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Alice Wilkinson - Irish National Stud January 2024 Blog

Alice Wilkinson (second row, third from left) has settled into the first week at the Irish National Stud well. - Photo: Supplied
Alice Wilkinson (second row, third from left) has settled into the first week at the Irish National Stud well.

Photo: Supplied

On the Friday of our first week here in Ireland we were presented with the opportunity to go to Ballydoyle racing stable and Coolmore stud. 

During our visit to Ballydoyle, we were shown around their world-class facilities. The size of this racing stable was very impressive and essentially a 5-star hotel for all the horses on the approximately 300 acre property. Whilst on the bus we were driven around their many tracks, some of which include man-made hills as they are used regularly as a part of the horse's strength and endurance training. After our tour around the farm, we met Adian O’Brien. He personally went through the group and shook every student and staff member's hand before taking us to the track where the two year olds were about to commence their morning work. As the 30-odd horses came onto the track he said good morning to every rider and asked them how the horses were this morning. His passion and respect he has for all of his staff and horses was amazing to witness.  

As the horses were working he talked us through some of his methods. As it is winter in Ireland he likes to use draw reins and bungees on the horses as it builds strong back muscle, a critical element of a good racehorse. Throughout the winter the work for the young horses is all about building strength, with strength comes endurance. Aidan explained in these early stages of the horse's racing career you need to teach them to eat, sleep, breathe and just be a horse. This is also the reasoning behind not having any horse walkers on the property. When young horses get put on a walker he believes they learn and start to believe they are a part of the machine. To have a well-rounded racehorse he likes them to develop a personality through a connection with their rider. This is a key time that Aiden says the horses learn to love what they do, from that comes heart and determination. 

Our next stop on the trip was Coolmore Stud. At Coolmore, we were presented with a full stallion parade. The stallions were outstanding. I've heard a lot about Wootton Bassett and their first season sire Paddington. These two stallions really stood out to me during the parade and I'm excited to follow their foals and see them out on the race track in the coming years. After the stallion parade, we were shown the breeding sheds. These sheds are completely padded and have cameras inside for safety reasons. The most surprising part of this area of the stud is that there is nowhere to keep foals during the cover. Our guide explained to us that the foals are simply left at their stud or in the boxes a few km away.  This was really surprising to me as back home we always take the foals and keep them with the mare for as long as possible. From the breeding barn, we went into the Coolmore Stud Museum.  It was an amazing display of the history of the stud and the legends that they have bred and raised. The taxidermy of Champion sire Sadler's Wells was extremely impressive. 

During my first week of work, I was in the Sun Chariot yard during the day which is the foaling unit. It was a fairly uneventful week in terms of foaling as it was -7 degrees Celsius so most of the mares that are due haven’t been foaling. Despite the cold temperatures, we did have four foals born during the nights. Every morning after a foal has been born a vet comes to check both the mare and foal have made it through the foaling process without any issues. Once the foal is 12 hours old they all have blood taken for an IgG test. A test that gives us insight into whether or not the foal has picked up the immunities from the mare's colostrum.

This week we have been given our first assignment. It is an assignment where we need to pick a mare from the upcoming sale that we would purchase and then discuss what we plan to do with her to make a profit. 

Next week I will be working in the Strawhall and Kildare yards. Strawhall is the home of pregnant mares who are not due to foal until later in the season. Kildare yards are the new home to mares and foals once they have left the foaling unit after 24-48  hours of life. 

I am very excited to handle the newborn foals as one of them is already a favourite of mine. A black colt by Phoenix the Spain out of Across the Sea (we have nicknamed him Angus). I am ready to be getting stuck in as the busy season is approaching very quickly. 



 

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