Few riders can boast the kind of stamina that Denis Lynch displays while pursuing an international show jumping schedule that often sees him in several different countries—and occasionally continents—during the course of a single month. In 2017, alone, he’s campaigned at least a dozen horses in CSI competition from the one-star up to the five-star level, and that’s just a small percentage of the many horses of all types that he’s ridden throughout his decades-long career.

So just what does Denis Lynch look for in a horse to ride for himself? His top six criteria might surprise you.

1. Kindness

They must have a big, kind eye. A kind horse gives you everything and they make great teammates. There has never been a great horse that wasn’t kind.

2. Stability

If possible, a horse should have a stable temperament. In the way you handle them daily, it’s important to have a horse that has a level personality. A top show jumping horse has to handle travel, horse shows, competition, busy warm up rings…so if they have a level personality, it helps make all those things go smoothly.

3. Strength, Stamina & ‘Good Bone’

When a horse stands there in front of you, you can observe whether they have a strong frame, if their legs are stable, and if their hooves are well-shaped. When I say ‘good bone’, I mean whether a horse has good legs and good conformation.

4. Good Reactions

If you are jumping a horse and it knocks a fence down, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. What I like to look for is how the horse reacts after. If you ask a horse to do something, and they don’t understand, you want to see a horse that then offers a positive reaction. They have to want to try to understand; they have to want to try and work with you rather than against you.

5. Good Paces & Balance 

It really helps for a horse to have a strong walk, trot, and canter as well as good balance. This will allow many things to come naturally to him. Paces and balance are essential—All Star is a great example of a horse that has extraordinary paces and balance.

6. Individuality. 

I’ve learned it’s important to open minded, as I’ve had many different types of horses in my career. All Star is very different from Night Train, Abbervail was very different from Latinus. I have had many great horses in my career, but they all gave me their best within their individual ability, and that is important to highlight. A horse may not be a type you are used to, but they could be the best horse you’ve ever had if you stay open minded.

-Photo credit: Tiffany Van Halle.