Irish show jumper Darragh Kenny on equestrian passion: career milestones and Olympic dreams

Darragh Kenny per Acavallo

In the world of international show jumping, few names shine as brightly as Darragh Kenny‘s. The Irish rider has made significant strides in the sport, earning accolades and inspiring many with his dedication and skill.

In a recent interview, Kenny shared insights into his career, the memorable moments that have defined it, and his aspirations for the future.

Early inspirations and motivation

Kenny’s journey into show jumping began early, influenced by his family’s passion for horses. “Both my parents rode, so I was always surrounded by horses,” he recalls.

This environment nurtured a deep love for horses and the sport. “I figured out I was okay at it, and I wasn’t bad at it, so then I decided I would keep going at it.”

Career highlights

Among the numerous achievements in his career, one stands out prominently for Kenny. “Probably winning the Barcelona Nations Cup final and qualifying the team for the Olympics,” he says.

The significance of this victory is profound, as it marked the first time in a long while that the Irish team had qualified for the Olympics. “It was such a great achievement, and also to win there that weekend just really made the achievement even better.”

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Irish show jumper Darragh Kenny on equestrian passion: career milestones and Olympic dreams 6

Memorable horses

Kenny’s bond with his horses is a cornerstone of his success. One horse, in particular, holds a special place in his heart. “I had a horse called Piccolo. He didn’t jump the biggest Grand Prix, but he was an amazing second horse,” he shares.

Piccolo arrived at a critical time in Kenny’s career. “When I got him, I was probably two hundred in the world, and within one year, I was in the top fifty.” Piccolo’s contribution to Kenny’s career trajectory was pivotal.

Training philosophy and daily routine

Training and maintaining the fitness of his horses is an essential part of Kenny’s routine. “Our philosophy is very much about the flat work and having the horses riding good and having them fit and sound,” he explains.

Emphasizing the importance of flat work over jumping, he notes, “It’s much more based around the flat work and the riding of the horse.”

For his younger horses, Kenny adopts a patient approach. “When they’re really young, like four, five, six, I have them with a rider who produces them a little bit, quite relaxed,” he says.

This strategy allows the horses to grow and mature with ample breaks. “When they turn seven or eight, I start to take them over and ride them myself, but again, not too many shows, not too much pressure.”

Balancing life in the US and Europe

Kenny has managed to strike a balance between competing in the US and Europe, taking advantage of the unique opportunities both regions offer. “I’ve lived in America for fifteen years now, and then I get to do the summers in Europe in the best shows in the world,” he says.

He acknowledges the growing standard of the sport in America, noting, “In the last five years, there’s a lot more five-star shows and better shows and better standards.”

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Irish show jumper Darragh Kenny on equestrian passion: career milestones and Olympic dreams 7

Mental preparation and handling setbacks

Mental preparation is crucial in show jumping, and Kenny has developed strategies to stay focused. “I try to make sure that when I’m getting on the horse to warm up, I have my mind very clear and just focused on what I’m about to do,” he shares.

Despite the inevitable setbacks, Kenny remains resilient. Reflecting on a challenging period, he says, “I had a few years ago a really amazing group of horses. I was top ten in the world, and then I lost that group of horses and had to start over again.”

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Future goals and olympic aspirations

Looking ahead, Kenny’s ambitions are clear. “I would love to see Ireland have an opportunity and have a really good team that can win a medal at an Olympics,” he states. With a promising horse at

his side, he remains optimistic. “I have a very good horse at the moment. I think he’s actually maybe the best horse I’ve ever ridden in my entire life.”

Endorsement and equipment

Kenny also credits his success to the high-quality equipment and sponsorships that support his career. “I have been very lucky in my career to have had great sponsors and have great sponsors of quality products for my horses and for myself.

Acavallo are one of the best sponsors I have, for their products that we use,” he says. Highlighting some key products, Kenny notes, “We use a lot of the back pads to protect the horse’s backs and keep them comfortable when showing and riding. Some of the other products we use are the bit guards to protect the horse’s mouths from getting cut.

We really like the Acavallo bit guards because they go into the horse’s mouth and cover the gums. I also personally really like the Acavallo stirrups, for their safety because they have a breakaway on the outside of the stirrup that if you ever fall off, the safety will protect that. You’re getting stuck in the stirrup. So I really like those.”

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Irish show jumper Darragh Kenny on equestrian passion: career milestones and Olympic dreams 8

Closing thoughts

As Darragh Kenny reflects on his journey and looks forward to future challenges, he remains grounded and focused on his ultimate goals. “At the end of the day, caring for the horses is what really matters,” he emphasizes.

With his unwavering commitment and the support of quality sponsors like Acavallo, Kenny continues to push the boundaries of what is possible in show jumping. His dream of winning an Olympic medal for Ireland stands as a testament to his dedication and passion for the sport. “I think it’s very possible for us, and I would love to be a part of something like that.”

V. Sozzi | Photos provided by Acavallo

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