It was four months ago to the week that Cian O’Connor spotted a liver chestnut gelding jumping clear round after clear round in Oslo, Norway. He liked the horse’s style under Spain’s Eduardo Alvarez Aznar, and when he learned that Seringat was available, the sale was made.
The 11-year-old Selle Francais gelding (Chef Rouge x Guillaume Tell) was light on experience, jumping briefly with Penelope Leprevost of France, and Claire Taja, before Aznar picked up the ride last fall.
Seringat isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, describes O’Connor. He’s strong to the fences, and not so broke on the flat.
“But that works out for me, because that made him not so sought after for a client!” O’Connor said. “He’s very brave, super careful, and has a big, big jump. He’s just a little bit hard to maneuver between the fences.”
Two weeks ago during the $216,000 Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Wellington at the CP Palm Beach Masters CSI3*-W, O’Connor came out of the ring with a smile and a pat on the neck for Seringat, who had just jumped a strong, four fault round in the class held on an impressive grass field. O’Connor, who was already looking ahead to representing Team Ireland in Ocala, knew that he’d be bringing his new partner to a big arena, with more impressive jumps in a CSIO4* Nations Cup setting.
“I put a lot of time and effort into him in the last few weeks because I wanted to go well [at Ocala],” O’Connor said. “He goes in a plastic mouthpiece, and its circular on the outside. I’m not sure the name of it, we just call it a cartwheel bit, it’s hard plastic that he holds on to and seems to like it. He went in a bitless bridle before but I found it hard to turn in that so it’s a work in progress.”
But for a work in progress, Seringat has stepped up spectacularly. Not only did O’Connor anchor Team Ireland’s winning finish in the $100,000 FEI Nations Cup CSIO4* Ocala on Friday, February 17 by jumping two clear rounds, after a day’s rest, Seringat returned to the grand prix arena to win the $100,000 City of Ocala CSIO4* Grand Prix.
“I’m pleasantly surprised with how this horse has developed,” O’Connor noted. “He’s come much quicker to a higher level than I would have anticipated. There is now quite a bit of interest in him!”
A bit adjustment helped with Seringat’s rideability, and O’Connor credited course designer Marina Azevedo’s twisting grand prix track on Sunday to helping him keep Seringat calm in the turns. Seringat is going well in a bit with a plastic mouthpiece and circular sides that allows him to hold on to the contact, rather than the bitless bridle that he was initially ridden in, that O’Connor found it hard to turn in.
“The jump-off couldn’t have been nicer because it allowed him to run, so it really, really worked out for us,” O’Connor added. ” That allowed him to win the grand prix.”
O’Connor and his team are already back at their winter base in Wellington, but the Irish rider emphasized the benefits of competing at HITS Ocala for the weekend.
“We’re here in Wellington for a few months and its brilliant to compete here, but it’s a breath of fresh air to go up to Ocala and compete there,” O’Connor said. “It’s a lovely arena with super footing, and Tom and his team put on a great show.”
Ireland will be looking to repeat its success from Ocala’s Nations Cup, in two weeks time when the Winter Equestrian Festival holds its own FEI Nations Cup. And O’Connor, who is slated to be on the team with Seringat, is looking ahead once again, this time with new confidence in his partner, who is no longer so light on experience.