When speaking to Jonathon about his horses, showjumping career and future goals, you can tell he really enjoys his job and the various aspects surrounding the sport. Buying and selling horses, competitions, travel, training, building partnerships. Jonathon enjoys it all and leaves nothing to chance. Everything is planned and organised down to the finest detail.
Leaving Ireland at the very tender age of 17, clearly shows the hard work, dedication and commitment Jonathon has to the sport. He is a man who gives great credit to his support team and the people who have helped him throughout his journey thus far.
1. Are you from a horsey background?
‘Yes, Both sides of my Family are connected with horses,my father was a rider and dealt in horses all his life and my mother used to ride during her teenage years but nowadays shes still very involved in the Organisation of some Shows during the spring at my grandfathers Farm.’
2. Why did you decide to leave Ireland and base yourself in Germany? Who are you based with and how long have you been there?
‘Even when i was riding ponies i always said that later i want to go to central Europe to Train and learn about the different training Systems. I left Ireland in September 2011, when i just was 17 old, I had just completed my leaving cert (my mothers wish that i got my “leaving cert” as i was never interested in School to say it politely).
I went to work for Hank Melse, a dealer in the Netherlands where i stayed for 11 months,but after a while i realized it was not the place for me and i wanted to get back doing more Shows and start being competitive again. One evening, Alex Duffy called me and told me he was talking to Manfred Marschall, who lives in the south of Germany and he was looking for a Young rider to ride and Train his Young horses. So, i did my research and decided it could be a good place to learn.
At the beginning i had mainly the Young horses and 2-3 horses to jump the 140 classes at the local national The the main riders at the stable were Tim Hoster and Manfreds son, Marcel Marschall. After about 7-8 months, Tim moved to Belgium to work for Jos Lansink. It was great to work alongside Tim and we still get on really well but this gave me the opportunity to get some more experienced horses and step by step helped me make the climb!’
3. How long have you been in Germany?
‘In June of this year, it will be 4 years.’
4. What do you miss most about Ireland?
‘Obviously my Family and friends. As im quite busy all year with Shows, i dont get many opportunities to get home throughout the year….Ohh and Lucozade also.’
5. You are one of the elite young riders who won a place in the Riders Academy. Tell us a little bit about what this entails?
‘I cant speak highly enough about the “Young riders Academy” its an incredible Program organised by Elenora Ottaviani and Sven Holmberg, both of whom are highly respected People in the showjumping world and to be associated with the brand Rolex is fantastic!’
‘They organise the best professionals in their disciplines to guide us and further our knowledge in so many different Areas. Just to give you some examples, Sports Psychology, Mental Training, Accounting, Clean Sport(Doping), Media, Veterinary, etc….They also Support me by giving me the opportunity to Train with one of the worlds best riders. I choose Ludger Beerbaum.
We (the riders Academy) have spent time in Lausanne at Franklin University, in Stockholm at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (lameness diagnostics) and in Geneva at the CHIO Rolex Grand slam Show, each time providing us with different seminars involving our Sport!’
6. What is your daily routine?
‘I start at 7 in the morning and give a Hand with the mucking out or putting the horses on the walker or treadmill. Afterwards, i go into my Office and check my emails or organise entries, etc.
At 8-8.30 we all eat breakfast and then i will ride 5 horses up until 12.30 and then everybody in the stable eats lunch together until 2pm. After lunch, i will ride another 3-4 horses depending on the day. We may have have Clients to present horses to. Once im finished with riding my horses, i drive the surface in the indoor or outdoor and Change around the jumps for the next morning. Then i will go back to the Office to plan for the next day and upcoming Shows, or vet visits ,etc.
Regarding entries, i, and so many other Irish riders are very fortunate to have Debbie O Connor in HSI who takes care of all that for us. This can be very complicated for her as sometimes we may have to call and ask her to Substitute a horse just hours before a vet check. She is a massive help!!’
7. Have you many horses in work at the moment?
‘I always have between 10-14 horses on my list but there is always new heads looking over the doors at us because buying & selling is how this business operates.’
8. Tell us a little bit about your team of horses.
‘I have recently gotten some new horses that are ready to jump some bigger classes.’
‘Number One’- is a 9 year old ‘Cornet Obolensky’ stallion who has just joined my team. He has already jumped 150m last year with a different rider. He knows he is a stallion and he has so much scope. He is also very careful. Im really looking Forward to working with this horse.
