By Dr. Helen Sharp PhD
Photos: Conor Sheridan Private Collection
Conor Sheridan, Irish breeder at Brosna View Stables (BVS), and founder of The Irish Horse Breeders Group, talks about family loyalty, and the power of a breeders’ democracy. He’s also an essential voice amongst all the breeding noise here in Ireland.
Many equestrians I interview have a passion for breeding, which is usually the given that keeps people on their feet during the long winter months. With Conor Sheridan there is an added factor that struck a chord with me: The ultimate respect for the broodmares and their associated family history first and foremost. Conor's refreshing outlook on breeding also emphasises the inherent value of the mare, not dictated by commerciality but by her history within his own family and the communities these horses have served for generations. The horse, as with the human, remains an earthly constant, but contexts change. In Conor's case, the horse-human trajectory of grandfather-father-son, has been plough-hunt-showjump. Conor recognises generations of quality horses that have come before, the lines of which have been gifted down to him. A horse is the map of many people's work, and Conor readily acknowledges that and sees his job as fine-tuning those lines towards the modern sport: “I inherited mares – my father was a huntsman, field master, and whipper-in, and when you are doing those things you need something underneath you! Those were good horses.”
The Brosna View Stables breeding programme is currently made up of seven broodmares. Conor has been involved in breeding since he was 16 years old, his interesting having been ignited while watching the 2003 Agha Khan Cup at The Dublin Horse Show, and by one statement in particular. After the victorious French showjumping team lifted the trophy, commentator John Hall remarked at just how incredible it was that three of the French team horses were French-bred stallions. This got young Conor wondering why the Irish team couldn't have all Irish bred horses on their team? And in his way, that is what Conor set out to do.
In 2004 at 17 years old, Conor put his first mare in foal; however, eight years later, in 2012, he fell off a young horse whilst out hunting and broke his back. In the same year, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Where does a man go from there?
Conor admits to being an angry man before the cruelty of 2012, always working, chasing a green jacket, always lamenting that he never got his chance. But after breaking his back and hearing the cancer diagnosis, his entire outlook changed. Somewhat surprisingly, he admits he wouldn't change it for the world. He has learned to be content with a horse that is achieving its potential at any level as long as it is happy and healthy: “My accident and cancer diagnosis highlighted the frailty of life and taught me not to sweat the small stuff.” It also taught him that not every horse is meant for 1m60, and that's okay, too. “We play God,” Conor exclaims, “so we have the responsibility that goes with that. We bring these horses into the world, and they have to be happy, whether achieving a Nations Cup win or as a young rider’s first good horse. A horse’s success should be measured within the context of its own particular life.”.. To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber
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