WHEN Douglas Bunn opened the All England Jumping Course at Hickstead, he dreamt it would be among the best showgrounds in the world. He was innovative and ahead of his time and helped turn rural West Sussex into a horse haven.
A walk around the grounds last Tuesday during Breen Equestrian’s open day sees Bunn’s vision realised. There are not many show grounds in the world that continue to hold their charm like Hickstead, with its beautiful old architecture, yet it holds its own in terms of footing, arena improvements and attracting the best riders in the world.
And carrying on that vision is his family, including Chloe and Shane Breen who run their show jumping business just a short walk from the incredible main arena. The two have recently launched their breeding operation across the road at Pook Bourne Stud and visitors interested in their stallions were treated to an all-access tour of both yards last week.
Patrick Hickey \ Elli Birch/Bootsandhooves
The West Sussex yard is of course a hive of activity with plenty of Irish faces. It was good to see young Irishmen John McEntee and Patrick Hickey ride a number of the Breen Equestrian stallions during their showcase. John (18), from Co Down, joined the Breens from Marion Hughes towards the end of last year.
Patrick Hickey (22), from Garryrichard Stud in Wexford, arrived at Hickstead just a month ago after spending time with his first cousin and Irish team show jumper Mark McAuley in France. Hickey reported that he has a Lucky Luck embryo from his good home-bred mare GRS Lady Amaro who has since been sold to McAuley and competed successfully in Florida this winter.
Among the other Irish faces were of course Michael Quirke who is a huge cog in the wheel at Hickstead for many years, and Galway show jumpers Michael Duffy and Brian Cassidy who both live just minutes down the road where they have their own show jumping businesses.
John Breen \ Elli Birch/Bootsandhooves
The Irish Field representatives were delighted to meet John Breen, Shane’s father, who had travelled to West Sussex for a few days from his home in Tipperary, where he still keeps up to 20 horses. John was a superb tour guide and history guide for the day.
The first call of the day was to Shane’s lovely stable barn where visitors were able to see the stallions in their stable before they performed under saddle.
The Irish Sport Horse stallion Z7 Ascot was the first to be seen in the arena. The 11-year-old by Non Stop was bred in Co Kilkenny by Marion Hughes and brought to the top level of the sport by Britain’s Georgia Tame who has since moved to ride for Karel Cox in Belgium. The pair competed at last year’s FEI European Championships and Shane reported that he had a break over the winter and he will get to know him before taking him out to shows this season.
Other stallions with the Z7 prefixes shown to breeders was the seven-year-old Z7 Porsche (Emerald) and the Don VHP Z-sired nine-year-old Z7 Regal Don who Shane said is “so like his father. He is going to do some Global Champions Tours this year.”
One of the home-bred Breen Equestrian stallion to impress the breeders on site was the lovely six-year-old BE Aquila who was ridden and jumped by Patrick Hickey on the day. The chesnut is by Shane’s great 1.60m stallion Golden Hawk, out of the mare Fragile d’Or (Querlybet Hero) who jumped up to 1.45m.
“He reminds me of both of his parents. He has a big attitude, big scope, he is beautiful to ride. He is hugely exciting for the future,” commented Shane, who was in the centre of the arena, accompanied by his sister-in-law and MC for the event, Daisy Bunn.
Visitors were also lucky enough to see the now 17-year-old Golden Hawk under saddle. Incredibly well-bred, he is by the former world champion Vigo d’Arsouilles out of Ta Belle Van Sombeke (Chin Chin) who is the dam of a number of 1.60m performers including the London 2012 silver medallist Glock’s London.
“He is one of my favourites. If you are having a bad day, put the tack on him and go for a ride. He is just such a joy, he is so easy and simple,” Shane said about Golden Hawk, who is being aimed at the Hickstead Derby and the GCT Grands Prix this year.
Chloe and Shane Breen at their open day \ Elli Birch/Bootsandhooves
Among the other exciting stallions on show was Michael Quirke’s six-year-old Lucky Luck (Grandorado TN x Canabis Z) who had the crowd gasping at his explosive jumping efforts when ridden by John McEntee. He spent two years in Ireland with Paddy Quirke in Ballymureen Stud and has over 100 foals on the ground here.
“There were a lot of upset breeders in Ireland when he left and they wanted us to send them back!” Shane commented, saying he was one of the most exciting stallions and adding that his temperament is so good, “you wouldn’t even know he was a stallion”.
Visitors also got to view the now gelded Cuick Star Kervec (Quick Star x Diamant de Semilly) who Shane says has scope that is “not normal. I bought him as a yearling and all I could think of was Big Star. I would love to bring him to Aachen or Calgary.”
The crowd were treated to performances from the now retired grey stallion Colmar, the ever young 16-year-old Can Ya Makan who showed off with some bronco skills and Z7 Dubai Castlefield.
Pook Bourne Stud
The open day then moved across the road to the 250-acre Pook Bourne Stud, where the Breens have put up a purpose built breeding shed with 40ft wide boxes, equipped for eight young stock. In the boxes on the day were lovely newborn foals, all by Golden Hawk.
Stud manager Greg le Gear was on hand to answer all and any questions and showed this team around the facilities, explaining that 50 acres has been allocated to silage in order to make the farm more sustainable. Greg does all the artificial insemination work in the barn himself.
Shane concluded the day by saying it was a team effort at Breen Equestrian -“We are aiming to breed a horse that will make us all happy. I am not breeding for myself, I am breeding for everyone”
A mare and foal at Pook Bourne Stud