The Beginning: The Irish National Stud Scholarship
My journey began saying my goodbyes to my parents at Auckland International airport. Sitting down as the plane goes through its final checks the emotions and overwhelming excitement finally set in of the realization that not only I will be going to travel across the world but I will be setting of to broaden my knowledge and experience in a industry that I am so very passionate about. Understanding that my knowledge of the northern hemisphere racing and breeding was limited I could not wait to experience everything the Irish National Stud had to offer.
After a 12hr flight to Hong Kong, a then 11hr flight to London, ana hour flight to Ireland and a 45min drive to Kildare, I had finally arrived at my destination. It was 10pm at the time so I did not manage to see much driving up to the accommodation but I was welcomed with open arms, a smile on the face and some strong Irish accents. After some well needed sleep it was time to start my first week of the Irish National Stud.
The first week was a relaxed and easygoing week to help us all settle into the ways of the stud. It quickly started with introductions to the other 22 students, other than being a little flustered trying to retain all there names everyone was friendly and open. There are students from all over the world with different experiences and strengths in different fields of the industry, the 22 consisted of 11 Irish, 7 American, 2 British, 1 Australian and myself representing New Zealand.
The week consisted of inductions into the course giving us a break down on the structure and routine. We met with yard managers for demonstrations on how the yards are run, the basic safety and handling of not only horses but also the tool/gear that goes with the job. It surprised me how they don't use clipped leads here for most of their yards and how that all of yard managers are graduates of the Thoroughbred Breeding and Management Course. Through the induction week it gave me a good opportunity to look around because it's not only a stud but also a national attraction bringing in hundreds of thousands of people each year to experience and understand the work and dedication put into the industry. Other attractions on the stud include the horse museum, a restaurant and the beautiful Japanese and St. Fiachra's Gardens. It was a big eye opener to me realizing how many people visit the stud and how much access they have being able to go to every yard on the main farm understanding how thoroughbreds are raised.
With all the inductions done and dusted along with our uniforms handed out and our first assignment given to us on assessing European stallions it was time to get to the yards our selves. We are assigned to yards each week, constantly rotating from one to the next to help us get comfortable with the routine, our colleagues, yard managers and to give us as much hands on experience and knowledge of all aspects to working/managing a stud.
My first week I was stationed at the stallions yard that I was happy with as it is something that I have experienced before but was keen to see how they do it up here. I had the opportunity to work along the nine stallions that INS stands, consisting of Worthadd, Palavicini, Lord Shanakill, Famous Name, Elusive Pimpernel, Big Bad Bob, American, Dragon Pulse, a hot new season sire Gale Force Ten and the great Invincible Spirit. The week I was there I didn't get to have the opportunity to get into the covering shed as it was late January and the covering season here does not start to the 15th of February so my week consisted of mucking out, preparing for the covering season and getting to know and be comfortable with the stallions which are all well mannered.
For the month I have now been here I have had the change to work in a few different yards such as:
Minoru: This is a yard for mares in foal that have not yet 'bagged up' or are close enough to foaling. Once they do start showing signs of foaling or get close to there due date they are then moved to 'Sun Chariot' yard.
Sun Chariot and Foaling Unit: This yard caters for all the mares closer to foaling. "walk-in" mares or mares from Minoru come here to foal down. All mares in the yard a constantly watched 24/7 and are assisted through birthing.
Kildare: Kildare is where they station all the mares that have foaled down. All mares that are looking to go in foal again are teased and vetted here while foals get handling experience.
Stallions: Stallions are as I have mentioned above, they are all kept here and where daily covers happen.
Strawhall: this is one of there off site farms; yearlings have been stationed there.
Maddenstown: All dry mares are kept at Maddenstown and vetted and teased daily to monitor there cycles to see when they are ready to cover. This is normally there busiest yards through the season.
There are still a few yards that I have yet to experience but I will be visiting soon enough.
Lectures have become a daily thing for us now through the week. After work every day we sit down to normally an hour-long lecture on a various amount of topics including reproduction, nutrition, anatomy, management of diseases and proper horse care, assessing pedigrees, stallions, bloodlines and so much more. Not a day has gone by so far that I haven't grasped a new understanding or gained a more in depth understanding for not only the horse but also everything to do with it. With lectures there comes assignments of course, which tend to be handed out fortnightly and are, linked to the topic we have been studying. For instance we have an assignment just completed that asked us to experience a Goffs sale and try to determine a yearling for future pin-hooking and a future broodmare prospect.
There is still so much more I could go on about, its only just turned a month but there has been so much I have experienced inside and out side the stud. I cannot wait for what the future has in store for me on this course. I would also just like to say a big thank you to the Taylor family, Michael Martin, Nicola Griffiths at the New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders' Association for giving me this wonderful opportunity and to all the people that helped me get here.