IRISH riders were in top form in five-star events across the world in 2021, winning a total of five Grands Prix at the highest level.

Despite his vast experience at the top of the sport for such a long period of time, Cork’s Shane Sweetnam won his first ever five-star Grand Prix in February at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida aboard Alejandro, earning a lucrative $132,330 prize cheque.

Just two weeks later at the same venue, Bertram Allen earned the same when he claimed victory in the next five-star Grand Prix with Aiden McGrory’s nine-year-old Irish Sport Horse Pacino Amiro (Pacino x NC Amiro), beating compatriot Daniel Coyle into second place with Legacy. Allen went on to finish 15th at the Tokyo Olympic Games while Coyle was 10th at the European Championships.

At the beginning of June, Darragh Kenny won the five-star Global Champions Tour Grand Prix in Monaco aboard Heathman Farm’s Idalville d’Esprit to claim €99,000. He was the only winner of a GCT leg this year and therefore the only one to claim a ticket to the lucrative GCT Super Grand Prix in Prague, where he finished fourth with his Tokyo Olympic Games mount VDL Cartello.

Two more Irish five-star wins came in close succession towards the end of the year. After finishing runner-up in San Miguel, Paul O’Shea and Chancelloress went one better to claim victory in Monterrey, Mexico, in November.

Paul O'Shea and Chancelloress, winners of the five-star Grand Prix in Monterrey \ Ashley Neuhof MLSJ

The latest big winner was Derry’s Jordan Coyle who claimed his first victory at the level in early December with Ariso at the Desert Horse Park in California.

Co Down’s Conor Swail finishes the year as the highest ranked Irish show jumper in the world in 13th. Swail is riding the crest of an incredible run of form at the moment. He leads the World Cup North America League standings on 63 points. He has earned points in every World Cup event he has jumped this season as well as winning three legs.

Underage medals

The Irish young rider team won the silver medal at the FEI European Championships in Vilamoura, Portugal, in July.

Jack Ryan (BBS McGregor), Sean Monaghan (Dalvaro), Harry Allen (Guinness), Jason Foley (Clyde VA) and Kayleigh Soden (ARD Leaderman) finished less than a fence behind the winners. The team were led by James Buckley at the championships after chef d’equipe James Kernan contracted Covid-19 and was unable to travel.

The Irish team who won the silver medal at the FEI Young Rider European Championships (l-r) Kayleigh Soden, Jason Foley, Harry Allen, Jack Ryan and Sean Monaghan, with chef d'equipe Liam Buckley \ DigiShots

Jack Ryan was best of the Irish individually in seventh place. Tipperary’s Tom Wachman was best of the Irish junior riders when finishing fifth with HH Fireball.

While there were no medals for Gary Marshall’s pony team at the Europeans, they did win the FEI Jumping Nations Cup Youth Final in Kronenberg at the end of September. The team of James Brennan, Coen Williams, James Derwin, and Katie McEntee won when they were the only team to finish on a score of zero faults.

And James Kernan’s Junior team of Max and Tom Wachman, Ella Quigley, Caragh Charlton and John McEntee won back-to-back Nations Cups in Wierden and Hagen.

Read all the international show jumping reviews of the year here.