HomeFeaturesThe Greatest Showman – Ryan Bryn Jones: 1976 – 2019

The Greatest Showman – Ryan Bryn Jones: 1976 – 2019

This weekend marks one year since our friend, Ryan Jones, left us. It still does not seem possible. His family agree that now is the right time to share his memorial piece, as printed in The Arabian Breeders’ Magazine last year. They would also like to thank so many around the world for their continued support these last 12 months. Click here to find out about the Ryan Bryn Jones Memorial Fund.

Ryan – we all hope that you are having an amazing time with Arabian legends you there. Your presence is missed, and will never be forgotten. 

Ryan in Qatar with Norma

The Greatest Showman
I have put off writing this piece for the magazine. It just does not seem true that Ryan Jones has left us – son of Sue and Emrys of Bychan Arabians, brother to Rod and Rhiannon, and father to Zara and Rhianna. Beloved partner of Sue, and friend to so many the world over.

Friday 26 July was just any other day at Malvern – home of the British National Championships for the past twenty-plus years. The previous day had been hot, and this day was cooler – thankfully. Ryan showed with his usual aplomb, and won not one but two championships, one with a colt he bred with Sue and Caroline Reid, and one owned and bred by Susan McArthur. That was the big-money win, the Diamond Futurity class.

Happy and full of celebrations, Ryan and Sue went for dinner with Enan Stud, his clients from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Ryan was so excited to be showing their mare the next day, and he was keen to get back in the ring.

Ryans' last champion - Cameg Nyvadah
Ryans’ last champion – Cameg Nyvadah

That night, the breeders party at Malvern. Ryan was there, along with Sue and Rhianna – who, thankfully, went on ahead of them back to the caravan. For it was while Ryan and Sue walked back that he asked her if his clothes were ready for tomorrow, closed his eyes to blink, and… In an instant, the world of the Arabian horse changed on its axis.

We all awoke during the night or the following morning to missed calls. Saturday – forecast to be sunny and the odd shower – was literally a dark day, the skies full of mist and rain. A friend later said it was as though the Malvern Hills were crying; she was right.

The show was cancelled. Unprecedented, but then this was not a normal day. People gathered at the main show tent. Mike Ashmore bravely said a few words. Rather than silence, a round of applause for Ryan was made. The news just would not sink in.

Horses, slowly and quietly, were loaded on to lorries to make their premature journeys home. Not one whickered, not one whinnied. We all know that horses know, and they all had bowed their heads for The Greatest Showman. For the Ryan we all knew and loved, the Ryan so full of life and personality, had gone. It still does not seem real.

The outpouring of grief across social media was matched by the incredible show of love at his funeral. Beautifully arranged, the service – held at Llandeilo Showground, where a young Ryan would have cut his showing teeth – had tears, laughter, love, and bravery, all words that we can associate with Ryan. Friends came together, shared memories, and reality slowly began to sink in; Ryan was not coming back. Not in this life, at least.

Ryan’s last lap around Llandeilo Showground

As Ryan was lowered into his final resting place, a Welsh choir sang the National Anthem. That mist from Malvern returned to hang over us, its intensity soaking us, although not as much as our tears were. The finality of the moment was deafening.

Now, six weeks on from his passing, the sense of loss is still palpable. Many have told me that, in his own way, Ryan is letting them know that he is still around. That, in itself, is a blessing.

Life will go on. People will continue to show their horses. People will continue to celebrate the life of Ryan. But Malvern is no more – thankfully, this was the last year the show was contracted to be there. Next year, the British National Championships will be held elsewhere, and I think we can all be thankful for that.

For myself, Ryan was a great friend. He took care of me wherever I was in the world, and always made sure that I was safe. If he was there, I knew I never needed to worry. I will miss him inordinately, and I will never forget him. Thank you Ryan – for the horses we have that came from you, for the memories we made together all over the world, and for being a wholly caring person, who would have protected his friends and loved ones with all he was worth. Sleep well, the Greatest Showman.

Oh Ryan, where do I begin? Let’s start at the beginning.

It was an honour when I was asked by the family and Sue to write a eulogy for you. I thought it would be easy to stand here and tell you all what a great guy Ryan was – but you all know that, that’s why so many of you are here to pay your respects and to say goodbye. The outpouring of emotion on social media has been unprecedented and it shows the world just how much Ryan was loved and respected, and what type of man he was.

