EquiSearch Exclusive: An Interview with David O'Connor

Equisearch's Melissa Roddy interviews Olympic gold medalist David O'Connor at the 2001 Radnor Hunt International Three-Day Event.
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Equisearch's Melissa Roddy interviews Olympic gold medalist David O'Connor at the 2001 Radnor Hunt International Three-Day Event.

Editor's note:Olympic gold medalist David O'Connor was second in the Radnor Hunt International Three-Day Event, held Oct. 11-14, 2001, in Radnor, Penn., riding a horse purchased for him the day before the competition began. Despite having ridden the horse for the first time less than a week before the event, David and Persistant Rain, an 11-year-old American Thoroughbred gelding, earned an impressive 48.8 in dressage and held onto that score throughout the event. They were one of only eight pairs in the field of 76 to finish on their dressage score.

?Kate Lindon. All Rights Reserved.

?Kate Lindon. All Rights Reserved.

PH: Where did you find Persistant Rain?

David O'Connor: He's a horse that I saw a couple of weeks ago at Plantation (the Fair Hill Horse Trials at Plantation Field, held Sept. 22-23 in Unionville, Penn.). Derek DiGrazia owned him and Ralph Hill was riding him there. I was impressed with him in warm-up, and then I saw him go cross-country and was even more impressed. Then I found out that Derek was selling him, just because he doesn't really want to compete at the international level anymore. Lourdes Peralta bought him for me for the short-term, but we're hoping to syndicate him, so we're looking for a group of people to own him.

PH: What did you like so much about him?

DOC: He has a tremendously powerful jump, so that was quite impressive. As far as his personality, he's a very, very kind horse--he tried his heart out in the dressage here--and he's got a great mind, a real thinker, which I like. He's quiet in the head, for a thoroughbred, and I like that. In the dressage, he's a nice mover and a very attractive horse. I think he's just going to get better and better as he goes along and gets bigger and stronger--we need to get some of that Virginia grass in him!

PH: You tried him very briefly at the Morven Park Advanced Horse Trials last week. Did you buy him more on what you felt at Morven or what you saw at Plantation Field?

DOC: What I saw at Plantation Field. I rode him for about 15 minutes Saturday at Morven. I don't think you have to ride horses for very long; it's more to feel their canter, get an idea of their attitude going to a jump and stuff like that. I rode him Saturday to confirm what I saw at Plantation and get to know him a little bit more, then I took him home Sunday, rode him on Sunday, vetted him on Monday morning, paid for him on Tuesday and left to come here Tuesday afternoon.

PH: Obviously the two of you have clicked, but did you take the few days you had together to decide whether you got along with the horse well enough to jump right into a two-star three-day event?

DOC: I knew we'd do this. I felt confident that I could have a run around here and I would feel safe. He felt like he was ready to go here and I felt safe on him.

PH: What has he done so far?

DOC: He raced until he was six, but he doesn't have a lot of event mileage. He's done one two-star, Camino Real in Texas, two years ago. Derek put great basic training on him, and Ralph's done a great job since he started riding him around Aug. 1. I'm really just a pilot here, riding somebody else's work.

PH: What are your future plans for him?

DOC: He's hopefully a keeper for me. I'm looking for him to be an international horse, so he would do some three-stars next year and four-stars after that. If he's lucky, he goes on and does some big things. You never know what will happen with horses' careers, because there's so much luck and all that kind of stuff involved in it, but I'm really excited about him. He's one of those horses that, from the first time I saw him, there was something about him that was nice.

Melissa Roddy is senior editor of Practical Horseman magazine.