A school principal from Clonmel who breeds horses in his spare time was at the Olympic Games earlier this week to watch a horse that he bred compete in the Equestrian cross-country event.
Jimmy Ryan from Kilnamack bred Electric Cruise, which is owned and ridden by Joseph Murphy.
“It’s not everyday it happens and when the Olympics are on your doorstep it would have been a shame not to go” said Jimmy, who was in the 55,000-capacity Greenwich Park in London on Monday.
Electric Cruise had a good round in the cross-country challenge, picking up just 4.80 time faults. On Tuesday morning Murphy qualified for the showjumping final with a brilliant round of 60.40 and no faults.
The principal at St. Mary’s national school, he has always had an interest in horses and started breeding 25 years ago with an Irish Draught mare, which he bred to thoroughbred and kept the offspring.
“Of course it’s totally different from teaching and when you’re on a break from school and involved with the horses you go back to teaching fresh”, he says.
His mission is to try and improve the breed all the time, even if it doesn’t always “make economic sense. If you didn’t do that it would be a commercial enterprise and you might as well be dealing in cattle and sheep”, he says.
Jimmy confesses that hurling is his first love but says “you can’t be hurling all your life”. He played with the St. Mary’s club in Clonmel and was on the Tipperary U-21 panel that won the All-Ireland championship in 1979. His teaching staff at St. Mary’s includes Paul Curran, the Tipperary senior hurling captain who also plays with Mullinahone, who last Sunday won the South Tipp Senior Hurling Championship.
Jimmy’s involvement with horses is something of a labour of love that’s shared by his wife Catherine, a teacher at Ballymacarbry national school; his daughter Jessica and sons Darragh, Emmet and Gavin.
He got his first mare from the late Ted Keane in Cloneen, who he describes as “a brilliant horseman”. He said that Ted pointed him in the right direction and introduced him to Philip Heenan, which resulted in a number of foals by the Ringroe Stud stallions.
He bred the mother, grandmother and great-grandmother of Electric Cruise and the line can be traced back to Battleburn, the sire of Eddie Macken’s famous showjumper from the 1970s, Boomerang.
He also bred Newmarket Clare, which won the Millstreet Derby on two occasions, as well as Calover, which at one stage was one of only two Irish-breds in the top end of the FEI rankings.
Three of the offspring from his Kinamack brood mares have also qualified for the Dublin Horse Show - Cruising Clone, who has qualified for the four year-old class; and the Kedrah House Stud-owned pair of Lux Dawn, a half-brother to Calover, and Gold Lux.
Electric Cruise was brought to the Olympics by his owner and rider Joseph Murphy.
Originally from Mullingar, Joseph and his fiancee Jill, the horse’s co-owner, are based on the shoreline of Strangford Lough in Co. Down.