An initiative of Horse Sport Ireland

A Look Back at 2022 – Show Jumping

General January 10, 2023

“This really is the stuff of dreams”

For the fourth part in the series ‘A Look Back at 2022’ Horse Sport Ireland reviews the show jumping success for 2022. It proved to be a year to remember as Irish-bred horses and Irish riders recorded some outstanding results, including the historic success at the FEI Pony European Championships, victory in the Aga Khan, Olympic team qualification and much more.

Magic Formula

James Derwin with Rincoola Babog

The unprecedented success of the gold medal-winning GAIN Equine Nutrition Pony Show Jumping team, achieved by Irish riders and Irish-bred ponies, at the FEI European Championships in Strzegom, Poland seems a fitting place to start when looking at the show jumping success stories of 2022.

Not only did the team secure gold but also, for the first time in the history of the championships, Ireland secured all three individual medals. To add to the success story four of the five ponies on the team were Irish bred, and three were out of mares sired by Cruising (ISH)[TIH].

Individual bronze went to Coen Williams riding Saxton Freedam (ISH). This 12-year-old mare was bred by Lisa Smyth, owned by Deirdre Grant, and is by Luidam (KWPN), out of Saxton Heights (ISH), by Flintstone (IDHSGB) (ISH).

It was a family affair that helped secure the individual silver medal. James Brennan rode MHS Glow (ISH) to victory, owned by his mother Sinead and bred by his Grandmother Ita. MHS Glow is by Dondoctro Ryal K (KWPN) and is out of Limitless (ISH), by Cruising (ISH) [TIH]. Limitless is also the dam of Grade A jumping pony Off Limits.

The individual gold medal went to Rincoola Babog (ISH), ridden by James Derwin and bred by the late Harold McGahern. The McGahern name is synonymous with the best of Irish breeding. Harold came from Granard, Co Longford and was heavily involved in the Irish Sport Horse industry. It is no surprise that Rincoola Babog is out of one his most well-known horses, Rincoola Abu (ISH), by Cruising (ISH) [TIH] and is by Luidam (KWPN).

Speaking to Horse Sport Ireland about the success of her father’s breeding programme and the legacy he’s left, Angela McGahern said: “We’ve been very lucky this year to see two horses bred by my father Harold record some outstanding results on the international stage. Watching James and Rincoola Babog (ISH) win team and individual gold medals at the Pony European Championships was very special to us all.

“Rincoola Milsean (ISH) and Charlotte Jacobs have recorded some great results this year, including winning the 1.45m Grand Prix and the 1.45m Welcome class in Aiken this November. There’s a lot that goes into breeding horses and seeing homebreds compete on the world stage is what it’s all about.

“Dad always put his heart and soul into it, and we continue to do so – as do all breeders. We are in it for the long term and seeing results like the ones we have had this year make it all worthwhile.

“I know dad would be very proud to see both horses doing so well. They are both out of Rincoola Abu (ISH)[TIH] who is by Cruising (ISH)[TIH]. We are very lucky continue to breed from direct relations of Rincoola Abu, and we look forward to seeing what the future brings.

“Ireland is a great nation for breeding horses, it takes so many people to get them to the top of the sport, from breeders, producers, riders and all the support staff.”

Eoin Brennan and Glor Tire Cruise (ISH) completed the quartet of Irish-bred ponies. Bred by Marian Russell, this 10-year-old mare is by Ars Vivendi (HOLST), out of Fastnet Cruise (ISH), by Cruising (ISH) [TIH].

Dams by Cruising continued to add to the success of Ireland’s youth athletes. Harry Allen won individual bronze in the Young Rider European Championships with Over Lux (ISH). Bred by Mayo’s Padraic Egan, the 2012 gelding is by Lux Z (HANN) and is out of Thornfield Camille (ISH)[TIH] by Cruising (ISH)[TIH].

The GAIN Equine Nutrition Pony Show Jumping team pictured at the Dublin Horse Show with Sally Anne Tobin of SJI, Michael Phillips of GAIN Equine Nutrition and Denis Duggan, CEO of HSI and Keith Griffin. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Aga Khan Glory

The Aga Khan Trophy is a household name and for generations it has brought show jumping into homes across the nation. This year, we once again saw Irish-bred horses play a vital role in Ireland winning the coveted trophy for the FEI Nations Cup for the first time since 2015.

