Aussie eventers in the USA - Ryan Wood

       Ryan Wood (right) and Boyd Martin at Wellington Showcase


For some years now Australian eventing riders Ryan Wood and Kate Chadderton have been quietly carving out careers and livelihoods for themselves in America since making a move from Australia to the USA in the footsteps of Phillip Dutton and Boyd Martin.

Samantha Clark caught up with them both in the first two articles of a series concentrating on what’s happening Stateside, as we begin to ramp up to the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Tryon, North Carolina in September.


       Ryan Wood and Powell, currently his top prospect for WEG selection


Ryan Wood


The winter of 2018 will mark Ryan Wood’s tenth year in the US. Like many other riders the now 34 year old who originally hails from New South Wales, Australia splits his time between Aiken, South Carolina in the winter and Pennsylvania during the summer and each year his operation grows. At last count Ryan had 28 horses then he just added a couple more to round it off at 30, three more than last year and a record tally in the stable so far.

Ryan started his eventing career in the USA with Phillip Dutton, still trains next door to him and admits he owes a huge amount of his success to Phillip

“It’s been a lot of hard work, a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but doing the hard yards working under Phillip and having him as a mentor and guide, guiding me in what direction to go in has been a huge factor in having people have faith and security in what I’m doing now. They’ve seen how successful Phillip has been, and to have his success and influence helps educate me and shows me the way to be successful and be in a really good program. But also basing out of his farm and riding alongside him every day keeps you going in the right direction.”

That direction is a thriving programme. Of the 30 horses down at Aiken, most are competition horses. A few belong to the winterbirds stuck up north in the snow, and will do a few competitions before returning north, a few more are for sale and may contest a few events before moving on, but the majority, about 25 of them, are with Ryan for the long term,

“It’s a production line - three year olds through to four star horses. I’ve found that it’s a numbers game. I feel you need to have all these horses coming through. It’s a pretty gruelling sport, there’s going to be injuries. You do everything you can to prevent it, but like any top athlete, when you’re pushing for excellence there’s always a chance of injury, and to have multiple horses at the level is the key to being able to stay in the game.”


       Bromont 3* winner Woodstock Bennett is coming back into competition


To that end, Ryan has built himself up a substantial string of horses, with both strength in depth and quality. He’ll readily acknowledge that he has a wonderful group of supporters - “I’ve got great owners, they’re all great people, they’re horse people, and I feel like I can talk to them honestly and they take the good with the bad” - and he’s charmingly geeky about breeding.

He knows the bloodlines of every horse he rides and clearly loves talking about it. He has bred a foal in partnership with Mary Hazard that stayed up north for the winter and he becomes positively animated discussing all the possibilities

“I love the breeding, there are so many variables, nothing is set in stone for an event horse. It’s really fun to follow what works, there’s a lot of trial and error, you try to do your best at putting the right bloodlines together to get yourself a horse that’s capable.”

Powell, an impressive, big black Oldenburg gelding bred by owner Ilona English is Ryan’s top horse right now and a contender for the Australian team at WEG later this year. Ryan is aiming him for the CCI4* in Kentucky, but has a back up in Woodstock Bennett

“Woodstock Bennett is coming back, he did his first event last week and his goal is to do the 3* at Tattersalls this year, and hopefully get a top result there then look at doing a 4* in the Fall. He’s a wonderful horse, an Irish Sport Horse I’ve had since he was four years old, that won the CCI3* in Bromont. He’s a very good jumping horse, and fast on the cross country, and so I think he’d be a really solid contender to take overseas and get my feet wet, although hopefully not too wet!”

The third string to Ryan’s top tier bow is Fernhill Classic, also coming back from injury and looking good according to Ryan, and one he’s hoping to compete by June or July.


      Powell powers in the dressage arena at Wellington


Plumping up the ranks are an assortment of up and coming young horses that Ryan has been priming for greatness. Several of them are related to Powell

“They’re all by different sires but out of the same mare and she is some incredible broodmare. Every one of them is a big, strapping horse. Phenomenal movement, temperament and great jumpers. In this case I think the mare is very influential.”

These are Ruby, an intermediate mare who’ll hopefully do a two star in the Spring, Ben Nevis, a six year old competing at training level who should move up to prelim this year, and the four year old rising five, Eiffel “I’m very excited about her”.

Add to that is a new Cooley horse by Plot Blue out of an Irish Sport Horse mare who is “a phenomenal mover and jumper and he ticks all the right boxes. I’m excited for him. He’s five coming six, and I’ve got another one I just bought from Paul Donavon, his name is Billy McClusky, he’s by a French jumping stallion Tangelino and out of a well-bred Irish mare with Cruising/Skyboy”

There are also two more five year olds that were bought out of the Monart Sale as unbroken three year olds - Tullabeg Dilson and Shannondale Julius “and they’re looking to be really nice horses”.

Finally, when you consider that there’s also a three year old Ryan left up in Pennsylvania to be broken, as “he’s a little sharp to bring down here so I sent him to a friend for the winter and he’ll be ready for me when we get back. He’s another one we got at Monart just last winter, he’s by a TB out of an Irish Sport Horse mare, a really good mover and jumper” you can understand where Ryan’s day goes.


       The exciting young mare Eiffel (above and below)


Ryan structures his days so that he rides roughly ten to twelve horses on a normal flat day, fifteen or sixteen on a jumping day, and then starts teaching at about three or four in the afternoon. He will also travel to do a few clinics throughout the year, which he says he enjoys. However, “the main goal for this year is to get the young ones going through the motions, getting educated and stepping up a level and then getting overseas with Bennet and having him as a back-up for WEG, and of course for Powell to go to Kentucky in the 4*”

Looking further ahead, “I’ve still got some goals to tackle and take on, and some international events to conquer. Hopefully in the next couple of years I can get over to Europe to compete and that’s my next step to get to the next level. Maybe in another ten years I can be the mentor for someone the way that Phillip has been for me.”



Meanwhile, Ryan is very much on the Australian High Performance radar with WEG in Tryon this September, “They’re keeping tabs on the riders now whatever country they’re in. The communication between me and the High Performance team has been really good in the past 12 months. Chris Webb and Mike Etherington-Smith are doing a great job and we were fortunate enough to all go to England and meet up, and we had a lot of talks and discussions. Eddie Jones was a guest speaker and spoke to us about winning, and how to gain that winning edge. I think the Australians are in a good place right now.”

Ryan Wood is certainly in a good place right now; he has good horses, good owners and a good programme. He’s worked hard to get there and intends to keep working at it to stay there. We’ll be checking in periodically with Ryan leading up to the WEG, but in the meantime would like to extend our thanks and best wishes for the upcoming Spring Season!

Article and photos by Samantha Clark

Additional photos courtesy of Cindy Lawler