The Leeside Legends series: Robert Splaine proved to be a classy champion

The Leeside Legends series: Robert Splaine proved to be a classy champion
Robert Splaine the high performance manager for the Irish showjumping team on his farm in Coolcorron, Belgooly, in 2016. Picture: Dan Linehan

WHAT makes a great showjumping combination?

Nerves of steel, a good horse, a cool head, Robert Splaine has all these and a few more.

Robert reckons that his discipline is the toughest there is.

What makes it do so difficult he
argues, is the complex combination of man and beast that has to be precisely tuned in for one minute of competition.

It was inevitable that Splaine would get involved in some form of equestrian sport as his father owned thoroughbred racehorses with Robert’s sister Jean also developing an interest in the sport to become involved with him.

“I sort of drifted into it when my father gave me the opportunity and I never looked back,” said Robert.

In the mid-70s Robert became the brightest young star on the Irish showjumping circuit.

He represented Ireland in several Nations Cup events between 1976 and 1978 and performed so well he was selected to represent his country in the World Championships of 1978.

In those championships, he teamed up with Capt Con Power, Eddie Macken and Paul Darragh.

“I was very fortunate to be in a team, with some of Ireland’s greatest ever riders and I had a brilliant horse called Carrigroe.

“Carrigroe was a great horse and to be honest it was because of his brilliance that I was chosen to ride for Ireland at that stage of my career.

“I was still very young and gained invaluable experience and insight into what was needed to survive in this business.”

At that time his father conducted most of the buying and selling of bloodstock but Robert gradually became more involved in that aspect of that sport.

“I made a lot of contacts during the mid-70s that helped me develop the main part of my business which is the buying and selling of horses.”

Robert’s business is a tough one where he is constantly assessing whether an animal has the potential to be a winner.

“You are constantly evaluating the worth of keeping a horse or selling the animal onto someone else.”

Once in a while, however, a real quality animal that is too good to pass up comes along and this was the case with a horse called Heather’s Blaze that was owned by Robert’s good friend Jimmy Flynn.

“Heather Blaze was a tremendous horse and my outstanding memory was the fantastic round he jumped to win the 1990 Tripoli Grand Prix.”

Robert Splaine on Ballymoss riding against the clock during the Millstreet Indoor International Horse Show in 1997. Picture: Dan Linehan
Robert Splaine on Ballymoss riding against the clock during the Millstreet Indoor International Horse Show in 1997. Picture: Dan Linehan

In that year, Robert and Heather Blaze won a record seven Grand Prix events and his performances earned Robert the Show Jumper of the Year title.

The Millstreet Derby is one of the highlights of the Irish Showjumping calendar. Robert won his first Millstreet Derby in 1992 on a horse called You Can Tell and the success of Heather Blaze who won the Canadian Airlines Challenge are the two outstanding wins of his illustrious career.

Even the best riders need quality horses to remain at the top of the International Showjumping circuit.

After Heather Blaze retired, Robert faded out of top-class competition as in the absence of international class horses, he concentrated on developing his business at Belgooly.

In the early 2000s, Robert returned to the top of international showjumping with an outstanding horse called Coolcorran Cool Diamond.

Sarah Ferguson the former Duchess of York was the owner of the horse and was a frequent visitor to the Belgooly stables for many years.

Coolcorran Cool Diamond and Robert performed with remarkable consistency and it all began with Grand Prix wins in at Millstreet in November 1999 and Windsor in May 2000 with also notable performances at Deauville, Barcelona, New York and Geneva.

In 2002, Coolcorran Cool Diamond started his international career and managed a first place at the Glenamaddy Indoor Show.

Robert Splaine on Granola jumping the last at the Millstreet horse show. Picture: Dan Linehan
Robert Splaine on Granola jumping the last at the Millstreet horse show. Picture: Dan Linehan

In 2003, he maintained his outstanding form with two victories in Spain and Switzerland as well as helping Ireland to the Nations Cup in Aachen.

Coolcorran Cool Diamond was renowned in the world of breeding and was a top stallion in world breeding rankings before his death in 2013.

Sheer hard work and commitment to his work and sport that made Robert Splaine a successful businessman and international star that included serving as chef d’equipe of the Irish showjumping team from 2006 to 2016.

His triumphs in the world of equestrianism have brought honour and glory to this county.

Cork can be very proud of his success.

More in this section

Sponsored Content