Ryan, Mike Ashmore, Philippe Hosay, Joris van Sas. Henrike Hörmann photo

Believe me when I tell you that it’s taken me a long time to write this. I have written it through much laughter, and I have written it through a lot of tears, but most of all, and more importantly, I wrote this for his family and for Sue and for you, the people who cared about and loved him. We must say goodbye to Ryan today, but its not really goodbye, it’s just the beginning – because of his legacy of fun, laughter and love for everyone who knew him will make sure that he lives forever in our memories.

If tears brought someone back to us, then he would be walking straight down this aisle, asking “what time does the show start boy!” Well, I can tell you now Boyo, the show is about to get underway.

Ryan was a person you knew you could rely on. He not only cared about you with the Arabian horse world, he cared about you outside as well. He will be greatly missed by all who had the fortune to know him.

Simon Kelly, Mike, Mark Hardcastle, and Ryan in Saudi. Chris Lowe photo

The Band of Brothers is one less now, and nobody will ever be able to fill these shoes. Miss you like crazy.

Till we meet again buddy…
Mike Ashmore

To me Ryan probably had the biggest impact on my career, from coming to train my mum’s horses and myself from when I was about nine or ten years old. He was always telling me to keep my head down and keep on working at it.

Ryan also took me all across the world in the time I worked for him. Going to Florida for the weekend to view some horses would be a trip I will never forget. He took me to the Polish Sales in 2011, and he always took me to the Middle East to work with Al Muawd Stud in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I will forever be grateful for that opportunity and also the life experiences that he gave me, seeing different cultures and ways of life.

Ryan and Rod Jones with Jake Bermingham

My best memory with Ryan on a professional front was winning the European Championships with Alia EA (Khidar x Arabeska). We worked so hard together on her, and I know how much it meant to us as a working partnership. Another highlight was going to Menton with HIS mare Norma (Gazal al Shaqab x Nina). It was an honour to be part of that journey with him. And not forgetting last year at the European Championships, with Alf Hallworth’s gelding, helping him achieve the Gold European title.

Ryan always wanted to pass on knowledge and to push the ‘younger’ generation on. He was always supportive and made sure that, if I had done well in a class, to come and tell me “yes, you done well there boy, but you’ve got to keep at it.” He always kept my feet on the ground.

As a person, I miss him dearly. Not only was he a teacher and a guide in the Arabian horse industry but Ryan was a very, very close friend who I could talk to in confidence with life decisions.

Mike, Ryan, Jake, and Rod

At all the shows, whenever we had a beer together, Ryan would always use me as his bar stool – one hand on my shoulder, one hand with his drink, laughing and joking in his own way and slapping his thigh.

I am going to, and I already do, miss the morning ‘Hello Boy’ messages on WhatsApp. Always laughing whenever we spoke. Always saying, “listen young bull, the old bull knows best. Trust me boy.”

Ryan may be gone, but the memories and the laughter we have all had with him will last forever.

He was a true showman and a true horseman but most importantly to me, he was a top, top bloke.

We all miss you and love you Boyo.

Jake x
Jake Bermingham

Our first photograph of Ryan and Rod in the Arab Horse Society ring was taken in 1988 and in all the years that have followed Arabian horses, there has hardly been a show I’ve attended where Ryan wasn’t showing, in the UK and abroad.

Ryan is a great loss on a personal level and to the Arabian horse and will be greatly missed. He certainly lived his life to the full, lighting up the show-rings, dance floors and stages! It didn’t matter whether he was showing for a one-horse owner or the King of Saudi, he put his heart and soul into it, right to the very last horse that he showed – which was, naturally, a winner.

We heard at his funeral that he went out of his way to make sure a chestnut filly joined the stud from her breeder, Aad Kuijf of Forelocks Arabians in the Netherlands. This was Lyanka (Abakan x Lenizjka) and she won her class of twenty-five entries with Ryan at the 1997 British Nationals. She then became Best Yearling Filly across four class divisions, totalling 100 entries, and also the Junior Female Champion, beating almost 200 two- and three-year old fillies, so proving Ryan’s choice was the right one. Lyanka went on to produce many lovely foals and is still at Bychan, hopefully in foal for the final time. It was an emotional moment when her son, Bugatti (by Master Design GA) won his class at the 2019 UK International Arabian Horse Show.
Marilyn Sweet

Where to start? You not being here is still unimaginable. You before me? That was not something that should ever have happened.

