Our friends at Event Clinics took some time to interview Chris Ryan, legendary horseman and one of the two judges of the 2017 USEA Future Event Horse (FEH) Championships. In this two-part interview, Chris Ryan talks about his training philosophy, what he looks for in a young event prospect, and gives advice to young riders and trainers on how to better themselves for the betterment of the sport. The USEA Future Event Horse Championships will be held later this week, with the FEH West Coast Championships taking place at Twin Rivers Ranch in Paso Robles, California on Thursday, September 21 and the FEH East Coast Championships taking place at Loch Moy Farm in Adamstown, Maryland on Saturday and Sunday, September 23-24.
Event Clinics: Which one person in the equestrian field have you learned the most from?
Chris Ryan: The Micklem Brothers, John and William. John taught me the value of ‘the acceptance of contact,’ leg-to-hand aid is the basis of our communication, and the value of ‘straightness in the ride’. William taught me the implication of genetics. I love the Thoroughbred. He is the Formula 1 of equine breeds. The racetrack is the Formula 1 track of the equestrian world. I travel the highways and byways when I’m out hunting, eventing, or just messing about, and need a slightly different model, but I still want to retain the forward-thinking, power, and stamina of the Thoroughbred. The Thoroughbred cross, especially the ¾ bred ticks the most boxes for me. Robin Walker has an exceptional level of understanding of all of the above and I can’t get enough of his time.
EC: What advice would you give to young riders and trainers?
There is a wealth of experience that is in danger of being lost from the older generations of horse producers, information which won’t be learned from a collage or a book. Spend some time with these experts and don’t settle too long anywhere. You will piece together what makes sense to you. The cost of this experience will be repaid tenfold when you are out on your own. Look at the honesty of effort, intensity of purpose, and the toughness of resolve of the Irish horse and follow suit!
Chris Ryan reviewing the FEH scoring sheet with a participant in the FEH Jump Chute Clinic at Loch Moy Farm. USEA/Jessica Duffy Photo.
EC: What are the most common mistakes you see in the training of young horses?
CR: Overfacing and advancing to gallop when the walk has not been established. It must be fun for the horse. The arena is like the classroom – It can get very intensive and claustrophobic. A horse must be allowed to be a horse and experience the big world out there. The horses’ first reaction is forward and flight. The ‘front door’ must never be closed, meaning a horse must always be assured he can go forwards through the contact both on the flat and over fences. Heavy hands and/or heavy machinery in their mouths lead to horses learning only to support themselves on the rider at best and hating life at worst.
EC: What is your dream job?
CR: I love horses, but I love nature, it’s diversity and fragile rhythm and balance. In further reference to your earlier question about who I have learned the most from in the equestrian field; If I were to be airdropped anywhere in the wilds of the world and could bring one man with me it would be Glen Westmoreland, who is now with The Midland Fox Hounds in Georgia. He has a level of understanding of nature, its interaction, and what makes everything tick that is more profound than anyone I have met. I would love a job involving the different ecological cycles and animal genetics, but I don’t know if I could live without horses!
About Chris Ryan
Chris Ryan comes from one of the most storied families in Ireland. Following in his father’s footsteps, Chris hunted the legendary Scarteen hounds for 28 seasons. The Scarteen hounds have been in the Ryan family for more than 400 years. From racing in his youth, to huntsman, and now judge and commentator, Chris has become a regular part of eventing life in Ireland and Europe. One of the foundation selectors of the Goresbridge Go for Gold elite event horse sale held every November in Wexford, Chris has developed a keen eye for young stock, many having gone on to great things in Ireland, England, and Europe.
He is best known in the United States for finding McKinlaigh, the horse with whom Gina Miles’ won the individual silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, and producing him from a 3-year-old to a 5-year-old at his first Preliminary level event. International winning and placed horses including Copper Beach, Rourkes Drift, Cooley SRS, November Night, Prince Mayo, Glencento, Reenmore Duke, Ballymurphy Mark and many others all came under his eye and passed the test. Blending all this experience with an instinct for what is required and the genetics to operate at the highest level gives us an insight into what has kept Ireland at the top of the world eventing rankings for 21 of the 23 years they have been in existence.
About Event Clinics
Event Clinics Inc. was launched in May 2015 to enable riders to easily find and register for clinics with the world’s top riders, as well as premier schooling opportunities. Use of Premier Registrar Service platform reduces a rider’s discovery, registration, and payment effort from an hour or days to less than two minutes. Organizers have instant access to registration details, documents, and funds. The EC Instant Pay feature enables up to five custom recipients to receive payment for each registration. With unique proprietary software and a scalable database, the Event Clinics system is able to support thousands of rider registration transactions annually with associated document storage. To learn more about Event Clinics, visit their website.
The FEI has published its Policy for Enhanced Competition Safety during the COVID-19 pandemic, aimed at assisting organizers and national federations with the safe resumption of international equestrian events in line with national and local restrictions.
The United States Eventing Association (USEA) has approved additional modifications to the qualification period for the 2020 USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC) presented by Nutrena Feeds. The AEC is scheduled to take place August 25-30, 2020 at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky, and the USEA is doing everything possible to ensure a safe and successful Championship, while also ensuring fair opportunities for all.
This article will be updated to include statements as they are released from upcoming USEA recognized events regarding actions they are taking due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
This has been a difficult decision, but with the current pandemic situation at hand, we feel that this is the correct and ‘common sense’ direction to take. We are developing a plan to host a shorter, smaller, and more focused competition. We will be using state and local protocols to help guide us through this. Safety is paramount at Rebecca Farm, for both equine and human participants.