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next generation of talent saddling up to keep the hanley dynasty riding high

The Hanley family name is synonymous with horses both in Ireland and around the world. From their Claremorris base, the family have bred, ridden and produced some of the best horses in the world.

The family business first began in 1980 when Cormac Hanley sold his pub in the town of Claremorris to build a state of the art indoor equestrian arena and open a riding school.

"We had Eddie Macken and Paul Darragh down to our shows in the early years," recalls Cormac. "It was a great buzz."

However, the riding school was not the only enterprise on the premises, with a tack shop, car auction and monthly horse sales introduced within a few years of opening.

"I was an auctioneer by trade and the car sales rescued the horse operation during a few difficult years," he says.

Today, the business includes stallions at stud, livery, horse drawn wedding carriages for hire and a steady stream of horses and ponies for sale.

Fascinated by horses from a young age, Cormac, who is now retired, bought his first horse at Ballinasloe Fair in 1976 for the princely sum of £350 and "£12.50 for luck".

His interest in horses came mainly from his mother's family, the Dixon clan that included Oliver Dixon, one of the biggest traders of Irish horses in England during the 1930s. The Oliver Dixon Gold Cup, believed to be worth around €80,000, is today one of the most coveted prizes at the annual Claremorris Show.

DYNASTY

Cormac and his wife Eleanor between them have produced a show jumping dynasty in their children and grandchildren. The family can boast five European Championship medals for underage show jumping, including two gold medals.

All four of their children, Charles, Carl, Cameron and Amanda, rode ponies and horses.

Charles, who married into another show jumping family, the Slatterys of Claremorris, has now taken over the family equestrian business in Claremorris from his father, while Amanda is also married and living locally.

Charles' son Cormac Jnr has set the bar high for his cousins, having already taken a gold medal at the European Championships in Portugal in 2011. As part of the Irish under-14 Children on Horses team, young Cormac produced three consecutive clear rounds on the Irish-bred Pageant Prince to help Ireland to victory.

Meanwhile, Amanda's son Eric Glynn has just taken up a position riding for Marion Hughes and Miguel Bravo at their Kilkenny base.

The combination of his pedigree and this opportunity is certain to result in top results in the coming months.

While both Cameron and Carl are based outside of Ireland, the pair have remained close, even sharing their yard at Osnabrück, Germany

"We have our own separate businesses and we also work together," explains Cameron. "I rent a section of the yard from Carl and his wife Nadja, while we also have Alex Duffy from Co Mayo, riding for us. It's like we've brought a small piece of the west of Ireland to Germany," he laughs.

Irish Independent