Oliver McCarthy is not one to let an opportunity slip through his fingers.
As a young rider in Ireland, he rode every chance he could get, foxhunting and show jumping and spending every school holiday training with his cousin, grand prix show jumper Greg Broderick.
As a teenager, he rode his way to the top of the Young Rider Bursary competition at the 2013 Dublin Horse Show, earning a ticket to ride and train in the United States.
And this summer, when the ride on the talented and experienced MHS Automatic became available, he made sure to make the most of it.
At the Fieldstone Summer Showcase on Aug. 22-26 in Halifax, Mass., the 23-year-old Irishman took advantage of talented horses and the green grass field to top the $7,500 NEHA Jumper Derby Speed Stake and claim second in the $7,500 Fieldstone Show Park Mini Prix with MHS Automatic.
“I was drawn first to go [in the speed derby], and I knew he could be quick because he’s naturally fast across the ground, and you can roll back on jumps really tight. The more you dare him to a jump, the better he is. He’s just a winner,” McCarthy said of the 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse.
“Every day that horse comes out of his stall, he’s such a competitor. He fights for you. He’s a fantastic horse, and I’m lucky to have him right now,” McCarthy said. “I had that show in mind for that horse because there were some really good classes there with good money for him, like the speed derby and the mini grand prix.”
MHS Automatic was bred in Ireland by Ita Brennan and got a start as a 4-year-old with Broderick. Fellow Irish rider Conor O’Regan developed the horse through the levels in the young horse divisions both in Ireland and the United States, then in 2014 and ’15, Broderick showed him in Europe, focusing on 1.45-meter speed classes. Amanda Forte and her mother, Elizabeth Shiah, bought the horse, and Forte showed him in national level grand prix classes in 2016.
McCarthy has the ride on MHS Automatic because Forte is expecting a baby and handed over his reins to McCarthy on Broderick’s recommendation. “I’ve been riding her horses too, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity,” McCarthy said. “I’m really lucky to have some really good horses at the moment. Between Kevin [Babington] and Amanda and her mother, I have some great supporters.”
McCarthy’s childhood was typical for a young Irish rider—he and his brother, Darragh, spent their childhood days galloping across the countryside on ponies and eventually found their way into the show jumping ring. They had a secret weapon in their development, though—their cousin, grand prix rider Greg Broderick. Broderick, who represented Ireland in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games with MHS Going Global, taught Oliver and Darragh on weekends and school holidays.
When he was 19, Oliver was showing at Dublin when he caught the eye of the judges and was selected to compete for the bursary. Each year at Dublin, two judges watch the 1.30- and 1.40-meter young rider classes and choose four riders to compete for the bursary. Those four ride in a final where they exchange horses, and the judges choose one young rider to earn two weeks of training with an international rider of their choosing, all expenses paid.
After his bursary win in 2013, Oliver chose to travel to the United States to work with McLain Ward. After his two weeks were up, Ward offered him a job riding sales horses and young horses. Oliver stayed for thee years.
“That was an amazing opportunity for me to learn from McLain,” Oliver said. “His system, day in and day out with the horses and educating them, was amazing to learn. His discipline to the sport is something I will always try to carry in myself. I was also extremely lucky to get fantastic opportunities with McLain.”
During his tenure at Ward’s, Oliver was able to compete in the FEI Young Rider Nations Cup at the Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.) and in Under-25 grand prix classes, including at the 2015 and ’16 Rolex Central Park Horse Show (N.Y.).
At the beginning of 2017, Oliver took a job with fellow Irishman Kevin Babington, who is based in Blue Bell, Pa. “Kevin has been a massive help and a great supporter, and I’m very happy to be associated with him. He’s given me a lot of opportunities, and I’m extremely grateful for everything. I am really interested in the business side of the sport as well as the training of clients,” Oliver said. “We have bought some horses together, and that is something I really enjoy also.”
Oliver maintains close ties to his Irish roots—he and Darragh, who runs a sales business in Zanhoven, Belgium, and Broderick all remain tight-knit, both personally and in business. “I am also very fortunate to have some good young horses at home in Ireland,” Oliver said. “One of which is Ballypatrick Flamenco, who I own jointly with Greg. We are very excited with this 7-year-old. He looks to tick all the boxes in a modern jumper. He is now selected to represent Ireland in the World Young Horse Championships in Lanaken, Belgium, next month.”
Oliver definitely has ambitions to follow in Broderick’s footsteps and represent Ireland in Nations Cups and championships. “Darragh and I are very fortunate to have someone like Greg,” he said. “He was always there and still is to advise us in the right direction. I hope to jump on the [Irish Nations Cup team] at the RDS Dublin Horse Show,” he said. “I do think I will base in the United States long term. It has been very good to me, and the opportunities here are fantastic.”