YOU dream about breeding a horse that can go on and make a name at the top level.”
Shane Breen has spent St Patrick’s Day competing his team of young horses at Lier show in Belgium and the evening discussing Breen Equestrian’s plans for their new Pook Bourne Stud.
An upcoming Open Day, future plans for a sport horse auction and that all-consuming subject for a horseman - breeding the next champion - are just some of the topics he lights up talking about.
Breen has already proven himself at top level in arenas worldwide. From the early days with his first top horse Macho Man, two world championship appearances with World Cruise (2006) and Z7 Ipswich (2018) and numerous call-ups for Nations Cups.
Plus, that flying start to 2022 with his win in the €150,000 Longines Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi and member of the victorious Irish Nations Cup team there in January, both with Z7 Ipswich.
Based at Hickstead with wife Chloe and their four children: Lorna, Darcy, Dougie and Wolfie, Breen is keen to expand the breeding part of the business. He was always interested in sport horse breeding and bloodlines, encouraged by his cousin John Griffin.
“It started off with my cousin John, who bred Cos I Can. You hope you can breed another one like him.”
Cos I Can’s backstory began with the Andretti mare Heathview Lass. “She belonged to Catherine Woods who groomed for me for 15 years and now manages Ballinamona Equestrian Centre.” Put in foal to Harlequin du Carel, Heathview Lass produced Cos I Can’s future dam, Carel View Lass.
“John is a farmer, he farms my mother’s home place in Ballyvogue [near Askeaton] and always loved horses. He has five or six broodmares, tends to breed them every second year and has some good ones to come.”
Shane’s broodmare herd include ones he jumped at five-star and Grand Prix level. Embryo transfer plays a role too. “It’s a bold move but it is working.
“Looking at the younger stock, I think there’s some superstars there. We all think our geese are swans but the mares are good and entitled to breed a good horse. I honestly believe our mares have improved tenfold.”
The focus on breeding the next generation has resulted in a selection of youngstock, from foals to seven-year-olds, by Balloon, Golden Hawk, Cuick Star Kervec, Clyde VA, Colmar and BE Reverent.
“The only problem is I want to keep them all! But, to fund them all, I have to sell them. You have to keep your customers coming back. Whenever I get a number big enough, I’d definitely like to do an auction in September, to do it right, keep it going and sustain it.
“Potential Grand Prix horses, under saddle, not so many, around 10, but they’ll be very, very good ones,” he forecasts.
Brexit and Covid-19 have proved gamechangers for breeders, producers and competitors.
“With Brexit, I definitely found from the point of view of European customers that they were that little bit slow to come into the U.K, when you have to factor in what it takes to export them out of the U.K.”
While their thousands of social media followers and multiple website hits means potential customers are aware of the breeding programme he has set in place and about the range of competition stallions on offer, Breen is keen to emphasise that the four-legged end results are for sale and that he’s not an international showjumper who is breeding horses for himself.
“That is one of the goals, to sell, to try to breed and produce horses that everyone knows are for sale.”
You’d wonder if this business acumen is inherited from his father John, a former bank manager. Many show jumpers are now diversifying by standing stallions and breeding future performers, all part of a wider business plan and another form of longterm investment.
“Dad was super interested in the horses. My uncle James – Marie Burke rode for him – was another steeped in horses. If it wasn’t for my father and mother, who used to truck us around to shows when we were young, you wouldn’t sustain the interest.
“They fed our appetite,” he added about his and brother Trevor’s growing interest in show jumping back then. “It would never have happened but for them. And yes, you learn business sense. The bottom line is you have to pay the bills, you have to sell the good ones.”
Littleton’s big influence
Another important early influence was the Quirke family in Littleton. “My interest in breeding horses would have come too from going out to Ballymureen.
“I remember my father and I calling out there to see the Quirkes and their stallions. I think Paddy is a gladiator! And Kay, his wife, they’re two amazing people.
“He’s like an encyclopaedia and so is his son Michael, who is here in Hickstead with us. We’ve such a good friendship with him and he’s got a wealth of knowledge.”
Taking pride of place in the Quirke kitchen is a photo of Shane jumping a young Harlequin du Carel indoors at Ballyrafter Equestrian Centre.
Another element of this long-lasting friendship is the hugely-promising six-year-old stallion Lucky Luck (Grandorado TN x Canabis Z), currently campaigned by Shane and owned by Michael Quirke. Formerly known as Le Quirky Jr, he has over 100 foals on the ground in Ireland after spending his early years in Littleton.
“Lucky Luck is the youngest horse I’ve got here in Lier, there’s two sevens and an eight [year-old] and then four older ones. He was there [at Quirkes] for 2019 and 2020, then he came over here.
