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Matt's Blog - June (wk 4) 2011

Coolmore and Working the Stallion Yard

4 June 2011 – 24 June 2011

I am over the halfway point at my stay here in Ireland at Coolmore Stud, I am continuously learning from the staff and managers here. The weather is beautiful this time of the year, the countryside is magnificent, and the people are very friendly and helpful. I am in love with this country and how thoroughbreds are constantly on people's minds, talking either racing or breeding and who will be the next champion racehorse or sire.

Speaking to one of the managers, Harry King I was moved to the stallion yard and covering shed to increase my experience and knowledge in all aspects of maintaining the stallions. Being situated in the stallion yard I have had the pleasure in working with top quality and well recognised stallions throughout the thoroughbred industry.

A typical day working in the stallion yard at Coolmore starts at 6.30am. Feeling fresh and ready to go from a great sleep knowing that there is never a dull day, I enter through the solid stone main gates under the watch of security cameras and the 24/7 security guards. We start the day off in the covering shed where I meet yard manager's Gerry St John and Michael Phelan to find out where I am needed for the mornings breeding schedule. I would be either putting my safety helmet on to hold mares, or go down to assist in teasing and preparing the mares for coverings, including washing down and wrapping tails. The breeding operation at Coolmore Stud is the most efficient I have been involved with. With four teams of experienced stallion men, each morning an average of 15 coverings take approximately one and a half hours. Each team plays their own very crucial role to ensure the shed operates in the most professional and well-organized way possible.

The first team is a four man team whose job is to tease and prepare the mare for covering. This includes going over the paperwork such as making sure all Uteri swabs are clean from STD's, the contract for the appropriate stallion has been signed and agreed of payments, and of course that it is in fact the correct mare. Then a leather tag with the stallions name on a gold plate is attached to the head collar. Once the mare is ready to visit the stallion she is held in the waiting zone. The waiting zone is a massive under-cover oval ring that separates each individual mare whilst waiting for the call to then go up to the covering shed.

There are two covering sheds; which now brings me to my next two teams. One shed run by Michael Phelan and the other by Gerry St John. Each shed consists of Gerry or Michael taking the pulse of the stallion to make certain that he has covered the mare and two people holding the mares head to ensure as little movement as possible. As the mare is led up to the shed the leader is asked the mare and stallion she is visiting to check again that the correct mare is being covered, like the old saying goes "measure twice cut once". The mare walks into the left or right round padded serving barn depending on the stallion and is then booted up and twitched ready for the stallion to breed. Once the breeding is successfully accomplished the mare leaves through another door of the shed and the next mare enters.

The final team of Coolmore stallion men consists of Noel, Paul, Tommy, Bobby and Buddha. Between these five men they have around 100 years experience at Coolmore working with the stallions, so they know the routine and the horses like the back of their hands. Their job is to bring the stallion that has been called over the radio to the covering shed to breed the mare. It sounds easy but as each and every stallion has different habits the guys adapt and work with each and every stallion as an individual.

Once all the coverings are complete the sheds are tidied up and disinfected ready for the lunchtime coverings. We then move on to exercising the stallions and taking them to their own paddocks to graze the lush green grass whilst we muck out their boxes and bed down with fresh straw and hay. My personal favourite part of the day working with the stallions would have to be the exercise routine. The routine starts with a five to ten minute lunge at a trot in the fully padded round ring which is followed by a walk through the forest. The forest walk is roughly a couple of km's long which takes around 20 minutes and is the most peaceful place for the stallion and the handler. Walking through the forest all you can hear are the birds singing and the thumping footsteps of the horse walking beside you. It is a very pleasant environment, the horse and I switch off from the world for the entirety of the walk and have what I like to think as bonding time for the stallion and I to learn about each other.

From 10am to 10.30am is breakfast time. After breakfast we finish the last couple of boxes and then start bringing the stallions into their fresh boxes ready for the lunchtime coverings. As we bring them in depending on what they did in the paddock we either give them a warm wash or a groom to have the horses looking good and feeling fresh for the visitors.

Coolmore Stud's hospitality to visitors is incredible. They open their arms to anyone that would like to visit this superb stud and look at the great selection of fine thoroughbreds. From 10.30am onwards visitors have the chance to see the stallions and the environment they inhabit.

After our one hour lunch break at 2pm fresh hay and water is given to the stallions along with a quick freshen up of their boxes, before the afternoon coverings commence. Around this time visitors are still exploring Coolmore Stud so we are constantly busy showing the stallions in-between coverings. I have been entrusted by Gerry and Michael to bring in the stallions for coverings and show for clients and photographers. My first stallions to breed with were Holy Roman Emperor, Footstepsinthesand and High Chaparral; they all have great temperaments and are superb at their job even considering it is coming the end of the season here in the Northern Hemisphere. When all coverings are finished for the day all stallions are fed their dinner in which every stallion has their own personal diet. 5pm comes around very quickly and this is the time for the stallion team to head home until 8pm when we have the evening coverings.

The management of the stallions is no less than perfect. Whenever the stallions are presented, they look as good as they ever could with glistening coats, beautiful manners and fitted with clean and polished bridles. The stallion's temperatures are taken every morning and recorded on a chart throughout the season to make sure there nothing abnormal going on, and every Thursday morning before they go out to their paddocks the stallions are weighed and recorded to make sure of a steady weight and that no rapid increase or decrease has occurred.

