By Lauren R. Giannini
Brian O’Connor is the voice enjoyed throughout the horse world whether he’s announcing at international three-day events, horse shows or fundraisers for elite equestrian athletes. A member of the legendary O’Connor equestrian family, he’s the older son of Sally O’Connor and brother to David O’Connor, past president of US Equestrian and an Olympic gold medalist. They made history on horseback in 1973 when the family rode from Maryland to Oregon: David was 11, and at the end of their trek, Brian turned 14.
Brian is upbeat and laugh-out-loud hilarious as well as witty and observant. His energy and enthusiasm for life are limitless. He’s a people-person, and one of the best and most entertaining equestrian sport announcers this country has ever produced.
What did you learn about horses during your epic trail ride?
Luckily, we had a very good base with horses. They’ve always been part of our lives. The responsibility that comes with a horse, the fun, the ups and downs that come with horses — they’re the ones who’ve determined who David and I have become in different directions within the horse world. The horses have made us who we are.
When and how did you get started announcing?
I’ve been doing this for about 25 years now. I got away from horses during college — I evented as a Young Rider and earned my “B” at Redland Hunt Pony Club in Maryland. Sometime after I graduated, I was asked to announce a Pony Club show. That’s how I got back into the horse world, and it all just went on from there.
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
I’m a director and an actor — 1981 graduate of Catholic University with a bachelor of fine arts in acting. That’s where I developed the voice training and other skills. I’m still active in the theatre world. I worked with Providence Players Community Theatre for about six years as director and designer. I just finished a show in the Northern Virginia/DC Community Theatre world at Christmas. It was the first time I was back on stage in 18 years, with a group I had performed with before — we did “Christmas at the Bull and Bush,” a British musical set in a British pub. It was very fun and ran for five weeks very successfully.
Do you have a bucket list?
I’ve been very lucky. I’ve done the three I call the “Triple Crown of Announcing”: Olympic Games, World Equestrian Games and the World Cup. The Olympic Games in 2008 Beijing was very exciting. I worked hard and was very pleased with that. I had never announced vaulting when I did it at the 2010 World Games in Kentucky, so I did a lot of research. It’s a very theatrical presentation with music and a lot of high energy. The German husband-wife team who managed vaulting in Kentucky asked me to announce vaulting at the World Games in Tryon this fall. That’s very cool.
Tell us about your family.
I’ve been married to Suzanne for 30 years. We have a 20-year-old son, Ian, who’s at Radford University. Last summer, he said, “You know, I want to go out and ride with David.” So we went out to The Plains (Virginia) and David gave us a couple of horses. Within 20 minutes, Ian did walk, trot and canter. It was amazing. Ian had never expressed an interest in riding at all and we never pushed him to ride, but he’s really taken to it.
What’s your favorite way to relax?
I’m an avid golfer. It’s a difficult game unto itself and it’s not very relaxing, but I like the exercise and I really like the challenge. Just added to my bucket list: to play St. Andrews in Scotland and Augusta National in Georgia.
Christmas – that’s the time I’m off.
Favorite vacation destination?
I love Ireland. My wife and I are big Disney fans — you walk in, give them money and you’re in their planet, that little world.
I love grilling. Summer barbecues. Seafood. Beer and wine. I love to cook.
Show announcing and theatre are the same: Give them information and make it enjoyable. I like to make people laugh.