A showjumper and one of Ireland’s top horse producers, John Floody coaches horses and riders at his stables, Newgrange Stud, in Beauparc, Co Meath, where he now lives
I competed as a showjumper until I was 22 or so; after leaving school, I’d trained with Captain Con Power. Then I set up a riding school and equestrian centre in Bettystown, Co Meath, and gave up competing for about 15 years. Showjumping was something I always wanted to do, but it was very difficult in those years, the early 1990s, if you didn’t have sponsorship. You had to make money – that’s why I set up the riding school.
When Cian came to the school aged 14, he showed unbelievable determination. He made a decision very early on that he wanted to be a showjumper.
He came from a rugby family – his grand-father was Karl Mullen, his godfather Tony O’Reilly – and they probably would have been pushing him a little bit that way, but he wanted to stick with showjumping.
Both of us are very competitive so I was delighted to see him wanting to win all the time. He’s shown that same determination and hard work over the past few years. At 15, Cian was the same guy he is now, except he wasn’t great at mucking out stables.
I went out to the US for about three years, and came home around 2001. When I came back, I rented the yard beside Cian in Maynooth and decided to give showjumping another go. It was hard to get back in there, but I worked hard at it and got some nice horses and good results.
One was Larkhill Cruiser, a lovely horse who had a funny style of jumping. Cian had him originally but told the owner, Michael Smith, if he wanted to keep him, to bring him to me. He had a brain like a human; we educated him over a few years and he turned into a top-class horse for me. He qualified for the World Breeding Championships and won a class. Last year, for Cian, he jumped clear to help the Irish team win in La Baule. He was a once-in-a-lifetime horse.
I’ll always be there for Cian. It’s true that he’s had dramatic highs and lows over the past 10 years, but he’s come back so well. We are rivals when we compete, but I’m more national, Cian’s more international. If Cian’s in the lead, I’ll do my best to try to catch him – although it’s not an easy job.
The best thing about Cian? His determination, and his positive outlook on life.
I can see why he’s so successful. He has proved it again and again, coming back to win bronze at the Olympics, going to Beijing to ride a horse he’d never sat on before and then win their World Cup qualifier – that shows his talent.
In conversation with Frances O’Rourke