We at Connolly’s RED MILLS know that success is all about teamwork. Equestrian competition is above all a team event, whether that is the horse and rider in the ring, a Nations Cup Team representing their home country or stable staff, riders and their horses.
Many of the world’s top riders choose to feed their horses Connolly’s RED MILLS and we are lucky to have the chance to visit the people that work behind the scenes in keeping these horses performing and winning at the highest level. This week we visited Breen Equestrian in West Sussex where Irish showjumper, Shane Breen and his team are based.
The Hickstead stables are home to 100 horses, 45 of which are in work. There is a very busy team working at this world class facilities where there are several all-weather arenas, International style showjumps, off-road hacking and turn-out facilities. While we were there, we caught up with Nattie, Greg and Georgia.
The Breen Team
Nattie is Shane’s head girl and has been working with Breen and his team for six years. She manages the barn with Shane’s top horses and travels to all his shows. “On a normal day, we start at 7.00am to feed and muck out until breakfast at 8.30am. Shaneand Chloe (Shane’s wife) provide a full English breakfast. In theory from 9.00am until 4.00pm Shane rides and I get each horse ready. However, no two days are the same, there can be clients to view horses, people for lessons or visits from the vet and farrier.”
With such a great selection of talented horses, it would be hard to choose favourites but there are three horses that have big personalities that Nattie speaks of fondly
Cos I Can – a homebred gelding by Olympic Lux who jumped at top level with Shane and is now jumped by RED MILLS Ambassador Reed Kessler
Acoustik Solo du Baloubet – a chestnut gelding by Baloubet du Rouet, owned by Bina Ford and Breen Equestrian, a rising star who jumped his first World Cup in 2015
Farao van’t Vennehof – who won and was placed in World Cup classes with Shane
Nattie said “All of these horses are tigers, even if they only had three legs they would still jump clear rounds!”
“The most interesting thing about the job is getting to travel to the best shows in the world like Hickstead, Dublin, Aachen and Spruce Meadows”. These shows have played host to some fantastic results for Shane and some very special memories for Nattie. “The two main highlights for me are Cos I Can jumping double clear and helping win the Nations Cup at Hickstead and also the European Championships with Balloon.“
Greg le Gear
Greg is the Yard Manager/Rider and has worked at Breen Equestrian for two years. After the horses are fed and mucked out, Greg checks on the horses at ‘The Farm’ which includes the stud, brood mares, foals, and yearlings, two year olds and three year olds.
In the afternoon Greg rides three or four horses before spending the evening ensuring the stables, walker, indoor, tack and tack room are all clean and dry. “It’s a challenge managing such a large enterprise. The variety from the competition yard and stud is a great opportunity to learn from it all.”
While we walked around the stables, Greg mentioned Shane’s top horse, Golden Hawk. He is an 11 year old Stallion by Vigo d’Arsouilles and has represented Ireland at 5* Nation’s Cup shows all over the world. “He is a very intelligent horse and great to work with. Another horse with real star quality here is Coquette Chapotiere, she’s a four year old mare who is an intelligent and athletic horse.”
Georgia has been a rider at Breen Equestrian for 15 months. “Riding is the best part of the job, after breakfast I ride eight or nine horses throughout the day. My favourites are Ballandra and Cantare Z.”
Ballandra is a five year old home-bred by Balloon out of Luandra. Lunadra jumped 5* Nations Cup with Shane. “She is a lovely horse, a great character and very clever and athletic.”
Cantare Z is a six year old gelding by Cancara owned by Gemma Schofield. He is jumping International six year old classes and 1.30. “He’s a lovely athletic horse, and a lovely character who in contrast to Ballandra is a little bit ditzy and laid back.”
Though it was easy for Georgia to choose her stable favourites, choosing a highlight of her time was not as easy. “I couldn’t choose a favourite moment here at Breen Equestrian, I love it all!”
Before leaving the yard, we asked the guys to answer some quick questions about how their love of horses began and how they relax in their free time.
- First riding memory – When I was 16, I was in a riding lesson with 10 year olds and was crying because I was so scared
- Favourite way to unwind – Netflix and pizza
- Dream dinner guests – My family
- First riding memory – When on holiday in Ireland begging his parents for 50p so that he could go for a pony ride on the beach
- Greatest riding influence – Shane Breen
- Favourite way to unwind – Chilling out with a box-set and a good book
- Dream Dinner guests – Michael Fassbender, Steve Guerdat and Ellen DeGeneres
- First riding memory – I remember sitting in front of the saddle on Mum’s horse when I was a child.
- Greatest riding influences – Shane Breen and Marcus Ehning
- Favourite way to unwind – Sleep
- Dream Dinner guests – Beyonce, Channing Tatum and Marcus Ehning
For specific advice for preparing your equestrian team for competition, please contact a member of the Connolly’s RED MILLS equine team.
- Breen Team