Taxiing for Takeoff: Ryan Wood and Cooley Flight Head to Luhmühlen

Ryan Wood and Cooley Flight. Photo by Shelby Allen.

The phone rang twice before I hear an accented “Hello?” on the other end. I could tell Ryan is somewhere active – the background noise brings an excitement and energy to the call. “Let me find a quiet place in the airport,” he said. Ryan was on his way to Germany, to Luhmühlen specifically, where he’ll be contesting his own and Linda Ledray’s Cooley Flight (Plot Blue – Making Moments, by Laughton’s Flight) in the 4* this coming week.

Despite this being the first time competing at Luhmühlen for Ryan, the good reports he’s heard about the venue drew him to the event. Additionally, as the last selection event for Australian riders looking for a ticket to Paris, there’s a level of excitement and anticipation to continue building on the success of 2024 so far.

Reaching this point has been a journey for Ryan and Cooley Flight, one that has required continuous commitment to horsemanship, riding, and training. Ryan, originally from Australia, came to the United States in 2008 to be based in Chester County, Pennsylvania, in the heart of Eventing Country. Surrounded by some of the best, Ryan spent years working with Bruce Davidson, and with Phillip and Evie Dutton, to kick start his goals to reach the upper levels of the sport.

“Being in a place like Chester County has been instrumental to bounce ideas off of each other, and to see what it takes to get the job done. I’m forever grateful for having that platform to kick off of,” Ryan expressed.

Here, he was also able to connect with his vet, Kevin Keane, who assisted in finding Cooley Flight (“Blue”) during a horse shopping trip to Ireland. While at Cooley Farm, Ryan and Kevin found “raw and Irish looking” 5-year-old Blue to have big movement and a big, scopey jump. “He’s always been a strong cross country horse. His strength is certainly the cross country, but he’s a good show jumper as well. We’ve been spending the last twelve months working on the dressage… and are making great headway with both the horse and the jockey,” Ryan chuckled.

“The dressage has been the hold back for a better result, but it’s getting there – the trend is in the right direction,” Ryan commented. “At the last three FEI events, we’ve dropped two points in the dressage at each one. We’ll be trying to drop another two at Luhmühlen.”

“We’ve been going through huge lengths to crack through to the next level and be more competitive after the first day. This winter, I spent some time in Wellington working on the dressage with Jacqueline Brooks. Now that we’re back in Pennsylvania, I’ve been training in the dressage with Silva Martin, working with her two or three times a week.”

“We’re still keeping up on the other phases too, working with Peter Wylde in show jumping and Phillip Dutton on cross country. And we spend time on the incredible hills in the county for fitness. Chester County offers access to incredible hills and gallops that you dream about. They’re a real reason behind the success in our area in the sport, thanks to the land owners for the access to [that resource].”

Putting in the work seems to be paying off. As Ryan commented, their dressage has been improving over the last few FEI events, where we saw them score a 39 in the Nations Cup at Boekelo April 2023, a 37.7 in the 4*S at TerraNova in March 2024, and a 35 in the 4*S at Kentucky this April. After the 35 in dressage, 2.4 cross country time penalties, and a rail in show jumping, Ryan and Blue finished 11th at Kentucky.

Ryan and Blue schooling in Germany. Photo from Ryan Wood.

As Luhmühlen is the final selection event for the Australian riders aiming for Paris, there are quite a few good partnerships heading to Germany to compete. Other Australian riders include Andrew Barnett, Christopher Burton, Isabel English, Andrew Hoy, William Levett, Kevin McNab, and Kenya Wilson.“We’ll be aiming for our personal best,” Ryan responded in consideration of the competitive field.

Ryan has met up with Blue and groom Caitlin Reamy at Andreas Dibowski’s farm prior to heading to Luhmühlen. We’ll be keeping an eye on this team in Germany, as they bring forward the work that they’ve put in over the last seven years in partnership with Blue. You can follow Ryan’s journey on his Facebook and Instagram accounts, as well as keep an eye on Eventing Nation for latest reports on the event.

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