BY SISSY WICKES
The Grand Prix: the ultimate in equestrian showjumping competition. We watch in person, we livestream, we read results online and on paper. We root for our favorite riders and horses in America and throughout the world. Nations Cups, Global Champions Tours, $1million purses, World Equestrian Games, Olympic and Pan American Games- our news feeds light up with results. Most fans of equestrian sport experience Grand Prix showjumping vicariously as the cost of a top horse has become prohibitive. Enter Heathman Farm and the opportunity to own a share in top horses ridden by one of the world’s most promising young Grand Prix riders.
Cormac Hanley has a pedigree comparable to a Saratoga sales topper. His mother, Sinead Slattery Hanley, and his father, Charles, are European Championships medalists. Cormac’s brothers, uncles, and cousins are successful competitors and horse businessmen and women on an international scale. For hundreds of years, the Slattery, Dixon, and Hanley families have been dedicated to producing good horses.
Cormac is the youngest person ever to show at the storied Dublin Horse Show with his first jumping class completed at six years old. (the show since changed the minimum age to 8). A riding prodigy, he expanded his exposure from Ireland to Europe and the United States under the tutelage of Niall Talbot, Kevin Babington, Missy Clark and John Brennan, and most recently, George Morris. Currently in the employ of Chris and Thea Stinnett’s Heathman Farm, Cormac continues his climb to the top of the sport. In 2018, he rode to success in some of the most prominent shows in the U.S. and Canada, including the Winter Equestrian Festival, Old Salem Farm, Lake Placid, Devon, Upperville, and Bromont. At 21 years old, Cormac Hanley is a bright, young star on the Grand Prix horizon.
Chris and Thea Stinnett, owners of Heathman Farm, have had long and successful careers in showjumping as riders and trainers. Originally from the west coast, they moved east a few years ago to a stunning 30 acre farm in New Hope, PA. Heathman Farm is a facility equipped to handle the burgeoning roster of Grand Prix horses and a prolific breeding program. Their business plan is to compete at the top of the Grand Prix game while bringing along talented young horses produced through the Heathman Farm breeding program. Thea explains, “We want to show that we can breed horses in America and breed right. I have 1.50 meter mares and breed them through Blue Chip Farm and Tom Grossman to exceptional stallions. We have three foals of 2018 and a great group of three, four, and five year olds. Our goal is to improve the quality of domestically bred horses.”
In addition to the group of youngsters, Heathman has five FEI Grand Prix horses in house. Smart breeding, good fundamentals, productive training, and exceptional riding are the hallmarks of horsemanship at Heathman Farm. “We had a plan and needed a rider,” Thea explained. “Chris and I were in Vermont showing and Chris happened to see Cormac ride a horse of Missy [Clark] and John’s [Brennan]. He said to me ‘I found our rider.’” With the blessing of his former employers, Cormac went to work for Heathman. Hanley had several suitors at the time for his riding services, but he chose the Stinnetts and Heathman as his next career move. “Heathman is a fantastic situation because I can concentrate more on myself and my riding. It is a smaller operation and everyone is aimed the same direction,” he explains. “The Stinnetts – Chris, Thea, and their daughter, Stella – are all on the same page and focused on a common goal.”
Kevin Babington worked with Cormac in 2015 when he spent time in the U.S. as part of an Irish bursary award. He extolls the potential of the young Irish rider. “Even when he first came over,” Babington remembers, “you could see his natural talent. I knew he had a great career ahead of him.” With beautiful balance and quiet hands, innate Irish instinct to ride forward, and unrelenting drive, Hanley is a rider to reckon with on the showjumping start list. At 21, his focus and commitment are singular: be the best he can be. Team Heathman- grooms, vets, trainers, and owners- is the support system young riders dream of. Hanley feels the responsibility of making the most of the opportunity. “I am so lucky to be here,” Hanley states plainly. “Sometimes I have to pinch myself that I have great 4* and 5* Grand Prix horses and a group of very exciting young horses to bring along.”
With Hanley in the irons and great horses underneath him, the stage is set for showjumping thrills. Be part of the fun of owning a share in a Grand Prix horse or a promising young horse beginning its career. Contact Thea or Chris Stinnett at Heathman Farm.
About the Author: Sissy is a Princeton University graduate, a lifelong rider and trainer, a USEF R rated judge, a freelance journalist, an autism advocate and Editor of The Plaid Horse. Her illustrious resume includes extensive show hunter and jumper experience. She lives with her family in Unionville, PA and Wellington, FL.
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