‘When you finally do it – it’s relief, surprise and delight… the whole lot’: Shane Breen on the ride of his life

  • When everything goes right, when there is total harmony and a horse gives his all – those precious moments are what a partnership is all about. Eleanor Jones finds out about one unforgettable ride...

    The one ride that really stands out for Shane Breen is his win on Z7 Ipswich in the Dublin Horse Show grand prix in 2019 – more so than his Hickstead Derby win with Can Ya Makan in 2022.

    “Dublin feels like home turf, it’s one I’d always wanted to win,” he says. “You do all the pony classes, and win every division, you come close, come second, and when you finally get to do it – it’s relief, surprise and delight… the whole lot.”

    Shane went into the class thinking, “I didn’t have a chance.”

    “It had proven to be quite a difficult track, without many clears,” he says. “But he warmed up well, and he does like that arena, and you always think, ‘Maybe, maybe there is a chance.’ As we went round, he did feel he was jumping incredibly well, but you just have to go from jump to jump.

    “I think the more you’re enjoying it, they keep jumping that well. But if you think, ‘they’re jumping great, I’ve got a chance’, that can be when you tighten up, change something for a split second, and end up having a fence down. You must not overthink it, but stick to your plan.”

    A clear was in the bag, and the jump-off was still to come.

    “There are partnerships with horses, when you know each other so well, and know their strengths and weaknesses,” Shane says. “He’s naturally quick and there were options on the course but I didn’t take them all.

    “It worked out, and there’s relief when you go into the lead, but Scott Brash was behind me and he’s quick, so I didn’t let myself think I’d done it. I didn’t watch him, but heard the crowd shouting and thought he had me. Then I saw my wife Chloe and some friends spin round, jumping up and down, and I thought, ‘Perfect. I’ve done it.’

    Shane Breen on his Hickstead Derby win

    “There are big days like the Hickstead Derby, too,” says Shane Breen. “I live there and walk round the arena and I’ve been second, or had a fence, or gone clear and felt I threw it away in the jump-off, and there was that eerie feeling of, ‘Will I ever do it?’

    “I had [eventual winner] Can Ya Makan and Golden Hawk last year. If you’d asked me, I’d have said Golden Hawk was the favourite. They’re great horses and it didn’t make a difference to me which one won because they’re both special to me. It was a great feeling.”

    Now, when Shane walks round the main arena at Hickstead, his one thought is “Can I do it again?”

    “It’s days like those that keep us going,” he says. “There are plenty of times you get beat and wonder when it’ll be your day. I suppose that’s why you appreciate these good days even more. You’ve got to enjoy it, as that’s what it’s all about.”

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