Six months earlier, however, the German-based Mayo rider’s life took on a different perspective. Then, he saw a door slam on his professional life with the decision by Turkey’s Sevil Sabanci to remove SIEC Livello and Hippica Kerman from Hanley in favour of a rider from her homeland.
Even looking back on it, the Claremorris rider cannot pinpoint anything that would have presaged Sabanci’s decision.
“It was, to say the least, pretty sudden. It came completely out of the blue. Everything was going well and we had a good relationship, but the ending was quite abrupt after giving five years of 100% commitment,” said Hanley.
“She had asked me in the beginning of 2009 to change nationality, but it was not something I would have been comfortable with and she still allowed me to continue riding the horses. But Sevil’s direction had changed last year. Basically, at the beginning of 2010, we had been looking at horses for the Turkish team, horses worth millions, but they were proving difficult to find. She obviously came to the conclusion that it would be best to give Hippica and Livello to the Turkish team, particularly as it is now easier for them to qualify for the Olympics. Previously, Turkey would have been up against countries like Ireland Germany and Britain. Now, following a change of rules, Turkey is grouped with the likes of Australia, New Zealand and Japan, so it has a realistic possibility of qualifying for London. While previously she had no problem allowing the horses jump for Ireland, now she had more reason to support Turkey,” explained the 37-year-old Hanley.
Sabanci may be the epicentre of Turkish show jumping, but the Irish influence is huge. Last month, Ireland’s show jumping team selector Paraic Geraghty accepted the post of Turkish team manager. In doing so, he joined former Irish army captain Gerry Flynn, who in October represented Turkey at their debut in the World Equestrian Games, while Irish army show jumping legend Gerry Mullins acts as coach to the Turkish team. Former second in command at the Army Equitation School, PJ McCartan, is involved in administration.
Hanley, though, says he had no time to dwell on the split and, as such, it has proven to be a blessing, giving him the impetus to forge into new areas.
“I was really happy for the five years with Sabanci; I had great horses and got to work with great people, including Gerry Mullins — I learned a lot from him — and I was really thankful for the time,” said Hanley, who, with Livello, missed out by a single fault on a bronze medal in the 2009 European Championships. “But life goes on and it has opened up a world of possibility. Initially, I went to the yard of Ralf Runge, but then my younger brother Carl and his wife Nadia bought stables in Osnabrück, near the Dutch border, and I relocated there. Carl has one yard, I have another yard and Anna Guskova, a Russian rider, who I teach, has a third. She only started riding five years ago and now is competing at two-star level. She owns Complete, who was previously ridden by Cian O’Connor and was bought as a long-term prospect for her. She also owns the speed horse Samar and we have a very good eight-year-old mare, Chiara, a German horse by Contender. If I can maintain the ride on her, she has huge possibilities.”
“VDL have also been very good to me. They are the biggest stud in the Netherlands, with more than 50 approved stallions and my new situation means I have to concentrate more on selling. For example, last week, the stallion Callahan VDL was bought by Eurocommerce, with Gerco Schroeder set to ride him. Another stallion, Bordeaux, with whom I got some nice results last year, was sold to Canada about a month ago. It is always a blow to lose such good horses, but you have to provide for your family. Selling will have to take on a greater part of my business, but I’m confident we will always be able to find more horses
“Also, I still ride Southwind VDL, who is now 12. He jumped clear in the nations cups at La Baule and Rome last year, but picked up injury. He has done three shows since and is back on form. He was also unlucky to have a fence down in last weekend’s World Cup qualifier in Mechelen. As for this year, a real aim would be to make the team for the Aga Khan.
“All in all, Sevil’s decision has probably been better for me, as it caused me to reassess and focus more on myself and where I want to go. It came as a shock, but a big support were my friends and family. It was an unsure time, uncertainty was the main issue, but I never felt bad, I never doubted myself and it is during hard times like this that you know who your friends are. Now, I am very confident about the future.”