Student Blog from Luke Bleahen (Ireland) and Lola Queck (Germany)

Week 1

A POT OF HONEY

And we’re off! The flow of cars began arriving onto the complex early Tuesday afternoon, packed to the brim with suitcases and duvets. 28 students from 10 different nationalities began their introductions and the mingling commenced. It didn’t take long for the home team to invite everyone down to their local pub, ‘The Harp’ where the background stories started growing a few legs!

Wednesday and Thursday consisted of yard inductions, fire safety and manual handling courses before the big visit Friday. We had the amazing opportunity to receive the tour of Ballydoyle training facilities from Aidan O’Brien’s assistant trainer Chris Armstrong. He told us about the layout of the place which includes a man-made gallop and a replica of ‘Tattenham Corner’ built by Vincent O’Brien to give their horses the best chance of winning the stallion making race. The one piece of machinery that Ballydoyle does not avail of is horse walkers. When I asked Aidan his theory as to why he doesn’t use it, he replied “I want the horses to build personality. Putting horses onto walkers turns them into robots and doesn’t help them to mentally progress”. And with that he set his alarm for 20minutes. That is the amount of time Aidan wants them hand walked before precisely 8 minutes of hand grazing. We joined Aidan for two lots of 2-year-old colts up on the hill. Exactly as you would see on TV, he greeted each rider by name and asked them how they got on, “Alright Shane, okay Mark, alright Paul……..” the list goes on. He explained the training regime and how the build-up to this time of year is all about switching the newly turned 2-year-olds off and getting them to breathe correctly. The horses work in a diagonal string which ensures each horse is exercising on virgin ground giving them all an equal chance. One of the biggest changes Aidan has made to his training regime in recent times is “pairing horses of equal ability together”, he found this a significant change and said the horses grew stronger together. Aidan described the surface of gallop which he prefers best. Woodchip with three layers – a deep first layer, a second layer consisting of long strands of woodchip that act as drainage, and finally a finely chopped top surface of woodchip which creates a nice bouncy consistent surface the whole season through.

As we were visiting Coolmore later that afternoon, I decided to ask Aidan out of all the stallions we would see what one would he say has confirmation closest to perfection. After tiptoeing around which specific sire he viewed as having the best confirmation Aidan finally gave us the answer we were looking for. St Mark’s Basilica. Long neck, short back, good hip, and a straight hind leg. He told us that the heart and lungs originate from the stallion and the genes from the mare and went onto say that his heart vet can tell exactly what each horse in the yard is by based on his heart. Freaky stuff! The chat with Aidan concluded with a pot of honey and a handshake and off we set to Coolmore.

Nominations manager Mark Byrne along with his colleagues Tom and Niall gave us the tour of Coolmore Stud. We saw every stallion on the rostrum which included the likes of Wootton Bassett, No Nay Never and Paddington. We were also given an exclusive tour of the new museum which includes Saddlers Wells. A World champion taxidermist from Germany spent over 1800 hours into the creation of Saddlers Wells. This began with freezing the horse, shipping him to Germany, making numerous moulds of each body part and finally stitching each piece of his coat together. The attention to detail that the taxidermist was able to create made the horse feel like he was still alive and that he would just walk up to you. The same German is currently working on Galileo but said he would never undertake anything of this magnitude ever again as the time and precision required is unfathomable. We want to thank everyone at Ballydoyle and Coolmore for their kind hospitality and openness.

After the weekend everyone started into a busy week with our first yard rotations and lectures. Two of the lectures were held by Ernan O’Donnell who is a vet from Sycamore Lodge Equine Hospital. He taught us about the repro system of the mare and practical reproduction. We learned about the various drugs that can be used to aid a mare in foal but more importantly what drugs you must be very careful not to use when she is in foal. In a guest lecture with Joey Cullen, Marketing Director Goffs, we introduced to the history of Goffs, and the various requirements potential purchasers need to be aware of when buying a horse out of Goffs. For example, purchasers from India can only buy and export mares. Joey also taught us the basics of how to read pedigrees and introduced us to our equine business project which involves selecting a mare/ filly at the upcoming Goffs sales and creating a plan as to why you should buy her and how you will make money on her.

Lola

I continued my rotation in Sun Chariot during the week where we took turns with the foal watch, checking mares in the fields, mucking out, bedding down boxes, and finally learning how to examine placentas. We were also taught about the aftercare of foals as we had three newborns during the week. Another very interesting thing we got introduced to is the EQ ultra device which uses UV-C light to kill viruses and bacteria on surfaces and in air that may remain after cleaning and disinfection. This week was the first time we used it in the empty foaling boxes.

Luke

This week I was in Maddenstown, formerly the home of Mick O’Toole, legendary racehorse trainer. The week revolved around prepping a number of yearlings for the upcoming Goffs yearling and mare sale. Getting bits in their mouths, putting them on the walker, letting them out in paddocks and hand walking them. A fresh Monday soon produced results and it was great to see the daily improvement of each yearling as the week progressed. Maddenstown is also home to three dozen maiden and barren mares. I got to learn the process of teasing mares and knowing the tell-tale signs for when they are in season. Our vet Ernan O’Donnell was a regular in the yard this week. He showed us the procedure of swabbing mares and why they do it to eliminate the risk of spreading disease. All in all, we have had a fantastic first two weeks in the Irish National stud. We would like to thank everyone for their kind introductions and making us all feel at home.

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Irish National Stud & Gardens,
Brallistown Little, Tully, Co. Kildare,
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