High performance director Michael Blake, with Aga Khan winning team members, from left, Max Wachman, Shane Sweetnam, Cian O’Connor, Conor Swail and Jack Ryan, as well as The Underwriting Exchange founder and chairman Stephen O’Connor.  Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

The success of the Underwriting Exchange-sponsored Irish team on the Friday afternoon of the RDS Dublin Horse Show was not just what was televised over the course of those few hours, it was the culmination of years of work coming together at the right moment. A journey, that for the breeders, started over ten years ago.

Sinead Brennan is the proud breeder of Kilkenny, ridden by Cian O’Connor. This is the second horse bred by the Brennan’s to be part of an Aga Khan winning team, they also bred MHS Going Global who was on the winning team in 2015. Kilkenny is by Cardento (HOLST), out of MHS Pembrook Lady (ISH), by Guidam (SF).

Galway’s Patrick Connolly bred James Kann Cruz (ISH) who, ridden by Shane Sweetnam, helped to secure Ireland’s victory. The 2013 gelding is by Kannan out of CSF Telly Cruz (ISH), by Cruising (ISH)[TIH].

The third Irish-bred horse on the Aga Khan team was the reserve combination of Jack Ryan and BBS McGregor (ISH). Owned and bred by Jack’s mother, Marguerite Ryan, this 2012 gelding is by Cardento (HOLST), out of Random Chance (ISH) by Mark Twain (TB). The combination represented Ireland at underage level and 2022 saw them make a very successful step up to the senior division.

Horse Sport Ireland Show Jumping High Performance Director Michael Blake’s delight was evident when speaking about the historic victory.

“I am so thrilled. I just can’t believe the reaction of the crowd,” Blake said. “To walk around the arena and hear them, full marks to them. They understand the sport and it means so much to them and it means so much to us.

“We win plenty of Nations Cups but nothing compares to this. I want to thank everyone involved who helped to make this happen, our grooms, owners, staff working behind the scenes and everyone at Horse Sport Ireland.”

World Stage

The 2024 Olympic cycle is underway and a clear aim for the Irish show jumping team was to gain team qualification this year. Team manager Blake set out an ambitious plan to achieve this through a top five finish at the World Championships which took place in Herning, Denmark, the week before the RDS Dublin Horse Show. For obvious reasons, it wasn’t going to be an easy task.

The Irish team of Daniel Coyle, Cian O’Connor, Darragh Kenny, Denis Lynch and Bertram Allen certainly delivered when they finished fourth in the team final. Three Irish riders finished within the top 20 individually, including Bertram Allen and the Irish Sport Ireland Pacino Amiro. The 10-year-old gelding was bred by Simon Scott and is owned by Aiden McGrory. He is by Pacino (BWP), out of Carnone Dancing Queen (ISH), by NC Amiro (AES).

Irish-bred horses made their mark on the global stage this year, with 130 Irish-bred horses winning international classes. Irish horse and rider combinations won an impressive six individual 5* classes in 2022.  Bertram Allen won the 1.60m Grand Prix at Wellington, USA in February with Pacino Amiro (ISH). Later the following month the same combination claimed victory in the 1.55m international class, also at Wellington.

The next individual 5* victory came in Valkenswaard, Holland, when Michael Pender won the Global Champions Tour with HHS Calais (ISH). Bred by Ita Brennan, this 2011 gelding is by Cavalier Royale (HOLST) out of MHS OBOS Cruise (ISH), by OBOS Quality (OLD). Pender once again partnered HHS Calais to 5* success, this time in the Global Champions Tour in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

In September, it was the turn of Shane Sweetnam and CSF James Kann Cruz (ISH). Their first 5* win of the year came in 1.50m in Traverse City, USA on the 16th of September, and was closely followed by the second victory just two days later at the same venue in the 1.60m Grand Prix.

Shane Sweetnam and James Kann Cruz (ISH) Photo: Andrew Ryback Photography

As well as the historic Aga Khan win Ireland recorded several Nations Cup victories, including the 5* competitions in Abu Dhabi and Vancouver. The first success came in early 2022, when the team of Shane Breen, Trevor Breen, David Simpson and Jack Ryan topped the podium. 22-year-old Ryan partnered the Irish Sport Horse BBS McGregor (ISH).

