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The Shire breeding line that has produced a champion riding horse and Burghley eventer…

If you consider the breeding of a champion show horse there are certain dam/sire pairings which spring to mind; and they perhaps wouldn’t necessarily include a Shire horse line.

However, prolific riding horse Times Square III (Monkey, pictured) — who recently featured in H&H’s We Can’t Wait To See feature (23 April issue) — has an interesting heritage. The classy small height contender — who was champion at Royal Windsor last year — is out of a 1/4 bred Shire mare named What A Puzzle (Puzzle).

What A Puzzle jumping at Hexham BE Horse Trials.

Puzzle’s owner and Monkey’s breeder, June Dent, says she decided to unveil the history of the champion — who is now owned by the Mears family — while she was watching an episode of Countryfile.

“It was Sunday evening and Countryfile was running a feature on Shire horses,” says June. “They mentioned how endangered they are and I just thought about what a fantastic foundation the Shire had been for this particular line.”

Monkey’s Shire connection goes back four generations; his great granddam is a purebred Shire who stood breed champion at the Royal Welsh.

“This mare was owned and bred by Mrs Higgon of Newton Hall in Haverfordwest (Pembrokeshire),” adds June. “She did well in the show ring and there was a lot of interest in her from America. But when it came to putting her in foal she wouldn’t hold to the Shire stallion and only took to a pure-bred Thoroughbred. The result was Puzzle’s dam, a mare who Mrs Higgon rode and won the riding club championships on.”

Puzzle — who evented and was also June’s ride while she was a hunt master — was one of six foals from the half-bred Shire mare. Other progeny included an eventer who jumped round Burghley.

“Puzzle was great on the hunt field,” says June. “She jumped anything, had manners to die for and would stand for England. When I broke my back, I decided to put her in foal to the pony stallion Willowcroft Regal Bronze. And together they produced Monkey.

“It’s really amazing that, in my lifetime, the line has gone from a cart horse right through to this beautiful show horse.”


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June sold Monkey as a four-year-old and he was placed at both Horse of the Year Show and the Royal International in his first season as a riding horse in 2019.

“These lines could be used more; instead showing breeders seem to choose the warmblood types and something like a Shire is never considered for the show ring. The Shire temperament has definitely stuck through the generations, too. They’re such placid and trainable horses.”

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