As I arrived in Dublin after a surprisingly straightforward 24-hour trip, I was welcomed by Jerry who works at the Irish National Stud. He was there to pick up myself and 2 other students, Jock Ferguson (AUS) and Fabian Puchta (GER). A lovely overcast day and a crisp southerly met us as we walked out of the airport. Lucky I had prepared for it. After a 45-minute drive were at the Irish National Stud. Most people had arrived already, so it was time to do the meet and greet with the other students. Thankfully there was a familiar face in Flo Gore (UK) who had spent the last few seasons in New Zealand at Windsor Park Stud. After meeting everyone it was evident that we had had a brilliant group of students from all across the world with a wealth of knowledge and passion from all sectors of the industry. Countries that were represented included New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, England, France, Germany, Switzerland, America, Canada, Japan, Argentina and Brazil.
Our first week consisted of tours around the farm, inductions and introducing ourselves to some staff. Organised by our Educational Development Manager/Mother Anne Channon, she has slowly eased us into the processes and operational side of the Irish National Stud.
Our first assignment was assigned to us where we had to get in groups of 4 and present a stallion from the Irish National Stud. We had to show our knowledge and explain their unique selling points to INS CEO Cathal Beale and Nominations and bloodstock advisor Patrick Diamond, both of whom were graduates of the Irish National Stud Breeding course. My group presented National Defense. A 2yo group 1 Winning son of Invincible Spirit with his first foals having just been born this February. Very exciting times for the farm.
My first week in the yards was at the Minoru and Murphy’s yards. The Minoru yard is where mares that are in foal stay. These mares are still a wee while away from being transferred to the foaling unit where they will end up next, depending on signs they are showing or when they are nearing their foaling date. The Murphy’s yard is where new horses that arrive stay for an extended period of time before they get moved to their designated yards around the farm.
Other areas of the farm I have been on include Madenstown where the barren and maiden mares are kept. Most mornings there start with teasing of the mares. We bring them up to the teasing board where the little pocket pony ‘Tayto’ who stands at all of 7 hands high but does his best at ‘teasing’ and an absolute gun at it he is. All business. Most of us guys could all take some advice from him haha.
We all have turns where 2 of us at a time go on night shift for foal watch for 4 nights to assist and help either one of our foaling managers in Lauren Eisemann or Nicola Joyce. Myself and Connor (IRE) had a relatively quiet night with only 2 foals over 4 nights. Both healthy and smooth foaling’s. On the other hand, David Skelly (IRE) and Niall Kelly (IRE) had one of the busiest nights with 8 foals being born in 12 hours!! It has been all hands-on deck now with mares being brought into the foaling unit regularly as more foals are born then get moved to the Kildare yards where they spend their early life.
Lectures have been in full swing with a vast majority of them being veterinary based, which includes a lot about the anatomy and physiology of the horse. Others include Pedigree, nutrition, mental skills and farrier lectures.
Outside of work we have naturally spent a lot of our evenings and weekends at the Cunningham’s Pub. We have made ourselves known to the barman who seem to like us a lot and enjoy the atmosphere we bring in. Or could it be the amount of euros we're spending on pints? Either way, both parties are enjoying it. A nice and cosy pub where they serve beautiful food, play live music and have plenty of fresh Guinness on tap.
After getting invited to go watch a few horses work at the Curragh racecourse, Adam (IRE) took myself, Tyler (AUS, Jock (AUS) and Henry (ENG) to the track. A breath-taking piece of land that covers 5000 acres in total where sheep roam freely everywhere so you also have to look out for them when driving through it, or you could find yourself getting a fine if you hit one. The training ground itself can provide trainers with approximately 1500 acres of training facilities. There are 70 miles of turf gallops, approximately 12 miles of peat gallops and eight all-weather tracks available to work on. A vastly different set up compared to the very busy Cambridge training track where everyone and every horse seems to be crammed into such a small facility. The Curragh racecourse is still closed at the moment as the grandstand is still under construction as they are redeveloping it. We are all hoping it will be done by the time the Irish 2000 Guineas is ready to run around the month of May!
Speaking of race tracks, a small group of about 12 of us students had the weekend off so we decided to head to the Dublin Racing Festival which was held at the Leopardstown Racing track. Over the 2 days, its consisted of 8 Grade 1’s in total and they were all National Hunt races (jumps racing). An amazing atmosphere where the crowds really get into it the spirit. Loud music, plenty of food and beverage and great racing all together. I spent all day reading form for the last race and it was well worth it as I picked the winner at odds of 16/1 and went home a rather happy man. A fantastic night at Cunningham’s that night!! The highlight of the meeting for me was watching Apples Jade win the Irish Champion Hurdle with a commanding and brilliant performance winning by 16 lengths. I was really amazed at the turn of foot that these horses still had after running 2+ miles and am not surprised at all now, at why they are sourcing these horse for staying races down in the southern hemisphere.
My time so far here has been nothing short of exceptional with a great group of students/friends, friendly staff who are very knowledgeable, making connections with people you would never thought you would meet and a great little town to have some fun in. Though I will admit I have been very jealous of some of my friends who have been sending me pictures and videos of the beautiful weather there has been in New Zealand this summer. Karaka Million night looked like a fantastically managed event, likewise with Derby day. But they will still be there next year. I’d like to thank the NZTBA for selecting me for the Keith & Faith Taylor scholarship and to Trelawney and the Taylor family for sponsoring it. And also, the team at Brighthill Farm for everything they have done for me to get me to this stage.
Until next month,