How lucky were we to wake up to a glorious sunny morning in Co Kildare, for our Irish F and I day.
On arrival to Jessica Harringtons yard at 10 o’clock , we found that we had only missed one lot as they do not start till 8 as many of the staff have yards of their own. Our first vision was the infamous Sizing John, Gold Cup winner in 2017. Sizing John was just on road work due to being in rehab after an injury, which included trotting for up to 4 miles every day. Jessica and her daughters,
Emma and Kate are firm believers that roadwork is an important part of strengthening the horses after an injury.
We then watched over 25 two year olds trotting in a sand arena with their work riders, made up of some permanent staff and others freelance, which was fairly exciting!
Jessica watched them on each rein in trot, before giving individual instructions to each rider for that day. We then walked to one of the gallops to watch them work in pairs or individually, and we were impressed at the speed that even the two year olds travel.
She has around 140 horses with capacity for 170, both jump and flat and they are in every corner of the farm. This included some areas offering 24 hour turnout, for horses with respiratory or stress issues. The colts are all stabled in a new block with plenty of fresh air and a new type of lights called equi-lume, which keep them calmer and more relaxed as they cannot be turned out.
Interestingly, all the horses are only fed with locally grown hay which gets tested for aspergillus, ( a fungus which grows in damp conditions) they have four feeds a day, which includes racehorse cubes, mix and fibre based nuts, which are fed last to keep food in their gut for longer.
They are weighed every Monday morning and all horses are tested for viruses before setting foot in the yard. The manure is taken away by local farmers for bedding for their cows, and rain water is collected and used to wash off the horses.. There are three horse walkers and an indoor school which has new perspex doors to make it lighter and so you can see in without disturbing the horses.
Each rider has their own saddle to use on their allotted rides for the day, with a towel under a padded numnah for ease of washing and hygiene . Jessica keeps the same combination of horse and rider together as much as possible.
It was an extremely friendly, efficient, family run yard with a relaxed atmosphere which showed in the horses demeanour, we all loved our morning, what a treat!!!!
In the afternoon we ‘raced’ to the Irish National Stud to have a very informative tour from David. We saw how their stallions had huge paddocks each in which they were turned out in every day, the mares and foals looked very relaxed in their fields and the retired legends , Rite of Passage, Beef or Salmon, Hardy Eustace, Kicking King and the amazing Hurricane Fly are apparently the main attraction.
There are seven stallions standing there, with fees ranging from €1000 to €120,000, they naturally cover at least 100 mares each, and some of them then fly to Australia for the season.
Interestingly, Colonel William Hall Walker , who founded the stud in 1900 was influenced by Astrology which determined which foals he kept and trained.
He also installed a Japanese garden of Eternity, and the now Irish government owned stud continues to progress and develop and we look forward to viewing the new interactive museum which opens in 2020.
Many thanks to Faith Ponsonby for organising a great F and I day and we are already looking forward to next years trip!!!
Report by Annette Christey