For the first time in months, Sean Lynch has a weekend off from competition. Head groom to German Olympic show jumper Daniel Deusser’s mounts, Lynch spends most of his days on the road, rarely returning to Meise, Belgium, location of the multifaceted Stephex Stables.
Since the beginning of the year, back-to-back shows across Europe and Asia have kept his schedule hectic, and shots of espresso supply him with boosts of energy when sleep is in short supply.
For Lynch, a person who personifies the lifestyle of a world-class show jumping groom, home cooked meals and leisurely trips to the supermarket are rare luxuries.
But whether he’s traveling the world or relaxing in his apartment filled with images of First Class and Cornet D’Amour, home for the 27-year-old Brit is simply where the horse is.
On this particular trip home, he’s met by blistering weather conditions that turned rain into slippery sheets of ice. Nevertheless, with warmer days on the horizon and a good sense of humor in his back pocket, Lynch enthusiastically jokes that he’s “too busy to break a leg.”
Born and raised in a small city on the outskirts of London, Lynch was introduced to the horse while still in diapers. His grandmother bought him his first pony when he was just 18 months old, and his mother, a horse enthusiast herself, purchased a more challenging pony when at 12 he determined he would learn to ride anything.
Following the purchase, Lynch began training with top show jumpers John and Laura Renwick, and he groomed and cared for their stables as well.
“At 15 I was going to shows by myself, and I helped [the Renwicks] with the daily routine at home,” said Lynch. “I managed quite a lot of the horses on the weekend while juggling school and work experiences. I wasn’t really good at school, and the last two years of college I did one day a week instead of five. I grew up really clever and got straight As, and then all of a sudden I got really bored and didn’t want to do it anymore.”
He knew horses would be his future, and he initially thought about riding professionally or pursuing veterinary medicine, but a bad riding accident realigned his career aspirations.
“We had a young horse, and it flipped in the middle of a triple combination, knocking me unconscious,” Lynch said. “I had 10 stitches underneath my chin, and I nearly lost my eye. That’s when I decided to focus on grooming because I didn’t want to leave the horses, but the riding really scared me.”
From America To Stephex Stables
At 18, Lynch moved to British show jumper Tim Gredley’s stables and focused on honing his skills as a professional groom.
For the next several years he moved between Gredley and Ellen Whitaker’s stables, always working to develop his craft. As he grew more committed to the job, he got his truck license in England, settled down at Whitaker’s barn for good, and began grooming at a show per week. Eventually, it became too much.
“I took a year and a half off and ran a restaurant pub,” said Lynch. “I was working the same hours as before, but I was enjoying myself—I loved taking to people.”
But he soon grew a bit bored, and when the opportunity arose to groom for Brianne Goutal in the United States, he jumped at the chance to continue quenching his thirst for adventure. Lynch returned home to organize his work visa, and while there he helped Deusser during a three-week period. Rather than return to America, he chose to stay.
“I’ve been here for nearly four years, and I’m still enjoying it since the first day,” Lynch said. “Daniel is one of the best riders I have ever seen, and I’m not just saying that because he’s my rider. He’s an insane horseman. It can be intense at times, but we get on really well, and I wouldn’t want to work for anyone else. When I stop [working for] Daniel, I stop completely.”
Although the demanding sporting calendar means he often misses holidays and family get-togethers, Lynch continues to receive support back home.
“Every week [my mom] follows the livestream,” he said. “She knows where we go, which horses we’re taking, and our results. You could ask her what a horse did last year in the LGCT Grand Prix of Miami, and she’ll tell you exactly because she follows everything. She comes to quite a lot of the shows as well.”
The Road To Rio
In his first two weeks at Stephex Stables, Lynch attended the Stuttgart German Masters with a string of horses, and the most memorable was the Belgian Warmblood gelding First Class van Eeckelghem (Balou du Rouet—Paprika Van’T Steenputje, Feinschnitt I Van De Richter).
“First Class was just coming back into the big sport again [after injury], so I was at home with him quite a lot,” said Lynch. “I got to know him, and he quickly captured me like you can’t believe. [He had] so much character but was also the sweetest, most genuine horse you could ever imagine.”
The sturdy chestnut who was quick to spook at loose shavings would soon rise above all expectations.
“At the beginning of  no one in their right mind would’ve thought that First Class, Daniel and I would’ve gone to the Olympics,” said Lynch. “He was the most careful horse in our stable, but Cornet D’Amour was the championship horse. It never really came into mind.”
But after the gelding made a bold statement with his double-clear performance in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup at La Baule (France) in May, he showed he was an Olympic contender.
Following a stress filled week at CHIO Aachen—the German qualifiers for the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games, the team selections were made, and Deusser and First Class were on the list.
To Stay Or To Go
On June 29, 2017, less than a year after the Germans secured team bronze at the Olympic Games, First Class was euthanized due to a severe case of colic.
“When First Class died I thought about bailing,” admitted Lynch. “I’d completely given up, and I didn’t want to touch another horse. I was in a bad place for a really long time. I’ve never felt anything like that, and I would never wish it on my worst enemy.”
As he considered walking away from the job he loved most, Lynch weighed options that would allow him to remain in the sport without having to work directly with the horse.
“When it first happened you get upset, you cry, and you don’t know what to do,” he said. “But afterwards you have to remember everything good about the horse and what he brought you as well. It makes you grow up a bit more and realize that you can’t take anything for granted.”
In the weeks that followed, a chain of events transpired that led Lynch to change his mind.
“In the third week of Knokke [CSI***** (Belgium)], little Cornet 39 came into our lives, and needless to say he is now the spoiled horse in the stable,” said Lynch. “With some of the things he does, it’s like First Class is inside his body.”
Though the feisty Cornet 39 provided a much-needed bit of sunshine, Lynch’s decision to stay ultimately resulted from much soul searching and some newfound maturity.
“If I had a problem in my life I’d always run away,” he admitted. “I think losing First Class made me realize that it was OK to have a bad couple of weeks.
“Daniel brought me breakfast every morning to make sure I was OK, and I realized, ‘I can do this,’ ” Lynch continued. “I can’t leave the horses because they’re my life, and regardless of what you have going on, they don’t know.”
Lynch committed to sticking it out a bit longer.
“I’m glad I did because we had a really good end of the year as well,” he said.
Onwards And Upwards
While the weather in Belgium may be depressing in the winter, Lynch is looking forward to a suitcase packed with shorts. They’ll soon head across the pond for the Longines Global Champions Tour kick-off in Mexico City and South Beach Miami. And, while he may be a bit jet lagged the next week for the Longines FEI World Cup Final in Paris, a ticket that was confirmed only a few weeks ago, the horses, as always, will keep him going.
“I’m looking forward to the Global season because as of right now we have a really good string of horses,” Lynch said. “It would be nice to have a few podium finishes, some champagne showers, and to enjoy the summer again.”