Keith & Faith Taylor Equine Scholarship recipient Laura McNab provides an update on her first few weeks in Ireland
I’m not very good at sitting still, so 25 hours on a plane was fairly tough!! Stepping off the plane into a chilly 2 degrees was a bit of a shock to the system, especially since it was 25 degrees when I left home. I was warned about the Irish winter and it has definitely lived up to its reputation. The winter woolies have well and truly been dusted off and put to the test so far. We’ve had a few snow flurries but nothing has stuck yet. Storm Ciara whipped through with some serious wind and rain though!
As I sit and write this, I’m taking over from Hannah for night watch duties for the next 4 nights- luckily the time difference means I can chat to everyone back home and keep me occupied in between checks!
Our first week on the course was busy busy busy with inductions covering everything from foaling to teasing to pedigree analysis. We were also treated to a stallion parade, and I just loved seeing the legendary Invincible Spirit in the flesh. He’s such an impressive stallion, with the most incredible presence about him, and it’s easy to see why he is considered to be one of the greats.
Getting to know everyone else on the course has been fantastic. There is nothing like sharing stories and experiences with everyone over a few pints at the local pub, Cunningham’s. Living in the hostel has taken me back to my first year at uni in the halls… except everyone is a bit older and everyone likes horses!
On my first weekend off, we headed to Leopardstown racecourse for the Dublin Racing Festival. The atmosphere was incredible, and it was really great to see the public get behind the horses in every race. I loved the fact that the every day Joe Bloggs was out there enjoying the racing like myself, and the support from the crowd was electric! I’m keen to get to as many race days as I can, although with racing on the TV in the common room almost 24/7, we don’t miss much.
I was lucky enough to be one of the first students rostered on for night watch in the foaling unit… just as I started getting over my jetlag I had to start staying awake all night! Luckily we were kept busy on our first night with two foals born almost at the same time. I’ve done a fair amount of foaling before, but I still get excited for every single foal to take their first wobbly steps.
I think starting on night watch has given me some kind of foaling luck- over the three weeks we’ve been here, I’ve helped foal more mares than anyone else! We’ve joked that if anyone wants their mare to foal, I just need to go hang out with it for a bit. The human version of oxytocin maybe?
We had a visit to the Goffs February Sale last week to pick our weanling or mare for our first assignment. Like Hannah said, it seemed strange to be wrapped up in scarves, gloves and beanies when Karaka Sales have just been and we’d usually be sweltering in shorts and T-shirts! The Goffs sale’s complex was excellent, and it was great to be able to talk to all the different consigners about their horses, as well as cast our eye over some real quality animals.
I’ve spent the last week working in the Sun Chariot yard with the mares who are just about ready to foal, and started Monday off on day watch. The stud has an incentive that any student who spots a mare who is foaling in the field and brings it into the foaling box before the mare foals, then they get a bonus in their wages that week. So you can only imagine how stoked I was to walk out into the field and spot a mare breaking waters! Nothing like a bit of bragging rights in the hostel to have been the first student to get the bonus (although the boys reckon it might be my shout at Cunninghams next weekend…) The yard foreman, Joe, and the two night foaling attendants, Lauren and Tina, have been an absolute wealth of knowledge, and they’re more than happy to answer any of our questions.
I have to say a huge huge thank you to everyone who has made this experience possible for Hannah and I- the NZTBA, the Taylor Family and of course the Irish National Stud. It’s going to be an exciting 6 months, and we can’t wait to get stuck in.
Until next time, Laura