Saying goodbye to you on your beautiful Welsh mountain on that rainy afternoon was one of the most heart-breaking times of my life.

Ryan with OAS Panache and her breeder, Toni Le’vell

You still had so much to give. So much left. Life can be cruel and unfair, but by God, you made the most of your all too short time here. I don’t think any of us realised, until you were no longer there, quite how many people you had touched. How much love and respect you had earned across the world. You were loved and respected for your wisdom, your total love and knowledge of the Arabian horse. You were the ‘go to’ man for so many people needing advice with their breeding plans or purchases. What will we all do without you now?

I shall miss you Ryan. Your smile, your hugs, your outrageous and infectious laugh. Your lovely Welsh voice getting higher and higher when you were excited! We had so very many good times over the years.

There is no doubt the world is a poorer place for your passing. Until we meet again. Goodnight Mr J xx
Toni Le’vell

Ryan achieved a long-held dream of mine when he took Aja Alisandro (EKS Alihandro x Aja Catrina) to the European Championship title. He always had faith in my horse, and he always brought out the best in them.

I had huge respect for Ryan, and what he achieved.

Alf Hallworth with Aja Alisandro, shown by Ryan. To Ryan’s right are his daughter, Rhianna, and partner Sue

He was a special man and special friend. Our lives won’t be the same without him and his endless passion for our beloved Arabian horses.
Alf Hallworth

In memory of Ryan. He will be sadly missed at the shows. He always had a smile and time to talk with people. We have known Ryan for many years, and he was a true ambassador of the Arabian world. RIP.
Louraise Palominos, the Jones family

Both Claire and I will forever be grateful to Ryan for his kindness, generosity of spirit and wicked, dry sense of humour. I thought of him as a brother and I have many wonderful memories of times spent with him during my six years in Saudi at Al Muawd Stud – including tripping over him in the night when he crashed out on the floor next to my bed! As soon as he arrived at the farm, often late at night, he would always enquire with the grooms as to how I was. He was so considerate as he understood it could be a lonely place and tiring job and he knew how much I missed Claire.

Ryan showing in the Middle East Championships

Ryan did things for people, small things that meant so much to those he did them for. In 2005 he showed our homebred Chamin E (El Amin x Marih Loretta), then a filly foal, in the mares and foals at the British Nationals. They won the class against stiff competition from European handlers and he wouldn’t take a penny from us for showing her! He knew how much it meant to us, and for him, that was his payment – the smiles on our faces! Ryan then showed her again the following year as a yearling and she strutted her socks off for him! He knew how to get a ‘tune’ out of a horse, that was his mastery. During those years, there was many an evening spent on the phone to him when he would call me to keep himself awake on a long drive, either collecting a mare from the fertility clinic or bringing a new horse back to his parent’s farm in Wales. Claire would always hand the phone to me after a brief greeting: “it’s Ryan for you!” It was amusing to me that she couldn’t understand him on the phone with his strong Welsh accent, but I understood every word – a rarity it seems!

Ryan will leave a huge hole in so many people’s lives, but will forever remain in our hearts, wherever we are and whatever we do, especially if that involves Arabian horses. I still have many voicemail messages saved on my phone from him and sometimes when I need a cheering up, I can listen to his pearls of wisdom and have a chuckle to myself.
Mark Moore

Ryan Bryn Jones a kind hearted man who laughed easily
Things I will remember Ryan for:

The hug, when he found out I’d lost my husband Tony. They got along well and there was so much laughter in our kitchen when the two of them sat down together. The relationship started well, with Ryan saying to Tony: “I don’t normally like dentists, but you’ll do nicely butt [short for ‘butty’ – Welsh for friend].”

If I asked Ryan for help he never said ‘no’, he always said: “I can’t promise but I will do my best love” in his pleasing South Wales accent. He was generous with his time. Even though he filled every hour of the day to capacity, he would always find that extra time.

Ryan showing the straight Egyptian stallion Goudah for HRH the Prince of Wales

I never heard Ryan say a bad word about anyone, he always saw the good in a person.

He had a gentlemanly way of ‘agreeing to differ’ when it came to Arabian horse type. My passion for the desert horse versus his for the show ring Arabian led to some lively discussion. Ryan was generous with his praise and a favourite comment delivered with a Ryan chuckle was: “I wish I could put a show horse’s head on your horse’s body and legs, we’d do well girl.”

