The Irish sky
"No obstacle can stop you, as long as the will to fly is stronger than the desire to fall", dedicated to Cameron Hanley
There are those whose path through life on earth develops without significant shocks. For others, it's like a ride on a roller coaster: steep climbs and descents and crazy bends.
Cameron Hanley belongs to this second group. In recent years he's experienced it all. In 2011, while playing with his children in the garden, the tendon of his right knee tore completely. The incident, already serious in itself, turned into a nightmare. The Irish rider became the victim of a long series of infections that threatened to leave him crippled for life and which could have prevented him from climbing back into the saddle. In the long run, and with the help of a number of fine surgeons who literally rebuilt the knee using his calf muscle, he was able to remount and start to compete and win. A major sponsor, Euro-Asia, bought back for him his number one, Antello Z, which had previously been entrusted to Michael Whitaker, among other great horses. In 2014 he managed to achieve the dream of setting up his own stable, in Fürstenau, but fate had in store for him another serious twist. At the beginning of 2015, the day before moving to his new headquarters, he received the news that virtually all his horses would be entrusted to another rider, namely Pius Schwizer. The Swiss sponsor wanted them closer to home. Only one would remain, the Living the Dream phenomenon, of which Hanley was half owner.
Despite the sadness in his heart the rider did not give up and with great commitment and much effort, he was able to buy back Antello and rebuild a horse park of the highest level.
Unfortunately the price to pay was the outright sale of Living the Dream, which now competes and is ridden by Doda de Miranda.
"In January 2015 I had only one horse in the stable, by the end of the year that had risen to eleven and I could buy a Grand Prix horse" says Hanley. The greatest happiness of the last season was being able to buy back Antello and to become his 100% owner. "Yes, I am very happy to have him back with me - affirmed the rider - For me, he is not just a super horse. We are friends and our lives are intertwined. He was the last horse I rode before the accident and the first I rode when I was better. It was also the first horse with which I won after I became injured. He did well with the other riders, but between us there is a special relationship". But Antello has a reputation for being a difficult horse: "Yes - said Cameron some months ago - he scares easily and that's why he prefers large open fields where there is space between him and his surroundings but he has a lot of quality, is extremely respectful and is a fighter, one who never gives up". But unfortunately the 'roller coasters' that characterise Cameron's life would have a further surprise, this time even worse: January 1st, Liverpool: an accident in the ring during the CSI4* Liverpool International Horse Show left the 13-year-old gelding seriously injured and forced Hanley to take the heartbreaking decision. On his Facebook account, Hanley writes: “It’s with unbelievable sadness that I have to inform you that my partner Antello had to be put down today due to an injury sustained in the ring, he was such a fighter and he never quit.
I had some of my best days in the ring with him, he brought me and those of us who were lucky enough to work with him so much happiness, he will always be in my heart. I loved him so much. R.I.P my friend.” The two were forced to part ways when Cameron sustained a knee injury in 2011 and was bought back for the Irish rider for his 2013 comeback. Last year the two were separated again, when Antello Z’s owners ended their partnership with Hanley, but the gelding returned a few months later in a settlement that finalised the co-operation. With Hanley in the saddle, Antello Z had major wins in Wiesbaden, Calgary, Millstreet, Donaueschingen and Stuttgart over the last years – as well as numerous 2nd and 3rd place podium finishes.
There are no words to describe such a moment. Another low point, this time extremely low, another pain for Cameron from which to fight back ...
But life goes on, and luckily there are other horses that Cameron can rely on. Of all of them, Acodate stands out, a female of great means and with a fabulous character. "She is the most reliable horse imaginable. - explains the rider - She gives 100% every time she enters the field and you can always count on her. She is the perfect team horse because she is always good".
The other horse that Cameron is particularly counting on for the future is the young Cas (KWPN 2007 - Indoctro x Number One) with whom he debuted in the competitions for the 'big horses”, taking part since last year with excellent positions. "Cas can do great things - says Cameron - is very sensitive, and has so much talent and a big heart. For me this is the most important thing: in order to win, the horses must want to work with you, they must want to give all they've got. I prefer to ride a horse with a little less talent but who is a fighter rather than a super horse but which does not put in their own particular talent".
One horse that undoubtedly does invest all her talent is the latest arrival at the stable, Cashgirl (2005 - Holst. Casall x Alcatraz), which since her debut has essentially notched up purely clear rounds. Moreover, the majority of horses housed at the Fürstenau stables have still yet to achieve: "My main activity and that of my brother is to buy young horses that we then develop and sell on. Of course if they are particularly good we see that it becomes more difficult to buy them and perhaps we are able to keep a few". Cas belongs half to Cameron and half to his brother Carl. Most of the other horses are Carl's, or are co-owned between the brothers or friends. It is evident that Cameron's experience with his sponsors has marked him. Cameron still has a tendency to find the good in situations: "I have to thank my sponsors - he says - They've stayed close to me since the accident and in any case I knew that the situation was risky: I rode only for them and I was aware that ultimately I might have been left without any horses. The fact that an owner decides to entrust their horses to a new rider is something that happens constantly in our profession".
The ability to find the good in situations however is what saved Cameron after the accident. "These last few years have been difficult. All these ups and downs have been tiring for me and for my family. It was very tough - confirms the rider - For a long time I thought that I would never rider again and this meant I had to 'redefine' myself. I always thought of myself as a rider and when I didn't know if I could still be one, I realised that there were other things I could do, that I could still carry on an equestrian activity. I realised that in any case I was still a good father, a good son and many other beautiful things. I love to ride and it is a very important part of me and of my life but I have learned that it's not the only thing. I have learned to appreciate the things I have". The Irish rider learnt this invaluable lesson from his father. Many years ago Cormac Hanley left a successful business to open a stable without knowing much about horses because he thought it would be a good environment in which to bring up his children! The childhood years were not always easy because things were slow to take off, but the positive attitude with which his father tackled problems, his enthusiasm and his love for life have become part of the way of being for Cameron. "My father did things in his life that made him happy and this for me was and is a great example". Cameron Hanley has demonstrated the same enthusiasm with the horses and the sport since childhood together with an instinct that made it easy for him to ride any horse and that soon enabled him to train his ponies alone which he then took to European Championship level! "Let's say that I did lots of practice! - he laughs - I rode any type of pony and horse. At one point I had 12 high-level ponies that had been entrusted to me to develop their skills. To get them to work I had to quickly understand what each of them needed and then what was the right way to ride them".
A quality that despite the adversities Cameron continues to demonstrate.