The second 5* team victory came in June in Vancouver with the team of Daniel Coyle, Andrew Bourns, Shane Sweetnam and Conor Swail. The team included two Irish Sport Horses, Sea Topblue (ISH), a 2011 gelding by Chacco Blue (MECKL), out of Sea Top Lady (ISH), by Lux Z (HANN), bred by James and John Meade, ridden by Bourns, and CSF James Kann Cruz (ISH), ridden by Sweetnam. Ireland won legs of the FEI Nations Cup in Florida and Lisbon as well.


Ethan Ahearne and ABC Saving Grace

Irish horses and riders have excellent form at the FEI WBFSH Jumping World Breeding Championship for Young Horses at Lanaken, Belgium, having enjoyed great podium success down the years. 2022 was no exception, with two Irish combinations winning medals.

Ethan Ahearn piloted ABC Saving Grace (ISH) to win a gold medal in the 6-year-old final. Owned and bred by Patrick Kehoe, she is by Kannan (KPWN), out of Ardnehue Diamond Cruiser (ISH)(TIH) by Cruising (ISH)(TIH).

Speaking to Horse Sport Ireland after the outstanding result, Kehoe said;

“This really is the stuff of dreams. It’s an unbelievable achievement. It’s all part of a long-term plan that started back in 2006 when I bought the dam, Ardenhue Diamand Cruiser, and I’m so lucky to have a mare like her. When I got home, I had to give her a big hug and tell her she bred a world champion.

“It’s so hard to describe the feeling. As a breeder this is my Olympics. I must also say how nice it was to be there and specially to see the Irish team pull together to support Ethen before he went in the jump off. It was a fantastic example of team camaraderie. The adrenaline is still running here. I’m still buzzing. I really can’t describe how proud I am of Ethen and ABC Saving Grace.”

Earlier in the day Kilkenny’s Gerard O’Neill won the 5-year-old final with the Irish Sport Horse gelding BP Goodfellas. Bred by GBBS Int Ltd. and Kevin Babington, BP Goodfellas (ISH) is by OBOS Quality 004 (OLD) and out of Goodwin’s Loyalty (ISH). This is the third gold medal for the Kilkenny rider who previously won the 6-year-old final in 2016 with Killossery Kaiden (ISH) and in 2017 with Columcille Gipsy (ISH).

Ciaran Moran made his Lanaken debut with Greenhall Mullord (ISH), finishing 8th in the 5-year-olds. Bred by Derry Rothwell and owned by Margaret Fennell, Greenhall Mullord (ISH) is by Dignified Van’t Zorgliet (BWP), Millennium Cruise (ISH), by Cruising (ISH)[TIH].


As the 2022 season draws to a close there is an air of optimism. The Irish Sport Horse Studbook is tenth in the WBFSH Studbook rankings for 2022. James Kann Cruz (ISH) ranked within the top 40 horses globally and HHS Calais (ISH), BBS McGregor (ISH), Pacino Amiro (ISH) and Sea Topblue (ISH) helped secure the studbook ranking. The only horse to assist the Irish Sport Horse Ranking not ridden by an Irish rider was FTS Killossery Konfusion (ISH) ridden by Jos Verlooy of Belgium.

This 12-year-old gelding is by Siec Livello (HOLST), out of Killossery Kruisette (ISH)[TIH] by Cruising (ISH)[TIH] and was bred by Frank and Laura Glynn.

Led by world number 5 Conor Swail, there are eight Irish riders currently ranked in the top 50 Longines Rankings for show jumping. Shane Sweetnam, Denis Lynch, Daniel Coyle, Bertram Allen and Darragh Kenny are all ranked within the top 30, with Paul O’Shea and Mark McCauley both inside the top 50.

Given the breeding listed in this article it will come as no surprise that according to Hippomundo’s Sire of Dam rankings Cruising (ISH)[TIH] is second ranked in the world.

A huge thanks must go to everyone who helped the many Irish show jumping success stories of 2022 come together. The results on the world stage come after years of dedication and hard work for so many, including breeders, producers, grooms, support teams and everyone else that helped along the journey. We look forward to seeing what success 2023 will bring.

For full breeding details for all horses mentioned in this article please click here. 

In the next part of this series we will look at the medal winners of 2023 – keep an eye on the Horse Sport Ireland website and socials for more.

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