Damien Fitton – March Blog
10th Apr 2017
It’s that time again for you to hear about how fantastic the month of March has been at the Irish National Stud. My month began at the Sun Chariot yard with all the pregnant mares ready to foal. Every day a different student is on day time foal watch. This entails checking the mares in the paddocks every 15 minutes to make sure they don’t foal out in the yards. The Irish National Stud gives a 100 euro bonus to the student who catches a mare foaling in the paddocks. I was lucky enough to catch 2 mares on my day of checking and they were my first 2 foalings I was a part of.
Saturday night came and it was my turn to be on night watch. I was on for 3 nights with Lydia Barry who is a valued member of the Irish National Stud foaling team. Starting at 6pm and finishing at 7am.
Having only foaled 2 mares before I was going into it with a lot to learn. On the first night we had 2 fillies, one being by a stallion I know very well from Australia, Hallowed Crown. On the second night we were extremely busy having 4 foals. 2 Colts and 2 Fillies. My last night was very exciting.
The time had come for the best National Hunt mare in Europe “QUEVEGA” to give birth to a cracking colt by Walk In The Park. What a privilege it was to foal such a high class mare in Europe.
My next destination was Kildare yard. After only being in Kildare yard three weeks ago it was very exciting to see how the foals had developed and matured in such a short space of time. Teaching them to walk off the head collar was like being on a merry go round, doing circles because they didn’t want to walk straight. Three weeks on and they walk perfect and it is so thrilling to see what patience results in. It’s that time of the year when the weather is at it’s peak and the sun is shinning, so that means the tourists are out in packs of hundreds to visit the farm and see all the new arrivals for 2017.
After a fantastic week with mares and foals I ventured back to Maddenstown with the Barren and Maiden mares. The general routine is to tease all the mares before they go out to there paddocks. Some mares may be in season which means we get the chance to take them to the covering shed when there is a slot available for there selected stallion. Each morning Bridget (Vet) from Troytown Grey Abbey will scan the mares to see whether they are ready to be covered and also scan the mares that have been covered to see if they are in foal.
TEASING THE MARES
We also had the excitement of the Cheltenham Festival this month, which was different for me because jumps racing isn’t as popular in Australia. The build up of Cheltenham reminded me of the Autumn and Spring Carnivals back at home. It was also the week of the Golden Slipper and St. Patrick’s Day.
It was a very interesting Cheltenham Festival because there was a few upsets that not many people would have picked. Overall it was exciting to watch a different form of racing that I’m not used to. My favourite moment was watching Altior win the Arkle Challenge Trophy (2m) Grade 1.
St. Patrick’s day is arguably the biggest festival in Ireland throughout the year. Celebrating St Patrick’s day in Australia doesn’t compare to what it is like in Ireland. I was lucky enough to have the day off so there was only one way to spend it. Just like the Irish do. Drinking pints and enjoy a once in a lifetime chance to be in the middle of the celebrations.
After celebrating St. Patrick’s day in style it was time to enjoy a nice weekend away off the stud farm. I ventured off to one of Ireland’s top visitor attractions, looming high over County Clare’s west coast, the Cliffs of Moher. The view from the cliffs was amazing and it was a great day spent with someone special.
It was time to get back into work mode. Starting Monday morning at Strawhall with yard Forman Gerry Hanratty a graduate of the INS course several years ago. It is great learning from staff members that have graduated from the course. Strawhall is the foaling unit where the mares foal. It’s always fun going into work the next day to see who has foaled and what future champion we may have.
During the week I was gifted with a downpour of snow. Being from Australia and living in Sydney, I have never seen snow so it was very exciting to wake up and look out my window to see a thick layer of white covering all the land around me.
The month of March has been very busy in the classroom. We have had some very good lectures on newborn foals, teasing charts, joints and bones of the horse, the reproductive system and also lectures from John Osborne about what to look for in buying a stallion. We have also taken part in accessing some statistics of current stallions to see who is great value for money and who needs to improve.
As always, I am enjoying my time on the course and everyday is a new day to learn something different. The way time flys it won’t be long until you read my April Blog.
Regards Damien Fitton