Ryan was my first port of call when I had to do anything that involved the showring. I will miss his teasing. “What you doing by ‘ere love?” he’d say if I showed up at Malvern. He showed the straight Egyptian stallion Goudah (Gad Allah x Ramiah), belonging to HRH The Prince of Wales, for me at Malvern. When I was invited by the AHS to present HM The Queen’s two desert bred Bahraini stallions at Malvern, it was Ryan I turned to for advice, and he showed them both beautifully. They had been gifted to HM the Queen by HM King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa of Bahrain. Just a few years later Ryan would be in Bahrain helping me with yet another project.

His work ethic should be an example to us all. Once he committed, Ryan gave you 100%. During the WAHO Conference 2017 in Bahrain, together with Dave Smyth and Stephen McCormick, Ryan presented the horses of The Royal Stud of Bahrain to a worldwide audience. Louise Jewell, Stud Manager of the Royal Stud of Bahrain and I watched, as desert horses who’d rarely seen strangers, learned to trust and give their best to Ryan and his team. Not only the horses but the grooms at the Royal Stud quickly gained respect for Ryan and to a man set out to do their best for “Mr Ryan”. Such was the magic of Ryan’s personality that everyone wanted to be on his team. There was a lot of stress in those weeks leading up to the WAHO Conference, but Ryan encouraged us with his positive outlook. We worked hard together and laughed a lot and Ryan was quite right to be positive, in his hands the horses put on an unforgettable show.

Ryan (centre) in Bahrain. Sharon Meyers photo

I will miss you Ryan; find Tony and buy him a pint.
Jenny Lees

Ryan was a very close friend for many years. I have known Ryan for the best part of twenty years, but it was around eight years ago when Ryan helped to pick me up when, following a successful beginning of the show season, I had a bad British Nationals Show. Ryan invited me to his home and just encouraged me to keep going and to give me a few pointers; ever since we have been great friends.

Ryan has always been one of the brightest and loudest of characters on the showing scene, but always had time for people. Many people wouldn’t be where they are today without him.

In 2016 at the Arabian Horse Supporters Ball, another close friend of my partner, Louisa, and I, Sue [Oldham], spoke to us asking if we knew this guy called Ryan Jones. We told her he was a great guy and hold on tight, as life with Ryan would be nothing short of a whirlwind, lived at a million miles an hour.

Ryan and Sue

Ryan was always passionate about everything he did. In 2017, Ryan asked me if I would be available to help him in Bahrain to help prepare and present the Royal family’s horses at the WAHO Conference tour along with Stephen McCormick. We had a great time in the short time we were there, especially watching Ryan and Stephen playing squash – Ryan hated losing! Another example of Ryan’s passion for making sure things run properly was at the second of the presentations. Ryan had, shall we say, a very animated discussion with one of the organisers, who wanted some of the riders from a ridden display team to present the horses. Ryan wasn’t happy and thought it could be an accident waiting to happen; he was proven right as a stallion got loose during one of the group presentations.

Ryan was a one of a kind, a great guy that will be missed by so many people. I’ll miss all the messages and video clips you used to send, hearing your laugh bellowing across a room and your outrageous dance moves.

Ryan’s iconic white suit

God bless, sleep tight. Love you buddy.
Dave Smyth

I have known Ryan for over twenty years. We first met when Ryan went to work at Donald Duke’s stud where I was farrier. We got on very well straight away and I would often take Ryan back to his digs after work, where he’d prepare a meal of spaghetti and tinned tomatoes before we’d go for a pint or two.

Clive Evans made a beautiful tribute to Ryan from horse shoes

Ryan then asked me to go to his parent’s farm to shoe his colt Ora el Masri (Orashaan x Alianda), that led to not only a long friendship but also a good working relationship. From then on, I shod most of Ryan’s show horses and he gave me some great opportunities to travel the world with him. It was great to be a part of the fantastic team of people he put together.

Ryan with Ora el Masri on the Welsh hills

Ryan was very loyal and a man of his word – in my experience, he always did what he said he would. He was a great friend and we had some great times and good laughs. I will miss him greatly, it’s very hard not hearing from him. I miss the phone calls, WhatsApp messages and most of all his friendship. He was a true and best friend.
Clive Evans

What can I say about Ryan that hasn’t already been said a million times?
A great man
A great horseman
A great trainer
A great breeder
A great teacher
But most of all a GREAT friend who will be truly missed in many different ways.