“When Lucky Luck did the KWPN approvals, he got the highest marks ever recorded which is pretty amazing.”
Airspace: Lucky Luck, the stallion that started his stud career off with Paddy Quirke, with John McEntee on board
At the other end of the competition sphere, amongst the dozen bred-in-the purple stallions in the Breen yard, is the vastly experienced Golden Hawk, the horse Shane rode to second place in the Longines Grand Prix at Dublin in 2016.
“He was bought from Jos Lansink as a six-year-old and basically, Joris de Brabender used him as a stallion a small bit.” These early progeny were recorded under the horse’s original name: Figo de Muze.
By Philippe Lejeune’s individual gold medal winner at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, Golden Hawk is one of a half-dozen international performers produced by his Chin Chin dam Ta Belle van Sombeke.
Another high-end half-brother to Golden Hawk is Glock’s London, incidentally the sire of the horse that went one better than Golden Hawk and won the Dublin Grand Prix in 2019: Z7 Ipswich (previously named Ipswich van de Wolfsakker).
“When Golden Hawk first came to me, we focussed just more on the sport. It’s only in the latter years that we’ve gotten serious about him at stud.”
The stallions will be the centrepiece of the Open Day on Tuesday, April 19th at both the Breen Equestrian competition yard in Hickstead and Pook Bourne Stud nearby.
Visitors will have an opportunity to see up to a dozen stallions in the stables, before each of them is introduced in-hand.
Progeny of the older stallions, such as Golden Hawk and Can Ya Makan will be seen performing over fences. So too will the younger stallions with Lucky Luck, BE Aquila and Z7 Dubai Castlefield in this category.
Then there’s Colmar, the eye-catching Colestus grey who has competed at international 1.60m level with both Shane and Jack Ryan on the Middle Eastern circuit, Miami and Shanghai.
After a lunchbreak, the Open Day moves to their latest state-of-the-art project: Pook Bourne Stud. “That’s where all the action happens and to see the facilities that we have there.”
With Breen constantly on the road or up in the air, travelling the global show jumping circuit, day-to-day management at Pook Bourne is in the capable hands of manager Greg Le Gear.
“I feel very lucky to have assistance with the stallions from Michael Quirke who has over 30 years’ experience in stud work. He is very calm and knowledgeable and we all learnt so much from him in the first year of operating from Pook Bourne Stud,” Greg, a qualified A.I technician, said.
The Open Day events will be livestreamed via the Breen Team’s Facebook page or else there are handy National Express bus connections from Gatwick Airport for anyone wishing to make a flying visit to the Sussex yard for the day.
For prospective Irish customers, the thought of post-Brexit red tape could be off-putting if considering placing an A.I. order with a cross-channel stud farm. However, Stallions A.I. in Cork bridge that process.
“They have a quantity of the Pook Bourne stallions semen in their tanks in Cork so basically all breeders have to do is order it for next day delivery. Even my father used them last year.”
Although Pook Bourne Stud is a relatively new enterprise, breeding sport horses at Hickstead goes back to Douglas Bunn’s days.
Shane’s father-in-law was the genius behind the All England Jumping Course at Hickstead, which first opened in 1960. He even bred a winner of the iconic Derby held there: Buddy Bunn.
Foaled in 1993, John Whitaker’s winning catch ride in the 2004 Hickstead Derby was the result of crossing the Belgian-bred Maestro Nativio with the Ballyard Light granddaughter Micestead Whizz.
“If Douglas decided to do something, it was a success.”
There is no doubt he’d would be proud too of the gesture made by Shane and Chloe in offering one of their on-site cottages, free of charge, to two Ukranian families caught up in the war in their homeland.
A raffle, with prizes donated by some Breen Equestrian sponsors such as Red Mills and Flex-On stirrups, will also be held and a donation box for Ukranian relief efforts on-hand. “It’s just to try and do something,” Shane said.
Shane works in partnership with the Pysarenko family from Ukraine, so, understandably, the conflict there has special significance. Dorada, the Harlequin du Carel – Clover Hill gelding, bred by Michael Ryan, was the first horse that he campaigned for the family as part of a decade-long breeding and show jumping partnership.
“Antonin and Konstantin [Pysanko] bought Dorada to do the juniors, so I helped train Konstantin and after doing the Europeans, he went back to concentrate on his studies and I took back over the ride on Dorada and Magic Fox.
“We formed a very good friendship and business partnership in the sense that we bought Faro, Balloon and they still own half of Colmar. Antonin is super-keen on breeding hence why we have 10 mares breeding in the Ukraine. So that was really exciting because obviously Cornet Obolensky was in the Ukraine and the Pysarenkos are good friends with Cornet’s owner so we have quite a lot of Cornet Obolenskys and Comme Il Fauts coming along.
