22nd Feb 2017
Arriving in Dublin, Ireland on Sunday, 22nd January after a grueling 25 hour haul was an experience in itself. Luckily Emirates put on a show with all the latest movies and a very tactical buy purchasing ‘The Pumper’, Jim Cassidy’s biography that kept me entertained for the duration.
A familiar face, Patrick Diamond (nominations and bloodstock management for the Irish National Stud (INS)) collected my tired self at 11am and we wasted no time catching up after a painful two year wait between drinks. Driving down the main highway on our way to the stud had me marveling at the beauty and similarity the landscape had to New Zealand. Only difference would be temperatures but nothing an extra jacket couldn’t fix! Goffs sales complex on my right and just up the road would be the Curragh racecourse, an enormous racetrack home to many horses and trainers including the legend, Dermot Weld.
Upon arrival to the Irish National Stud, I was greeted by a lovely lady, Sally Carroll, our mentor for the duration of the course. Walking into the lounge stood the CEO of INS, John Osborne who was busy studying the past student group photos dating back to 1971. It was simply astonishing that he could inform us of the whereabouts of mostly all the past students of whom have gone on to become extremely successful all over the world in both the breeding and racing industries. After the brief introduction to the big boss she then showed me the living quarters and with permission I was allowed to crawl into bed and catch a few winks that went amiss in the flight over.
Monday was much a settling in day with an eager wait for the other 25 students to arrive. After many handshakes and greetings it was apparent that we were a very diverse group hailing from all over the world. Australia, New Zealand, America, Canada, Germany, India, Pakistan, England, France and 13 Irish would make up the crew. Looking from the outside in you would think we all knew each other previously, immediately all getting on like a house on fire.
The week’s duties would involve many introductory and safety courses. A very professional and thorough way to cover the dos and don’ts. We even had a manual handling tutorial which taught us how to pick up objects correctly! Wednesday night we were scheduled in to attend a foaling seminar at the beautiful Killashee Hotel in Naas. It was very informative with highly regarded vets speaking their knowledge. We also had our own vet, Sarah give us a lecture on Thursday about foaling and her past foaling experiences. I’d say we will be having a lot of fun with her during the season, she is a very likable character.
General stud work is fairly quiet at the moment with the breeding season just round the corner. Friday had a hefty schedule with the local Stallion trial to commence so we were all scattered around the place to help prepare for that. I was lucky enough to help out the stallion barn. One of many highlights for the week was grooming the champion himself, Invincible Spirit. As you can see from the picture below, I was pretty chuffed.
Sally kindly organised us to get onto a bus and be a part of the crowds venturing around the Stud farms nearby. We visited many beautiful properties including Kildangan, Gilltown, Ballylinch, Coolmore, Ballyhane, Rathasker and Derrinstown studs. They all blew my mind in how well kept and professional the places were. Personally, The Aga Khan Stud was my favorite. It is a typical Anglo Irish estate and prides itself on heritage built back in the 17th century. Three stallions were shown, all hailing from the same bloodline including the multiple group 1 champion, Sea the Stars who was foaled down and raised at INS.
Friday night included our first family dinner at Dundalk racecourse. This is Ireland’s only All-Weather Racecourse. It was a very pleasant night out watching the horses run, digested with a beautiful medium rare steak, a glass of red wine to wash it all down. Perfect!
Overall, the first week has been astonishing and far beyond expectations. Bring on the next six months with this very special bunch. I’ll leave you with my best photography work, a quick snap early in the morning after turning out the dry mares in the Maddenstown yard.
Slán agat, do anois! (Goodbye for now)