Iconic photos of Ryan and Mark in the Middle East

I owe Ryan so much and will be forever in his debt.
RIP buddy, till me meet again.
Mark Hardcastle

I am still struggling to know what to say. I am just thankful for the adventures we shared and the opportunities that Ryan gave me.

Ryan was a great boss and mentor. But more importantly, he was a great friend. I will remain forever grateful that he was able to meet my daughter, Elsie.

Stacey with Ryan and his beloved Norma. Erwin Escher photo

There is so much more I want to say, but I just cannot find the words.
Stacey Howarth

It is hard to know how to put into words how I feel, and I don’t think words can do justice to what Ryan meant to my family and what he did for us. He took me under his wing when I was just 18 years old, struggling at a show with my first ever show Arab. He drove all the way across the country to come to do a training session at my livery yard to teach me and a friend how to achieve the Arabian stand up. Watching him work I was in complete awe – he had my unruly Arabian stood properly in a matter of minutes with no trouble at all! That’s when he told me about his foal that he was super excited about! We decided we just had to go and visit and see his colt on Essex, and from that decision, the rest is history! With countless show horses and champions, Ryan showed all our horses and ran our breeding programme from that moment on!

Ryan was more than just our handler. He was a true friend and became family to us, even spending Christmas days with us when he managed to get home from Saudi for the holidays.

Anjuli Kershaw with Zanzibar PA and Ryan at Towerlands

Even though I stopped showing and breeding a few years ago to concentrate on my business – which I only have thanks to Ryan helping us find our dream farm – he was always there at the end of the phone for anything.

The world has lost a true horseman and the ultimate showman. Me and the rest of my family will miss him forever.
Anjuli Kershaw (neé Bethell)

The news of Ryan’s death was a great shock. He was a wonderful horseman encouraging young people to learn these skills.

Rest happily Ryan in the knowledge of having such a wonderful family and so many friends in your life.

You will be very much missed,
Claire and George  xx
Claire and George Chillingworth

I am not sure I can say anything that hasn’t been said already about this wonderful man, who has helped so many. I suppose we all have our own unique special memories, that have left big impressions in our hearts.

All I know is now there will be a huge hole at the shows-rings where Ryan was at his best. He had a way with horses that so many of us aspire to. His extravagance outside the ring simply can’t be equalled; he was definitely unique in the dancing department that’s for sure!

Ryan with Equador and Vicki Marsh

I’ll never forget how he helped me with ‘Venus’, Just So Versace Am (Vivegas x Virginia Am). He showed her initially in 2014 as a two-year old with some success but it was when we decided to breed her to Emerald J (QR Marc x Emandoria), that the main partnership was formed. In 2016, Venus gave birth to a beautiful bay colt, Equador, bred by myself and Ryan. He was very special, very pretty and he had a fabulous temperament. That year we took Venus and Equador to the British Nationals, where they were crowned British National Champion Senior Female and Reserve National Champion Foal, all shown so beautifully by Ryan.

Equador was sold to the Middle East the following year. Ryan always kept me updated as to when and where he was going to be shown. Sending me his scores, pictures and links to live feeds when they were available. He always referred to him as “our boy”. I remember once watching him in a championship while I was in hospital, thinking “I really hope they don’t decide to take my blood pressure right now’” as I was so tense – and they got the Reserve Championship. I was very proud of both of them.

I still find it hard to believe that Ryan is no longer with us in the physical sense. I just hope all of us can carry on with Ryan’s zest for life, live each day to the full and help promote the younger generation in enjoying our wonderful breed, the Arabian horse.

Vicki Marsh

Admiraal – European Triple Crown and World Champion in Paris 2018. The family together

Handlers at Merrist Wood – Stephen McCormick, Andrew Tonge, Ryan, Seamus McCormick, Chris Low, Rod, Rhiannon Jones, and Louise Maryon

Ryan and daughter Zara. Noelle Skingle photo

Ryan and his youngest daughter, Rhianna

Rod, Ryan, Emrys and Sue with Master Design in Dubai 2005

Ryan winning UKIAHS has the X Factor! 

We would like to say thank you to everyone around the world for the tremendous support and messages that you have sent. They have helped us through a very dark time, and it is of comfort to know that Ryan touched the lives of so many of you.

Sue and Emrys, Sue, Rod and Kim, Rhiannon and Stuart, Zara, and Rhianna


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