‘I try not to have regrets’: get to know top Irish showjumper Darragh Kenny

  • Irish showjumper Darragh Kenny is one of the world’s leading riders and a veteran of many international team appearances.

    The 34-year-old rides under the Oakland Stables banner, a Dutch-US stable which he headed up in 2012, and although he missed the recent World Showjumping Championships after his great stallion VDL Cartello was withdrawn with a veterinary issue “in the best interest of the horse and of the team”, he has represented Ireland at Europeans and World Equestrian Games – finishing 12th individually in 2014 – and the Tokyo Olympics.

    Darragh began competing at the age of 10 from his homeland of Offaly, Ireland, and now splits his time between competing in Europe and USA. He was part of Ireland’s Aga Khan-winning Nations Cup team in Dublin in 2015 – “every Irish rider dreams of winning the Aga Khan Trophy”, he says – and is currently ranked in the top 30 in the world.

    His recent grands prix successes have come in Wellington, Florida, with Volnay Du Boisdeville and last year’s Longines Global Champions Tour grand prix in Monaco when he was riding Idalville D’Esprit.

    Darragh reveals that his favourite venue to compete at is Aachen, Germany, although he also enjoys Dublin Horse Show, and he prefers an outdoor arena on grass to competing indoors.

    Darragh Kenny – his best horse

    When asked to name the best horse he’s ever ridden, he replies: “That would have to be between Balou Du Reventon [now jumping with US rider Brian Moggre] and Cartello.”

    However, there is another superstar equine he’d love to have taken the reins on.

    “I would have loved to have ridden Big Star in his heyday,” says Darragh, whose showjumping idol is the legendary Eddie Macken but the rider he most respects on the current circuit is German maestro Ludger Beerbaum.

    Darragh also reveals that his favourite memory is “Winning the Rolex Grand Prix in Knokke”, which he took in 2019 on the great Balou Du Reventon, before Darragh lost the backing of his owner Ann Thompson. The Irishman is a regular competitor at the Rolex Grand Slam Majors, saying “you get to compete at incredible venues with incredible crowds.”

    One of the best showjumping classes Darragh’s ever seen came when USA rider Kent Farrington won the IJRC Top 10 Final in Geneva in 2019 riding Voyeur.

    “You could have taken away all the poles and still nobody could have beaten his round, it was outstanding,” says Darragh.

    Useful training advice

    Darragh’s best tip for warming up is: “For me, it’s all about giving the horse confidence and making him feel good, so I work on any weaknesses that the horse, or I, may have at the time.”

    The best piece of advice he’s been given?

    “A former boss once said to me that you can’t expect people to always think the same way as you,” reveals Darragh, whose girlfriend is US showjumper Lillie Keenan.

    His earliest horsey memory came when he was three or four years old.

    “We always had horses at home and I remember sitting on a piebald pony while I was at a show with my parents — they left me on it all day, as they figured it was the safest place for me to be!” he says.

    It’s a good job that Darragh is such an excellent horseman because, he says with a smile, “I’d love to be good at something else, but I’m not!”

    Away from the ring, he enjoys watching Formula One, in particular Mercedes driver George Russell – and random fact of the day is that his first car was a Volkswagen Polo and his favourite city is London. He loves Italian food and he’s normally a beer drinker, “but I do enjoy a whisky and coke” says Darragh.

    His biggest regret?

    “I try not to have too many of those,” says Darragh, who has the competitive goal of trying to win the Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping.

    The next leg of the Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping takes place at Spruce Meadows in Canada on Sunday 11 September and H&H will bring you all the action from the Calgary venue both online and in the magazine.

    With thanks to Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping

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