‘Fellini 131’-is a 10year old ‘For pleasure’ gelding. He is partly owned by Ciaran Howley. He is probably my best horse at the moment. He is also very scopey with a typical For pleasure jumping style. Hopefully, he will step up to Senior nations Cup Level this year
‘Coral Springs’-is a 12 year old (Douglas X Cavalier Royal) gelding. He was previously campaigned by Trevor Breen and Cian O Connor. He can be quite feisty as he likes to run and jump but he is very careful and can win alot of classes. He can also be used as a GP horse
‘For N’-is an 11 year old ‘For Pleasure’ gelding who is new to me, but he is really easy to ride,very careful and a horse i believe will be a very good winner and useful to have for World Ranking classes
‘Jendy S’-is a 7 year old ‘Nabab De Reve’ mare. She is out of the same mare as ‘Davendy S’ who Jessica Springsteen has won 5* GP. She is inexperienced but really scopey, careful and jumps very high,
‘Jeckle’-is a 7 year old ‘Darco’ gelding. He is so clever with his jumping technique and doesnt want to touch a rail. He looks a very heavy type but he has loads of blood and i beleive he is a horse with bright future.
‘PSG Final’ -Is a 6 year old ‘Toulon’ gelding. He is the most powerful Jumper i have ever sat on. He has only competed in 6 Shows throughout his career. He is very cheeky and always bucking and playing but we think he could be a Championship horse for the future. He has been partly sold to a Swiss Investor!
9. Have you any aspirations for the top sport of showjumping?
‘Yes. That is my dream and ultimate goal. This is what keeps us going and what we work towards every day. Like so many Irish riders, i would love to be on a winning Aga Khan team, in front of the best crowd in the world!!’
10. What are your main goals for 2016?
‘Firstly, i want to get myself into the Top 250 in the world inside the next 6 months and then to try and continue to Keep rising. I hope on stepping up to Senior nations Cup Level this year. My main Focus would be for Dublin this year and trying to be competitive. I competed at Dublin in 2014 and it was an incredible experience, even being qualified for the GP on Sunday, ahead of some of the worlds best was a great Feeling.’
11. Will you go on any of the sunshine tours? If so, how many horses will you bring?
‘Yes, at the end of March and April i will be in Oliva Nova, Spain at the Mediterranean Tour. Im only going to take 6 horses with me. Three Youngsters and three to jump the bigger classes.’
12. Tell us a bit about your best horse.
‘Fellini’ is currently my best horse. He is a very sensitive horse and can take quite a lot of work until he starts to concentrate. Together, we won a Team Bronze medal last year at the Europeans for Young riders where he jumped 1 of 8 double clears throughout the team event. He has also won GP´s for me and ranking classes. It was only towards the end of last year that he was finding himself and i believe 2016 looks much more impressive for him. Then i have a new stallion called ‘Number One’ who i think can jump at the very top of the sport.’
13. Who have been the main influences on your career to this point?
‘I would have to say my parents they are always there for me when i need something and have always supported my dream to succeed!’
14. Who do you look up to in the top sport and who do you model your riding style on?
‘I don’t try to model my style on any rider. Of course i see things on different riders that i like and i will go home and practice it but im not somebody who likes to sit there and try to win a style award. I don’t mind how it Looks as Long as its effective and in the end its the result that Counts.’
‘I really admire Cian O Connor for his planing with a horse and how he can aim a horse at a particular Show or class and get him there on the best possible form. Also, his vision for running a successful business and when i was a Young Boy he was always helpful with advice which is something i really admired.’
‘Ludger Beerbaum has always been a hero for me. He has been in the top 10 in the world for so long and he has won practically every GP with various horses. He has taken on riders and turned them into stars in the Sport through his mentoring and guidance but what i really admire him for is that he has been able to Keep the same Sponsor for so many years. This is something unique and something few riders can do!’
15. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
‘Every rider has their own dreams but i would like to see myself breaking into the top sport and being able to contribute to the Irish Team at the highest Level…(At least not married with 3 Kids:))
16. Do you see yourself returning to Ireland or do you see mainland Europe as your best option?
‘Honestly, i cant see myself returning to Ireland as everything is here in central Europe. Clients from the states or the middle east much prefer to come here as they can sit in their rented car and drive from one professional stable to the next in a space of 30 minuets and try various horses. Where as in Ireland, they might drive 3 hours to try 2 horses and drive back to the Hotel and go again the next day!’
Photos: Courtesy of Jonathon Gordon