By Darragh Kenny
Darragh Kenny began competing in the sport of show jumping at the age of 10 in his homeland of Offaly, Ireland. He quickly moved up the ranks, competing in his first Grand Prix at the age of 14. Darragh eventually made the decision to move to the United States to train under the tutelage of Missy Clark and John Brennan, where he began to accumulate some of his career highlights, such as winning the $100,000 Budweiser FEI World Cup™ Qualifier of Syracuse CSI4*-W. In September 2012, Kenny formed his own Oakland Ventures, LLC. Since its inception, Oakland Stables has become one of the most successful competition barns, offering high-performance sales horses and an elite training program. Darragh has amassed a number of career highlights over the years, such as representing Ireland at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Normandy and helping to earn Olympic qualification for Ireland after jumping double-clear in the 2019 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final at CSIO Barcelona. He currently sits at number 9 on the Longines FEI World Rankings as the highest ranked Irish show jumping athlete, with a current impressive string of top horses.
Why did you decide to move from Ireland to the United States?
I came here for a little bit to train with Missy Clark in 2009 when I was 20 and I really liked it. I saw that there were a lot of opportunities here in America to ride at a higher level, and that was something I had always dreamed of. There were bigger quality shows in America with higher FEI ratings. In Ireland there is really only one 5* rated show and one other 2*, and that’s about it. I also had a good opportunity with Missy after winning a training bursary at home.
What was the hardest part about moving away from home for your career?
I was 20 when I first came to the United States and the hardest part was leaving my parents and family. My parents really supported me moving here, though, because they knew it was the right thing to do for my career, and having that support helped a lot.
What were your goals when you first moved here?
When I came to the United States, my main goal was to learn. I just wanted to take in a lot of information from Missy and all of the riders here and just learn how to ride better and just see what opportunities came along. I didn’t have much of a goal other than to improve my riding and learn as much as I could.
When did you decide to start your own business?
I had been with Missy for four years and it was a great time, but she always told me from the very start that if you have an opportunity to be your own boss, you should do that. At that stage I knew it was the time I could do that and I wanted to try.
What advice would you give young riders looking for opportunities in the sport?
If you want to get your foot in the door in the higher level, go and be a working student somewhere and get a job riding. Find a situation where you think it will help you better develop your riding into what you want out of this sport, whether that’s being a show jumper, hunter rider or trainer. Don’t worry about how quickly it comes, just focus on working hard and trying to improve every day, and let the good things come to you. I think that some young riders expect too much too quickly. A lot of kids go to work for someone and they want to show right away and do this and that, but when I went to Missy’s I didn’t show for the whole first season that I was with her. That was after I had been showing a lot in Ireland too, but I didn’t care because I was really focused on learning and getting better.
How would your younger self view your accomplishments so far in the sport?
I think a lot of the goals I’ve set for myself, I’ve achieved in my career this far. I had always wanted to be top 10 in the world and I’m there now. I wanted to win the Nations Cup in Dublin and I got to do that with a great team. I think my younger self would be happy with where things are. I’ve made some mistakes along the way, but I’m really grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been given and all of the people that have contributed to achieving my goals.