In the Locker Room: Joseph Murphy on His ‘Type,’ His Program and Life Beyond Horses

Joseph Murphy and Sportsfield Othello at Pau 2018. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Top riders are regularly interviewed about their horses, their season plan and their results — but we don’t often get a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes. With that in mind, I decided to write a series of ‘locker room’ style articles. First on my hit list of heroes is Joseph Murphy.

Joseph Murphy is one of Ireland’s best and most consistent upper level riders. He has represented his country at World, European and Olympic level and he is known for his effective and stylish riding style. Joseph and his wonderfully supportive wife Jill operate to the highest of standards, keeping horses sound, competitive and enthusiastic well into their teens. I caught up with Joseph to find out more….

EN: What attributes do you look for in a potential event horse? What appeals to you most, and are there any things that you absolutely won’t overlook?”

Joseph: “I like a strong type of horse that rides with the feeling of a ‘blood’ type. After that, I like to see a good quality canter, walk and trot-in that order of preference. Temperament is high on my list of priorities — I will not entertain a horse with a poor attitude to work. A horse lacking a little talent but willing to work is far better than the alternative.

“A perfect example of this type of horse would be the outstanding Electric Cruise. Together myself and ‘Sparky’ competed at World, European and Olympic level for Ireland. At the London Olympics we were clear across the country, and also jumped clear on the final day in both the team and individual show jumping phases. We finished in 14th place individually, which was fantastic.”

Joseph Murphy and Electric Cruise at Aachen 2013. Photo by Jenni Autry.

EN: “What are your ‘can’t live without’ items of equipment for horse and rider?”

Joseph: “I love my Free Jump stirrups and leathers — they look good and they feel very nice. I swear by a product called BCAA from my sponsors, Mervue. I use this in particular after galloping and hard work, and find it excellent.”

EN: “What sort of things do you focus on in the warm up for dressage, cross country and show jumping?”

Joseph: “For dressage, I think about having the horse in front of my leg — this gives you a lot more options. I try to keep to the same system at home during training. With show jumping, I think a lot about how the horses are reacting to the fences on the day: are they focused and thinking carefully? I have a simple rule for myself — if horses are too forward, slow down. If horses are too backward, I need to think more forward. It usually works! For cross country, I like to get horses very confident on an open distance and also a waiting distance. I like to jump a few fences on the angle, as this may be relevant to a combination on the course. Finally, I check that I can turn left and right!”

EN: “How do you get yourself into the right frame of mind for competition?”

Joseph: “I have a relaxed mind, so it’s easier for me when I go to a big competition with the natural atmosphere. I love the big days! I tend to treat the one day events as an extension of training, and build from there.”

EN: “What is your most used jumping exercise? Why?”

Joseph: “I do a lot of turn backs at home, as this checks that the horses are staying careful and in a rhythm. I always try to turn the horses from the outside aids — it’s easy to forget to do this at a competition under pressure, so you can’t do it enough in training. On show jumping training days, I tend to jump through a lot of doubles and trebles. On cross country training days, skinnies and corners are the norm-as well as working up and down hill.”

Joseph Murphy and Sportsfield Othello at Pau 2018. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

EN: “What music are you listening to in your lorry currently?”

Joseph: “I have Spotify, and my playlist at the moment includes Christy Moore, Jess Glynn, James Arthur and Bruno Mars. A bit random, I know!”

EN: “What is your fitness and diet regime like during the season?”

Joseph: “It does leave a little to be desired….! My excuse is that I am on the go a lot. I work a little on my core, and I do lunge lessons when I can. I love chocolate, so I have to curb my intake on the run up to big events.”

Daisy Murphy and Electric Cruise. Photo used with kind permission from Jill Andrews.

EN: “Describe your perfect day off?”

Joseph: “Being honest, I usually ride in the mornings if I am planning to have an easier day. After that, I like gardening and spending time with my wife Jill and our daughter, Daisy. We usually nip into the Dufferin Arms for some pub grub.”

EN: “Is there anything else you might like us to know?”

Joseph: “I love traveling throughout Ireland and America to train riders. My clinics have become very popular, and I like to go the extra mile by keeping in touch with those I help. Following rider progress, spending time watching their videos and offering additional feedback is all part of the service. This is something I intend to expand and do more of, all over the world.”

Lisa Hickey thanking Irish Olympic eventer Joseph Murphy after riding in his Ocala clinic at Horsepower Equestrian. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Learn more about Joseph and view his upcoming clinic schedule at his website,