16th Dec 2012
Paul McGrath was awarded the John Durkan Scholarship 2011 and has spent 6 months with Brian Meehan at his training establishment at Manton. Here he talks about his career so far and how he’s got to where he is today.
“I come from Drystock Farm in Co Waterford Ireland. I have always been interested in farming but never had an interest in horses until I was 16, when I began work placements in school. One of which brought me to Yellowford Stud Farm, in Killeagh Co Cork, with Mr Frank Motherway. Here I arrived with only having ridden a few ponies as a youngster and no other hands on horse experience. I approached Mr Motherway to see if he could take me on for work experience, with broodmares and youngstock (intended for sale as foals), general stud duties and travelling to the sales. I found my first experience of working with horses very enjoyable as Mr Motherway put a lot of effort into teaching me the skills I have gained working in Yellowford. I couldn’t have gone to a better stud to start out into this wonderful industry.
For my second placement I went to Mr John Kiely, who is a well known National Hunt trainer in Dungarvan, Co Waterford. My duties here showed me into the life of a training yard – mucking out, feeding, tacking up and general care of the racehorse. Although I never rode out there I learned a lot about the effort and the work it takes to get a horse prepared for the track. I also used to travel to the races with the horses which was brilliant for me as I got to see behind the scenes at the races. Mr Kiely gave me no end of advice about racing and the industry which I put into practice every day.
When I finished school I had never really thought about a career in horses so I went to Kildalton Agricultural College to do a course in Agriculture specializing in Drystock. Whilst in college I again got the opportunity to go on work placement where I chose to go to Waterloo Lodge. Here they have Drystock and a band of Thoroughbred Broodmares and youngstock which they sell as foals and three year olds. Here my previous horse experience was put to the test as there were only three of us on the farm. In my time there I was given a lot of responsibility and I was involved in all aspects of the Kennedys enterprise. Ms Elizabeth Kennedy had great belief in me which in turn gave me the confidence to gain the necessary skills both in dealing with the livestock and with people. Ms Kennedy encouraged me to further my career in the equine industry. She introduced me to the YITBA (Young Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association). The YITBA encouraged me to apply for the Irish National Stud course in Kildare. I applied thinking I had little chance of being accepted to the world re-nound course, but to my surprise I was accepted. During my six months at the Irish National Stud I got the opportunity to work in all areas of a stud. All students rotate around the yards on a weekly basis, spending time in the stallion barn, foaling unit, yearling yard etc…
In the evenings after work, lectures are given by the stud staff and others involved in the bloodstock industry and cover a variety of topics from yard management to business administration. It covers a wide range aspect of the science and art of horse breeding and also racing. In the latter part of the course, visits are arranged to other stud farms, racing stables, sales companies etc, these are great to gain a deeper knowledge and understanding of each business area and to ask any questions to these people who have a lot of knowledge in the industry.
On completion of the course I was awarded the John Durkan scholarship which has taken me to where I am today. The John Durkan award is sponsored by the class of 1984 in memory of their classmate John Durkan who passed away in 2003. The scholarship gives the winning student the chance to work with Brian Meehan (also an INS graduate) at his Manton training complex. Brian Meehan has put so much work and thought into to this scholarship, it’s a wonderful opportunity. It has been amazing to work with and be taught by Brian and his team. He has also sent me out to gain knowledge from the best people and companies in the industry. I spent time with Gary Witheford, Nicole Rossa, O’Gorman Slater & Main – Donnington Grove Veterinary Surgery, Weatherbys and the British Horseracing Authority. It has been a great opportunity to work with every one of them, they have been so helpful, and I have got to learn so much more about the different areas within the industry. My time so far with Brian has been a pleasure and he helped me out so much in my career to become assistant trainer or maybe even trainer someday, I can’t thank him enough for these opportunities he has opened up for me and of course the INS class of 1984 for running the scholarship in memory of the late John Durkan.
It is an amazing industry to work in, I can’t imagine working anywhere else. It’s so rewarding bringing a foal in to the world, watching them grow and go on to race, been involved training a horse and getting him ready for a race, you just fall in love with these incredible animals, the excitement and adrenalin rush makes it all worthwhile.”