“Basically Dorada was the connection there,” he added about the ‘door opening’ horse he won the Amlin Plus Eventing Grand Prix with on home ground 12 years ago.
“They also own Fragile D’Or who is the mother of BE Aquila, he’s by Golden Hawk. He looks very good. I bought Golden Hawk off Jos Lansink and I bought Fragile D’Or (Querleybet Hero) off Jos too with the Pysarenko family.
“We’re still very much in partnership with several horses, they’re great to work with and it works well.
“Then we have the Z7 horses; Sheikha Maitha has her stallions here with me,” he said about the Dubai owner of such horses as Can Ya Makan and the Irish-born Z7 Ascot, selected for the British team at last year’s European championships with Georgia Tame.
“Maitha is very knowledgeable about horses, from the racing side to polo, Sse breeds all her polo ponies in Argentina.”
The pair map out the plans at the start of the year. “She’ll say to me, ‘Put eight stallions forward and what mares should we put with what?’ Having ridden the mares, you know not only their pedigree but their scope, ease of riding, their mentality and I can bring that to the table.”
Where does he gather his knowledge about pedigrees? “From listening to breeders and riders. It’s fascinating to see pedigrees, you have these freaks but are they really freaks? If you look at their pedigrees, they have descended from a line or cross that made that ‘freak’.”
What about his first good horse, the Ballinvella-sired Macho Man. He was a great servant to Breen but the show jumping world has moved on. Could he still compete at the same level?
“I think yes, he would. You have the likes of Boomerang, Rockbarton… they would still be great horses today. The sport has changed in many different ways, the lightness of the fences, the material, the footing.
“Macho Man was a typical, old-fashioned horse. The two things he had were a great brain and a big heart, those qualities we still need.
“The only difference is the courses are so light now. Whereas before you could have five or six poles in a fence, now the fences are very flimsy with short poles. Then there’s the time allowed, riding the first round now in some classes is almost like a jump-off.
“That’s where the likes of Macho Man is a little bit dated if the horse isn’t naturally quick on his feet.”
Shane Breen continues to wear the tricolour at the highest levels of show jumping, now his sights are also set on breeding the next generation of modern show jumping horses.
The Breen Team are hoping that the fleet of stallions at Pook Bourne: Golden Hawk, Colmar, Lucky Luck, Can Ya Makan, Z7 Dubai Castlefield and Z7 Ascot amongst them, will produce just that.
The Open Day takes place on Tuesday, April 19th. See www.breenequestrian.com and The Breen Team on social media for further details on the event and information about the stallions.
BREEN EQUESTRIAN STALLION TEAM
GOLDEN HAWK – 2005 – 1.67m
(Vigo d’Arsouilles – Ta Belle van Sombeke, by Chin Chin).
Graded Elite Approved (AES) and Approved (Selle Français).
A truly versatile horse, Golden Hawk has proven himself at Grand Prix, Nations Cup, six bar, puissance, speed and Derby classes, winning over £350,000.
COLMAR – 2010 – 1.69m
(Colestus – Piritta, by Quidam’s Rubin).
Graded Elite with Breeders Elite Studbook.
An international Grade A show jumping stallion and grandson of the great Cornet Obolensky. A multiple winner of age classes and now a regular on the Global Champions Tour.
LUCKY LUCK – 2016 – 1.71m
(Grandorado TN – Cannie Z, by Canabis Z).
KWPN Grading champion and approved by KWPN.
One of the most exciting young stallions in the UK, has already produced over 100 foals in Ireland and now starting to compete in age classes with Shane.
CAN YA MAKAN – 2006 – 1.69m
(Canturo – Aroma, by Fier de Lui Z).
Graded Approved Elite stallion.
A winner at every level from Grand Prix, Derby and speed classes, his progeny are now starting to make their mark in show jumping and eventing.
BE AQUILA – 2016 – 1.67m
(Golden Hawk – Fragile D’Or, by Querleybet Hero).
Licensed with Breeders Elite.
“Reminds me of both his parents, big attitude, big scope, beautiful to ride. Dazzling future” – Shane Breen. A home-bred who represents the best of Pook Bourne bloodlines.
Z7 DUBAI CASTLEFIELD – 2015 – 1.67m
(Darco – S-Flower Star, by Lavall II).
Graded Approved with Breeders Elite Studbook and A.E.S.
Another exciting young prospect, he had a fantastic first year at international level, posting 16 out of 20 top-10 placings, including multiple wins.