Keith & Faith Taylor Equine Scholarship recipient Laura McNab gives an update on her time at the Irish National Stud.
It seems bizarre that the new normal is masks, gloves and loads of hand sanitizer. COVID-19 has certainly changed our way of living, but I reckon our ‘bubble’ on the Irish National Stud is one of the lucky ones- we could still work with the horses, still learn (even if it is off a computer screen).
As I write this, our foaling yard, Sun Chariot, has officially closed for the season. The last two mares have left the stud, and it is time to start the mammoth task of power washing and completely disinfecting the yard for next years’ season. 270 mares, 5 months, 3 rounds of night shift from myself, and plenty of future champions born. Joe, Lauren and Tina taught us all so much, and we were lucky enough to experience so many different types of foalings. Some highlights would have to be multiple Group 1 winner Quevega delivering a filly by Australia, one night having 6 foals born in the space of 3 hours (that certainly kept us busy!)
I’ve just come off my second roster in the stallion barn- this has hands down been one of my favourite yards. To be able to work with the likes of Invincible Spirit and Phoenix of Spain is an experience I won’t forget. The stallion barn has had some legendary mares come and it has been interesting learning about particular mating choices and the process of the covering shed.
This week I’m back in my favorite yard- Kildare Yard for rota vaccinated mares and foals. I think I like this yard the best as it’s one of the busiest. With vet work every single morning, it’s been a really great opportunity to ask questions, observe scans, learn about problem mares, and how to combat any pregnancy issues they may be having. Today for example, we’ve been busy microchipping and scanning the the foals in the yard. For most of these foals, this is the first step to being a ‘proper racehorse’. Branding is not something they do in Ireland, so it’s been great having discussions about the pro’s and con’s of our different identification systems. Mares and foals is definitely where I’m thriving- I really enjoy the process of teaching the foals how to be handled, treating any issues that are coming up, and learning about the pre mating process they must go through in order to get in them in foal and to hold the pregnancy.
We have had a few days of inspections with the CEO of the stud, Cathal Beal, where we have critically analysed the conformation of the foals and yearlings on the stud. Conformation analysis is not generally something we can learn from a book, and to be able to cast our eye over the stock with Cathal has been really helpful in fine tuning our skills. We’ve learnt about our own preferences, what faults can be forgiven or fixed, and what changes the youngstock can go through from birth onwards. It’s one of those things that the more horses you look at, the better you get, so with the gorgeous weather Ireland has been having, we often take walks around the paddocks in the evenings, looking at foals and discussing about what they are like.
Like Hannah said, we’ve been lucky enough to be able to sit down with Anne and Cathal and discuss our plans for the future. Just last week I officially graduated from Massey University with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science Majoring in Equine, so to have that degree under my belt definitely feels like a bit of a leg up. COVID-19 has definitely made me re-evaluate some of my plans, but I’m determined to keep learning and experiencing as much as possible.
Only 5 weeks left on the course, and I really don’t want to leave! We’ve been lucky enough to meet the most incredible people, who will definitely be future leaders in the industry (I’m encouraging as many as I can to do a season in NZ!). Whilst our experience here has been somewhat challenging and restricted with COVID-19, I wouldn’t change a thing. Improvise, adapt, and overcome seems to be the theme of the last few months, and we’ve still made the most of every opportunity presented to us.
Like everyone else, I can’t wait for racing to start back up- both here and in NZ!! So until we’re glued to the TV watching racing, I better start on the next assignment.