JUNIOR rider Jack Murphy’s rise up through the ranks to Grand Prix level has been a quiet one.

The 16-year-old Dubliner has been successfully competing two of his mother’s horses - Dinard H and MHS Oklahoma - in this year’s TRM/Showjumpers Club 1.35m Spring Tour, but unlike many of his peers who came up through the 128cms, 138cms and then 148cms jumping classes, Jack’s progression took another route.

His mother, Valerie O’Reilly, describes his journey in the sport. “It began with Jack’s sister Mia. She begged me for riding lessons from the time she was about five or six years old. Jack used to come along and sit in the car while she rode and one day he asked if he could be signed up for a lesson, because he was sick of sitting in the car,” Valerie explaned.

“This was in 2016, and he was nearly 10 at this stage and that was it; he took to it straight away and was pretty good at it too.

“We began in Kellystown Riding School, which is just up the road from where we live in South County Dublin. Following that we moved up to Carrickmines Riding Centre and we leased them a little pony to share.

“In the April of that year we bought them a 13hh seven-year-old pony named Wat A Cookie and, almost immediately, Jack joined Bray Hunt Pony Club and began competing. By 2017 he was on the Bray Hunt Minimus team and they did really well, winning the riding award, which was amazing for a boy who had only just really begun to ride.

“That year we entered him for the Starter Stakes in Dublin and he finished third. That was where the love of competing started for us all really.”


Jack had his sights set on the show jumping area. “Jack wanted to go show jumping from the start, but I said no, this is only for fun. The following year I bought him a pony named Tynan Earl Grey from the UK and in 2019 they placed first in the IPS 14hh Workers in Dublin,” said his mother.

“That same year the IPS asked him to represent Ireland at the Sports Pony Challenge in Wales, this is an event where teams from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales come together to compete in show jumping, dressage and working hunter. He did well and won the individual show jumping section.

“At this point he was based with and was being trained by Joanna Butler, who I met at a show and was a great help to us in those early days. Jack was 13 years old and was very tall for his age. There was no point in buying him a 148cms because he was already too big so we decided to buy him a horse.

“At the end of 2019, just before Covid-19 hit, we moved up to be based with Taylor Vard in Stepaside. Jack had decided he wanted to concentrate on show jumping and, as he was almost six-foot-tall, Taylor said let’s just get him into horses!

“The first horse we bought was from Michael Brennan, a five-year-old gelding called MHS Oklahoma (Kannan x Mister Blue). Everyone told me that it was a silly idea to buy a five-year-old for a 13-year-old boy, but Taylor said it was a good project for Jack so we did it.

“A few months later we were looking for a horse with a little more experience to go alongside Oklahoma and Taylor found the 10-year-old Dinard H (Diarado x Corrado I) in Denmark through Irish international rider Shane Carey.

“Dinard H arrived on March 15th, literally the day before the country locked down so that meant it was a fairly slow start for Jack with the new horses but it did allow him plenty of time to get a feel for them without any pressure.

“About two years ago we added the seven-year-old mare Ballinteskin Gaia (Quidam Junior I x Ramiro B) to the mix. She has been a great addition for Jack’s learning. She is a quick, careful little mare, very different from the other two big geldings and they have progressed well moving up to 1.30m this year.

“Those are his three at the moment. Jack is currently in transition year in school, so has had plenty of time with the horses this year which has been great.”

Taylor Vard and Jack Murphy walking a course at Dublin Horse Show \ Jumpinaction.net

Important coaching

Jack has received top class mentoring and coaching from Taylor, who is involved with the senior Irish show jumping team. “Taylor has been brilliant,” Valerie said. “He never rushes. He always takes his time and lets Jack work it out. Jack has never gone in and had a disastrous round because Taylor won’t let him until he knows he is ready. This has been great for not only him but also the horse’s confidence.”

According to Taylor, Jack is showing great potential. “When Jack made the move from showing ponies to jumping horses, it was a big one. Suddenly there are strides involved and the kind of split second decision making that comes with that like what to do if a horse isn’t taking on a fence,” Taylor commented.

“Like any kid his age, it’s been a big learning curve, and that’s why he’s been under the radar a little bit because we’ve been taking it slow. Now that he’s got to this 1.35m level we hope that as the year goes on, we can move up to 1.40m and maybe even bigger.

“The move from ponies to horses is a massive one. To go from riding a pony that will stand off, go in deep, chip in and add a stride, do whatever, to go to horses who need to be told what to do, when to do and how to do it and that has been the challenge.”

Taylor added: “The Dinard H horse had only been ridden up to 1.20m by an amateur but Shane (Carey) told me he thought it could do a lot more, and he was right, Jack brought him on to 1.35m in no time at all.

“MHS Oklahoma, we’ve been producing slowly and it’s paying off. Jack is a very quiet rider. He analyses everything, if he makes a mistake he doesn’t take it to heart. He’s like a sponge, he takes it all in.

“He wants perfection and wants to do it right. He’s a very good student in school and gets great results, but with horses, it’s different, it’s not like reading a book and learning; horses are throwing up something different all the time and that’s the challenge.

“Just because you do something a certain way, it doesn’t always mean you’ll always have the same outcome, it can be different for every horse and you have to learn to adapt. That’s what he is learning at the moment.

“I can see him progressing up to 1.40m this summer, his horses have the ability. We will target the Mervue classes and the National Grand Prix but we won’t jump the gun. I’ve a rider and horses that are both inexperienced and both still learning so we need to be patient.

“Jack is still young, he’s just 16 so we have years left. If he continues on his current trajectory, I would be very optimistic about his future,” his coach concluded.