Riders’ Christmas Quiz 2022

AS the competition year comes to an end, four of our top show jumping and dressage riders - Conor Swail, Cian O’Connor, Mikey Pender and Abi Lyle - kindly took a minute to reflect on their past year and answer a few questions, here’s what they had to say.

Q1. Looking back at 2022, what was your favourite competition moment and why?

Conor: That’s an easy answer… winning the Aga Khan in the jump-off for Ireland back in August. The atmosphere was incredible. It’s a day I will never forget.

Mikey: Jumping clear for Team Ireland in the Nations Cup final at Barcelona. It’s always a pleasure to wear the green jacket and compete for your country.

Cian: Without hesitation it has to be being a part of our victorious team who won the Aga Khan Trophy at the RDS last August. It was very special to ride alongside Max (Wachman) whom I coach and equally special to show the home crowd how incredible Kilkenny is.

Abi: Definitely London! It has been one of my biggest dreams to ride there. To go and have Arty (Giraldo) with me, so relaxed and then achieve two personal best scores was just incredible! The crowd was also so amazing.

Q2. What was the one new thing you learned in 2022?

Conor: It would have to be ‘Organisation is the key to success’.

Mikey: I learned to be more patient. When you do things as well as you can and produce your horses slowly… your day will come and you can compete against the best in the world.

Cian: A lot can be achieved when people work together. At the World Championships this year, the team finished fourth out of 20 teams; narrowly missing out on bronze medal but, perhaps more importantly, securing Olympic qualification. A strong team spirit and support for one another undoubtedly contributed to that success.

Abi: That you need to pay attention to how you talk to yourself internally all the time. Putting yourself down in your mind gets you nowhere.

Q3. Which one of all the horses you rode this year are you most grateful for and why?

Conor: I’m very grateful for all my horses, but has to be Count Me In. He brought me to my First World Cup Finals, my first time in Aachen and my first time winning the Aga Khan. He has been a major factor in being fifth in the World Rankings.

Mikey: I’m grateful for all my horses and for everything they do for me day in and day out. This year the one I have to be most grateful for is the big handsome bay gelding HHS Calais. He and I won our first five-star Grand Prix at Valkenswaard and went on to win another one in Riyadh.

Mikey Pender and HHS Calais on their lap of honour after their win in the Global Champions Tour Grand Prix at Riyadh \ Stefano Grasso/GCL

Cian: C Vier. I only had him a few short months and I found that we clicked right away. I was thrilled to have jumped some important rounds at the World Championships in Herning on him and together with Denis, Bertram and Daniel, we managed to secure an

Olympic team slot for Team Ireland

for Paris 2024.

Abi: I couldn’t possibly answer that! They are all so special in their own ways and they compliment each other.

Q4. If you could have the ride of any horse past or present for the 2023 season who would it be and why?

Conor: I think I would have enjoyed riding Hickstead from Eric Lamaze. He was so careful and competitive.

Mikey: Big Star because I think he would suit my style of riding with his blood and great balance.

Cian: I feel I’ve been very lucky to have had some incredible horses over the past 25 years at international level but I always look forward to developing new partnerships. Recently I purchased a special nine-year-old stallion called Checkter who I’m really excited about getting to know and see how far we can go together!

Abi: I’m going off discipline and saying Milton. He was the GOAT! I was obsessed with him as a girl. And I would love to have some fun show jumping on the side.

Q5. What is the competition you would most like to win this year?

Conor: The World Cup Finals and the Aachen Grand Prix.

Mikey: It would be a dream come true to win the Grand Prix in Dublin. It’s something I always dreamed of and to win in front of the home crowd would be the most amazing feeling in the world.

Cian: I suppose I set goals every year not only for me but for my students and each individual horse. Our goals can only match what horses we have at a particular time so I guess my main focus now is on being ready for Paris ‘24 and I will have that in mind every class I ride between now and then - Olympics are always my ultimate goal.

Abi: Hmmm I would love to win another CDI abroad. Let’s see!

Q6. Which round/test that you rode this year is the one that you wish you could do over again and why?

Conor: It would have to be the second round of the Grand Prix in Aachen. I made the wrong choice for my horse and did six strides instead of seven. That poor decision cost me a chance of winning.

Mikey: I would ride the Grand Prix in Riyadh again because I was competing against the best horses and riders in the world. Everything came up for me in the jump-off and Calais was in top form.

Cian: The second round in the Aga Khan this year. Kilkenny felt incredible. There was absolute silence in the ring and we knew the whole country was behind us. Kilkenny rode around like a dream and it felt like we were doing a regular course - it was effortless to him. We jumped out of the double and moved up on eight strides to the last; a big grey oxer with the water tray underneath. Kilkenny gave it a foot, front and back much to the delight of the crowd who stood and applauded him as they clearly appreciated the star that he is. That round I’d like to do over again to experience that magical feeling that only comes a few times in your career.

Abi: The World Equestrian Games, because I feel I learned so much and I know exactly what I would do differently.