I’M based in a small Co Monaghan village called, Clontibret. I mainly produce young horses that go on to show jump, event, or for the amateur/leisure market. Until recently, I was doing a lot of breaking but I’ve decided to move away from that.

One of six children, I’ve three brothers and two sisters. Non-horsey but they get dragged out to photograph and video horses and to help build stables and arenas!

This is my mother Nuala’s home place, she’s more into GAA than SJI. My late father Tom wasn’t horsey either but was definitely a great help to me, he did the feeding and mucking out in the winter.

I went to Australia in 2014 but at the end of 2015, got word that my father was ill so came home. He died in March 2016. I’d always wanted to start my own place and seeing how quickly things can change, that gave me the kick up the arse I needed.

We can always make excuses, and I’m not one for inspirational quotes, but if someone reading this is wondering, “What if?,” my advice is just take the leap and do it. Be brave.

1. You’ve worked for several noted breeders, for example Kate Stevens. I met Kate when I was 13, I worked at weekends for her in a small yard in Annyalla and through her, I met the late Ronnie Hollinger. Between them, they got me a job with show jumper Damian McDermott where I worked for a year and learned so much. Most of the horses were warmbloods and I could definitely see the attraction. Back then, there were notable differences between Irish horses and warmbloods, not so much anymore.

Vanir Kamira (Tilly) was born while I worked in Kilnacloy Stables with Kate Jackson (now Stevens) and Mick Burke. Tilly always was a real stand-out filly, very correct and straight, great trot and a good elevated canter. All the attributes of a top athlete from day one. One of the first Camiro de Haar Z foals, she’s the reason I chose to use him on my own mare.

Foals don’t change that much. They obviously develop and need correct training as older horses and to find the right jockeys but they either have these attributes or they don’t.

Kate and Tilly deserve all the recognition. This is a tough business, you never hear of all the horses you bred that don’t make it (of which there are many), so you need to savour these moments when they come around.

2. Another breeder you’ve worked with was the late Ronnie Hollinger. Did you learn a lot from him too?

Ronnie was a very quiet man, he loved horses, show jumping, Formula 1 and loose jumping. He always wanted to win the Millstreet Young Irelander and came second once with Creevagh Delima.

A number of years later, myself, Ronnie and his wife Jean loaded up my jeep and headed off for Millstreet with Creevagh Limited Edition. She did well in the qualifier but as first to go in the final, we didn’t think she’d any chance. We imagined they’d have forgotten about her after a couple of horses!

After we won, we said to the judges “we thought we’d no chance”, but they told us that, “None of the rest could touch her.” Ronnie was absolutely delighted. He’d been trying to win for 20 years and I’m pretty sure he was crying after the presentation. With everything that has happened, I’m glad to have been a part of that achievement.

The stallions Creevagh Ferro and Camiro de Haar Z, both bought as two-year-olds, served him well. There’s a new generation of fillies at Creevagh now that will hopefully breed more future stars.

3. Lady Georgina Forbes and Judy Murphy are two more owner-breeders you’ve produced horses for.

My favourite from Castleforbes was Violette, a beautiful mare by Vivaldo. She jumped up to 1.40m with ‘Bosty’ [Roger Yves Bost] and is back home now ready to have her first foal. Another was Esteban, another Vivaldo, a gentle giant with oceans of scope. He covered some of Lady Forbes’ mares last year so I’ll have to take a spin to see them once they’re on the ground. Lady Forbes is a very gentle, kind woman who loves her horses and it’s great to work with people like that.

I probably have too many favourites from Judy’s but I’ll narrow it down. Java Jane, the first horse I ever qualified for the RDS, as a four-year-old and we qualified again two years later. Java Keltic Courage was also a firm favourite. He qualified at Claremorris and we finished one place ahead of Henrik Von Eckermann, who was based then with Cian O’Connor. That will forever be my claim to fame! I really enjoyed my years with the Murphys and was always treated as part of their family.

4. Your own proudest breeder moment?

When the first foal I bred, Tonagh Trip The Lights won the Balmoral and RDS five-year-old qualifiers with Mary McShane. They also had some good days out in the HSI age classes, Mary did a great job with her and I’d some great days watching them.

California Dreaming: Gerard Green in Santa Barbara last October with two Monaghan exports: the skewbald John Rambo, formerly owned by his neighbour Barbara Johns and bred by Donal White and Titanamado Maxwell, bred and owned by Francie Duffy from Glaslough

5. How do you think Irish sport horse breeding has changed?

I think there’s too much emphasis on pedigree after the horse is born. You probably can’t put enough emphasis on it at the time of mating but once the foal is on the floor, it is what it is. I also think people are breeding from mares that don’t have good conformation but have super pedigrees, hoping stallions can work miracles.

If your mare is a bad model with a good pedigree, she’s still a bad model. If your foal is a bad mover but has a super pedigree, they’re still a bad mover.

6. Favourite bloodlines?

I’ve had a lot of nice horses from Clover Hill dams so he’s top of my list, I was also a massive fan of Captain Clover. From using them myself and working at Creevagh, I will always have a soft spot for Creevagh Ferro and Camiro. I really like the progeny of Aganix, Livello and Sligo Candy Boy.

7. If you could have bred any horse?

DSP Alice.

8. Do breeders get enough recognition?

I think it’s definitely got better. HSI have lots of incentives, the breeding is always normally on the horses SJI page and read out at shows. It’s like everything; there are probably areas that need improvement but over the last few years there seems to have been a positive effort to reward and recognise breeders.

I do think if a breeder names a horse with a prefix that it shouldn’t be allowed to be changed without permission. I’ve seen horses with three prefixes attached to them as their name. That’s ridiculous. Only one person bred the horse, everyone that has done some work with the horses can’t try and claim a piece of it.

9. Best advice you got?

It costs as much to feed a bad horse as it does to feed a good one.

10. Any areas that need improving?

There doesn’t seem to be any real value put on proper training. I think because everything is so instant these days, we expect the same from horses.

Scrolling through social media, you’ll see countless videos with the caption “First day away from home” and a four-year-old being kicked around a course of fences with its head welded to its chest in draw reins. I think in this day and age people should know better.

Having said that, there are some riders out there, especially younger ones that are doing a fantastic job, but something needs to be done to educate the ones that aren’t doing such a good job and causing untold damage to horses.