spine which dragged on and got him down.

“I don’t remember the incident as such. It was a horrible time. I started riding again too soon and I had pain. I went back to a new doctor and had to take more time off. It was a hard time for Carl and Nadja too; Alex was gone, I was the only rider, and for the business he needed somebody. Carl needed to get someone, Michael [G. Duffy] was there so I decided to step away.

“That was a hard time for me, I got a bit lost. When I started back for the second time, everything didn’t come easy, and I probably didn’t have the best attitude.

"I went to ride with Andreas Kreuzer but I was probably a bit frustrated. Then I stopped again, unsure what I wanted to do. I was sure that I didn’t want to sell horses or be a dealer, I just wanted to ride horses. I needed to get into a good place again,” he explained.

Like he did when moving to Germany, he picked up the phone again, this time to Ludger Beerbaum. Riding for Ludger was his dream job. “I asked could I come, and he said I don’t have anything for you… he didn’t promise me anything. I knew all the lads started where I started, with no groom; you do everything yourself.

“After a year or two, I sat down with Ludger and I told him long term I want to stay here. It was only then that he invested in me; it was then I got the help of grooms and more horses. You have to earn it, can’t just expect you will get it.”

What is it like riding for one of the biggest stables in the world, with top class riders all competing against one another? “It is brilliant. It is different to how people imagine,” he explained. “Ludger’s strongest point is that he has a great system and a great team. People stay here a long time, his groom has been here for 35 years.

“Ludger dips in and out but we have a dressage trainer come once a week, and a jumping trainer come once a week so we train more with those people than Ludger himself. He is observing everything but the business is so big, he couldn’t be there all the time.

“I think, unconsciously, riding with the likes of Philipp and Christian every day makes a huge difference. While we do all work well together and get on very well, it is highly competitive. There are so many of us and not that many good horses so we push each other on to be better.”

After starting at the bottom and going to shows alone with his horses, Eoin now has his own stable block in the yard, with 21 horses and three people – two grooms and a rider. He has an apartment in the village and has settled into German life.

Breakout year

2021 was somewhat of his breakout year. Finishing in top 10 at your first European Championships in no mean feat. He rode Chacon 2 to eighth place at the event which was held at Riesenbeck, and he was also on the winning team in Peelbergen and the team that finished second at the FEI Nations Cup Final in Barcelona.

The 16-year-old Chacco-Blue gelding Chacon 2 is the horse that has made his career so far. He is owned by the prolific German equestrian supporter Madeleine Winter-Schulze who has supported Beerbaum since 1997 with horses like Goldfever and Gladdys, as well as Isabell Werth with the wonderful Tokyo Olympic medallist Bella Rose, among others.

“Ludger was riding Chacon when I arrived. I was riding in Ludger’s stable and he had a few better horses so I got the ride. He was the first older horse I got.

“The Young Rider Academy had a show in Germany, if you won that you got an invitation to Geneva. I did that and I got into Geneva which was huge for me; I got a bit lucky, one thing lead to another. Then I won a three-star Grand Prix and Michael Blake rang me to say no one wanted to do the World Cup in Oslo, so I went. I got a few points there and then got to go to a few more shows. That is how we got going.”

Eoin McMahon and Chacon 2 finished eighth at the FEI Jumping European Championships \ Tomas Holcbecher

It was important to build a good relationship with the horse. “He is a funny horse, he is quite nervous and sharp. I had no groom, it was just me at the shows so I built up a good relationship with the horse. To me, the horse was everything; with Ludger he was just a speed horse. I think he could feel that.”

The horse he hopes will bring him on to the next level again is Chakra 9, a 12-year-old mare by Cassall, also owned by Winter-Schulze.

She was the first young horse Eoin got when he arrived in Beerbaum’s. This year, she was double clear in the Nations Cup in Peelbergen, where Ireland won, and clear in the Division 1 Nations Cup in Sopot.

“At the beginning of the year I had it in my head I really wanted to do the Europeans, especially since it was here [in Riesenbeck]. I had planned it with Chakra but at a point, when I was picked on the team in Rotterdam, Ludger thought it was best if I took a step back. He thought it might be a year too soon with her so I concentrated on Chacon instead.

“The World Championships are very much the plan next year. It’s a long way away and it is so competitive, there are so many good Irish riders, but you have to have goals and plans. I’ll try my best to be there.”

The highpoint of the year? “The Europeans were great, but I look back and feel like I could have done better. It is something I would love to do again, I would approach it differently, but I enjoyed it so much. It was a great result but a small bit of what might have been.

“It was great Ludger organised the Europeans. Michael [Blake] took the approach he would pick four up and coming riders. We all took something out of it. We were better for it and we are all really motivated to get back there again,” the ambitious rider said.

“Barcelona was a high point. I didn’t ride the first night, my horse had small problem after travelling. I had to ride on Sunday without a warm up class and I felt I really did well.

“That is the high point when I look back at the year. I really had the feeling we had a good team spirit, we pulled together and it was a great result.”

He is thankful for the faith shown in him by the Irish chef d’equipe. “Michael Blake has been a huge help to me. He always wanted to give me a chance whenever he could. He took a couple of big leaps of faith in me this year – maybe someone else mightn’t have done it.

“The Olympics didn’t go the way everybody planned, but Michael has built a really good squad. It is only a matter of time before he will get repaid. I think he has always tried to do the right thing and as a nation and a team, we going in the right direction.”


One humourous anecdote of a stellar year is when Eoin returned from Barcelona, having jumped clear in the Nations Cup Final. “Over the years I’ve learned not to get too high or two low because there are so many bad days in this sport. Ludger would very much keep you down to earth.

“When I came home from Barcelona, I thought I was unreal,” he said with a laugh. “I had a national show with the four- and five-year-olds the next weekend and it was not very good… Ludger reminded me in no uncertain terms that that is our bread and butter and it wasn’t good enough!”

Does he get any help with his mindset? “I haven’t done any one-on-one work but I read a lot of books and pick things up along the way. I’d like to think that I have learned by experience.”