OLYMPIC medallist Cian O’Connor fulfilled a once-in-a-lifetime promise for a talented young rider whose bravery across the country caught his eye.
In November 2018, Co Westmeath’s James Cleary, then just eight, created a sensation when pictured fearlessly jumping over a massive hidden drop on his three-year-old pony Little Paddy Brown while out riding with his father Paul.
First published in The Irish Field, the photo by Nicola Collins went viral and subsequently featured in Horse & Hound.
Flashback to November 2018: James Cleary (8) on his three-year-old pony Little Paddy Brown cross the country \ Nicola Collins
Cian O’Connor picks up the story. “I remember looking at this photo at the time and being taken aback by the sheer size of the hedge. When I read the article, I learned that the rider was an eight-year-old boy and it was a seriously impressive feat.
“I reached out to James’ father and we have been in touch ever since. As soon as we could allow guests to Karlswood, I wanted to invite the Clearys down to have a lesson and enjoy a tour of the facility.
“I was bowled over by James’ temperament, his ability to learn, the speed at which he took direction and his technique, which defied his years.
“It’s clear that he has the right tools to hopefully push on and continue to enjoy his riding.
“We went out on the sand and grass arenas and he took to the fences in his stride. I look forward to keeping in touch with the Cleary family and will monitor James’s progress with interest in the months and years to come.”