I’M a retired farmer from Castleblayney, Co Monaghan. My wife Mary and I have three children Paul, Anne and Conor and also have five grandkids; Louis, Niamh, Niall, Liam and David. Paul lives locally and helps with the horses on a daily basis. I’ll be 90 next month and have been involved in horses and horse breeding all of my adult life.

My father was a horse dealer back in the 1940s and I would normally keep between five and 10 horses at any given time. Currently I have two broodmares, one of which Cloverdale Girl (Hermes de Reve) is a half-sister to Dondante.

I have a keen interest in most sports, especially Gaelic football and support our local club, Oram GFC.

1. Congratulations on breeding Dondante, the United States Eventing Association (USEA) Horse of the Year title winner in 2022, as well as claiming two top-10 places at North American’s five-star events: Kentucky and Maryland International last year with Will Coleman. A great honour?

Thanks very much. I have followed Dondante’s progress over the years with great pride and was delighted to see him claim such an accolade. I always felt that he was a very good prospect but could never have imagined that he could achieve so much.

2. Tell us more about breeding Dondante.

I bought his dam, Muckno Clover, as a two-year-old at a local horse fair in Castleblayney with the intention of selling her on as a three-year-old. My son Paul took a shine to her and convinced me to keep her for breeding purposes and so the rest is history.

Muckno Clover was foaled in 2003 and was bred by Aidan Lambe. She was by the Clover Hill sport horse stallion Euro Clover and out of Carnroe Dame, a mare by the Anglo-Arabian horse Horace.

Sadly Muckno Clover passed away last summer. She bred nine foals for me. Four of her foals were by Clem McMahon’s stallion Hermes de Reve, a half-brother to Pacino.

Her Hermes de Reve foals include the full-sisters: Big Choice II who went to Switzerland and Cloverdale Girl who Mary McShane jumped up to 1.20m and in the Horse Sport Ireland studbook series as a four and five-year-old.

When I bred Muckno Clover to Pacino back in 2009, I felt that Clem’s new stallion was another well-bred young horse with a lot of potential, as well as being by Diamant de Semilly.

Dondante was a very good looking foal and had a lovely temperament As a three-year-old, he qualified for the RDS potential event horse class and I sold him there.

3. Do you have any of Dondante’s family now?

I have Cloverdale Girl, that half-sister to Dondante. She amassed in excess of 80 SJI points before I decided to breed from her and is currently in foal to Corporal. I also still have Muckno Clover’s last foal, a three-year-old gelding by Vivant de Heffinck.

4. Will Coleman’s other five-star horse Off The Record was bred by Peter Brady in Cavan. Three more Border Counties-breds - Mighty Nice (Ard Ohio. Breeder: William Kells), Ben Along Time (Cavalier Royale. Breeder: Ann Marie Jamieson) and Ringwood Cockatoo (Peacock. Breeder: Hilary Greer) - were all Olympic medalist event horses. What’s the secret to breeding these good event horses in the region?

Maybe it’s the border air!

5. Recently, we’ve heard that Pacino was cloned. How else do you think Irish Sport Horse breeding has changed?

I think breeders are placing a lot more emphasis on the dam side of the breeding nowadays. Take Pacino and Hermes de Reve, they were both out of the same dam, Muguet de Manoir. The dam is very important and then the key is finding the right stallion to match her.

6. It takes a team - who’s on yours?

Both my son Paul and daughter Anne help out. My grandchildren also do their bit around the farm.

7. If you could have bred any horse in any sport, which one?

I suppose it would have to be Arkle, probably the best of all time.

8. Do breeders get enough recognition?

No, I don’t think we do. I firmly believe that there should be a financial incentive for those who have bred animals that have reached international standard. Any incentive, financial or otherwise, can only help improve quality.

9. Best advice you ever got?

Make hay when the sun shines!

10. How do you feel about using a cloned stallion?

I had never given it much thought until recently with the news about Pacino II. I have decided to send both my mares to him next season. The combination of the bloodlines of Muckno Clover and Pacino combined brilliantly in the case of Dondante, so surely it would be foolhardy not to try it again.