Since moving from Ireland to the United States in 2011, Paul O’Shea has adjusted to the American equine industry exceedingly well. The 40-year-old rider has competed around the world, but he feels most at home now in Wellington, Florida, where he’s formed a lasting partnership with Ira Gumberg of Skara Glen Stables.
This season, O’Shea has successfully stepped up with Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu; after a strong 2nd place finish in the Winter Equestrian Festival’s Week 6, $130,000 CSI3* Grand Prix, O’Shea earned a team slot on Ireland’s FEI Nations Cup squad, and completed one of just three, double clear performances that helped Ireland claim victory.
O’Shea was a bit speechless after turning in a flawless performance on Friday, March 3 during the Nations Cup. He and the 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Silverstone x Matterhorn) that goes in a simple hackamore made the track look easy, and when O’Shea crossed the finish line clear for a second time, he celebrated with a smile and a pat for his horse.
Machu Picchu (then named Chester VDL) caught O’Shea’s eye in 2014, when he was ridden by Amanda Flint to several top, national finishes on the East Coast circuit. In 2015 O’Shea competed the gelding on home soil at the Royal Dublin Horse Show where he was winner of the Anglesea Stakes CSIO5*. This season, Macchu Pichu has quickly proven that he’s a serious winner, and O’Shea is looking forward to what’s next.
Noelle Floyd: The first high point of your season was placing 2nd in the $130,000 CSI3* Grand Prix during WEF 6, only to be topped by winning the FEI Nations Cup for Ireland. What does this mean for you, and how will it affect the remainder of your circuit?
Paul O’Shea: The Week 6 finish was a very nice result for us and secured our place on the Irish Team for the Nation’s Cup here in WEF. This year in particular, there are a lot of strong Irish combinations, so the result came at the right time and the Nations Cup win was even better. I’ll now aim towards the $500,000 CSI5* Grand Prix during Week 11.
NF: How would you describe Machu Picchu’s personality and temperament? Does he have any interesting quirks?
PO: He is very unassuming. He is really laid back and jumps very normal at home. As soon as he jumps at the show he comes to life. He lights up and just seems to know what to do.
NF: When not showing, what’s your routine with Machu Picchu?
PO: He gets a day off every week and hacks out one day. He does the same two gymnastics one day most weeks, four verticals (one stride, two strides and one stride apart) and four oxers one stride apart (18ft, 18.5ft, and 19ft) only up to 1.10m but quite wide. He also does a course of canter poles once a week. When he’s up and running, I don’t need to do courses at home with him as he is very straightforward. When he’s at home I long rein him off a head-collar before I ride him and take him for a walk for 15 minutes around the farm. We do some walk-trot transitions in the lunging arena. I just make sure he is really warmed up before we do any real work and he enjoys it.
NF: How have the facilities and the team at Skara Glen Stables contributed to your success in the ring? What is it like working for Skara Glen?
PO: It’s absolutely great! I’ve worked for Ira Gumberg for over five years now. He’s been super to work for. He really wants the horses produced as well as possible. He’s all about giving them every chance to become the best that they can be. He really pays attention to even the smallest details. The facilities at the farm are second to none.
There’s a grass jumping arena with a water jump, double of water ditches and some natural obstacles, a big sand ring and a four acre grass field that has a sprinkler system on it and is kept like a golf course. Collie, the manager, has worked for Skara Glen for 23 years and Jose Luis and Diego have been grooming for over 10 years. They are a top class team to work with.
NF: What kind of goals are you looking towards this year?
PO: I’d love to go to Falsterbo and Dublin shows. I first went to Falsterbo when I was 18. I was grooming for Rolf-Göran Bengtsson then, and he had a lot of young horses there. I thought it would be a dream to go back and compete there myself. I did get to go back a few years later and compete in the Young Horse classes, I’d love to jump in the International classes there. Also, Dublin is obviously a special show for every Irish rider to compete at.
NF: How would you compare the equine industry in Ireland where you are from to that in the United States?
PO: Breeding is a huge part of the industry back in Ireland and I think there are and will be even more very talented horses being bred and produced there now again. Everyone seems to be using top stallions now instead of the local one sown down the road. Breeding in America is slowly getting bigger and the numbers in the Young Horse classes are getting a little higher every year. The amateur market here is obviously huge, the hunters and the equitation are industries in themselves.
NF: In 2011 you were injured with a broken neck. How did that accident change your future in the equine industry?
PO: That changed everything for me. It’s so easy to keep doing the same thing, and all the while time slips by. I had time on my hands then to really think about how I was doing things and how to improve. I had a really good run after I came back which is fairly normal in any sport, I guess. Personally it made a big change as I decided to get engaged after that happened! Now my wife and I have one-year-old twin boys and life has never been better!