Coolmore stud's stallion roster caters for all breeders. With service fees starting from 6000 euro there is something for everyone. Working with the stallions I have made a few notes on all the boys with a personal favourite of mine, Duke of Marmalade.
Matt with Duke of Marmalade
Matt with Duke of Marmalade

·Danehill Dancer – (Danehill) Strong, good shoulder and hind quarters, he is very correct and his progeny take after him in appearance and ability on the race track both fillies and colts.

·Dylan Thomas – (Danehill) He is a lengthy and has plenty of scope about him. Fantastic walker with a long stride and great over reach.

·Excellent Art – (Pivotal) Firstly by one of the best sires in Europe he has thrown to Pivotal in all aspects, looks, build and nature.

·Fastnet Rock – (Danehill) He has very good bone and the sheer strength and power makes him for a very attractive stallion. His progeny have hit the ground running in Australia and breeders in Ireland and England are very pleased with his first foals.

·Footstepsinthesand – (Giant's Causeway) He is very athletic with a strong muscular physique and said to take after his Grandsire, Storm Cat.

·Galileo – (Sadler's Wells) Where do I begin. He has quality written all over him, ticks all my boxes. Great race horse and even better sire with an outstanding pedigree to go with everything else. Only 13 years of age we will be seeing a lot more of this great horse for years to come.

·High Chaparral – (Sadler's Wells) Good conformation, great nature, beautiful walker and all round nice type.

·Holy Roman Emperor – (Danehill) He is small but he is tough. Great looking horse full of muscle and a great shoulder and hind quarters.

·Hurricane Run – (Montjeu) With all the physical attributes of his sire he will definitely be one to keep an eye on in his stud career. Great conformation and all round lovely type of horse.

·Mastercraftsman – (Danehill Dancer) First and foremost he is said to be the best son of his illustrious sire Danehill Dancer. Everything about this horse works. He has the pedigree, an impressive race record and he is a very smart looking stallion.

·Montjeu – (Sadler's Wells) This six time Group 1 winner is class. Producing black type with both his colts and fillies they take after him. They know how to win.

·Oratorio – (Danehill) Both Northern and Southern Hemisphere Group 1 winners he is very commercial. Medium sized with a great shoulder and hind quarters, he has muscle on muscle.

·Rip Van Winkle – (Galileo) He's got the pedigree and the race record, and he will be gracing New Zealand with his presence for the 2011 breeding season - so line up.! He has matured into his role as a stallion with ease and he is a very attractive individual.

·Rock Of Gibraltar – (Danehill) An absolutely phenomenal race record with seven consecutive Group 1 wins made this horse the best son of Danehill. He is a stunning horse with a great attitude.

·Starspangledbanner – (Choisir) A Group 1 winner in both Australia and Europe, he has been very popular.

·Thewayyouare – (Kingmambo) He was a smart performer on the race track and with the family line makes to be an appealing choice of stallion. He is a masculine stallion with a beautiful walk.

·Yeats – (Sadler's Wells) Won 15 races from 2 years to 8 years old including 7 Group 1's, four of which the Ascot Gold Cup. He is big, muscular, correct and has speed written all over him.

·Duke Of Marmalade – (Danehill) My favourite. He was an outstanding racehorse and rated one of the best 2 year olds in Ballydoyle. He is a very balanced and correct horse with a long stride and fantastic build. His foals have followed suit, I could not fault one of his foals. They all take after their sire. I look forward to following his progress in the future.

Whilst working at Coolmore Stud I have been I have learnt a lot about how this beautiful place came to be. I have also spent time with Noel Ryan and Joe Holohan who head the maintenance and farm management.
The gates to Coolmore
The gates to Coolmore

Coolmore Stud in Ireland was purchased by Mr John Magnier in the year of 1975. At this stage Coolmore Stud was only a mere couple of hundred acres, and now has expanded to be one of the largest and most successful thoroughbred breeding operations in the world. Mr Magnier has expanded Coolmore in County Tipperary to roughly 4,500 acres by purchasing neighbouring farm land including the Ballydoyle racing establishment run by Aiden O'Brien. Coolmore Stud has been expanded to North America, at Ashford Stud in Kentucky, and also to Australia, to Coolmore's facility in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales. Mr Magnier lived and breathed horses from a very young age, and when his father tragically past away, Mr Magnier left school at the age of 15 to take over the family farm in County Cork. This was where his career in thoroughbreds begun and he has proven to have done exceptionally well. With his fantastic eye for a good horse and his outstanding knowledge of pedigrees, he is an inspiration to me as I share the same passion and love for this magnificent industry, and proves that if you put the effort in doors will open further into the thoroughbred world.

As my time here at Coolmore Stud is nearing the end, I will be writing one more blog summing up my time working here at Coolmore in which and what I have learnt and the people I have met along the way. I am spending time in an office division of Coolmore Stud named Primus, learning all there is to know about marketing and advertisement for Coolmore Stud. I will also be writing about my tour to Ballydoyle and all there is to know about the establishment.

Keep well everybody,


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