MY family moved to County Cork from the UK back in the 1960s when I was quite small. I always had a love for horses and hunted from eight years old, jumped ponies and showed for other people well into my teenage years, then spent time in Italy in a showjumping yard at 19.
My love for horses never wavered but I worked abroad and travelled well into my twenties. I came back and bought a pub in Co Waterford in the early 1990s, where I found my original broodmare – a wonderful TB mare by Sheer Grit. She is my foundation mare who gave endless heart, courage and determination to my breeding line.
Moving to the magical county of Clare in 2001, I changed from my rather traditional upbringing with horses where we ‘break and dominate’ our young horses. I qualified in various equine training techniques which I use constantly with my youngstock, teaching them to use their bodies softly and in balance.
I agree with the saying: “Balance the body and you balance the mind.”
I became an equine physiotherapist – primarily, with my own horses in mind – and am constantly studying new techniques. The physiotherapy work has helped me to keep my competition horses in good physical condition and able for their work.
But, more importantly, in the last seven or eight years, my connection with my horses has gone to a whole new level. I started to host Horses and Us clinics, which have given me the tools to communicate and co-create with my horses.
My horses and I are a team – I’ve learnt how to ask my horses questions and hear their response. This has helped me to get practical information as to what is or isn’t working, especially for the mares.
The foals that have been born with and into a farm with consciousness helps them to be successful as they know they have a voice and are willing participants – totally engaged and thriving in their work and play. I believe that this is proven by the success of the progeny of the various mare lines. This is a work in progress, watch this space!
1. A pretty memorable August Bank Holiday Monday?
On August 1st at the North Tipperary Agricultural Show, the home-bred three-year-old Carrowgar Henry (Herald III x Equine Connect Monchie, by Flagmount King x TB) behaved impeccably at his first-ever show outing. He won his class, the three-year-old championship and supreme show champion.
Henry is a full-brother to Carrowgar Herald, placed every year at the RDS since he was a foal and was crowned RDS Supreme Champion in 2019. Both are by Herald III, a son of Heraldik.
To cap it all – on the same Bank Holiday – Carrowgar Je T’aime Max (Je T’aime Flamenco - Coolcorran Roseau) won the Connolly’s Red Mills 1.35m Grand Prix at Aglish Show with Robyn Moran.
To say I was over the moon is an understatement.
2. Proudest moment as a breeder?
Without doubt - August 2019 at the RDS.
Carrowgar Herald, affectionally known as Gorgeous George, won his three-year-old medium/heavyweight gelding class and the three-year-old championship. On Friday morning, he became the supreme champion young horses and then to cap it all, won the Pembroke Cup for me as owner/breeders.
To walk into the international enclosure, before the Aga Khan Cup and see him lead the champions parade was my proudest moment and so very emotional.
3. How many broodmares do you have?
My original broodmares have retired now, but a daughter of EC Monchie – Carrowgar Nerrada has bred four foals to date. Her first-born, a Future Trend four-year-old, has just qualified for the RDS Future Event Horse four-year-old class.
I retired Carrowgar Je T’aime from showjumping last year. She was successful throughout her career finishing at 1.40m level and is currently in foal to Tangelo van de Zuuthoeve.
She is a full-sister to Carrowgar Je T’aime Max who won the Aglish Grand Prix and Carrowgar Cool Heart, competing successfully at 1.30m.
Carrowgar Future (Future Trend ex Robertstown Boy/TB) is in foal to Diamant de Heraldik and a full-sister of hers – Carrowgar Bellini - has a cracking foal by Young Carrabawn (ID).
4. What’s your aim as a breeder?
Breeders want to produce successful horses in whatever line of work they are bred for. I prepare the youngsters mentally, as well as physically, for their respective jobs and establish a deep connection with them from the moment they are born.
I want them to go on to their next homes as well-mannered, successful athletes.
5. Describe your regime for keeping broodmares and youngstock.
Carrowgar Stud is custom designed for our equines with a track up through the centre of the farm. I can move horses safely and access all fields from the track. All fields have shelters with a hard, drystand, water and round feeders for winter hay.
All horses stay out all year – we have specific wintering fields. Since I don’t sell my foals, I can leave them with their mothers until at least eight months old.
I believe this gives the foals a good, balanced mental grounding along with the conscious, connected energy work that gives them confidence as they grow and develop.
6. Do breeders get enough recognition?
7. If you could have bred any horse in history which one would it be?
I had the luck to see Tommy Wade on Dundrum as a kid … small horse but had a huge heart!
8. It takes a team. Who’s on yours?
Firstly, I have to give huge credit to my husband, Emelyn. He is the brains behind the design of the farm, fixes everything when it breaks, does all the farm work and supports me constantly.
My friend and successful breeder/producer of young horses herself, Maria Griffin. Since my knees don’t allow me to run anymore, Rebecca Monahan steps up in the showring.
Equine dentist Lisa Molloy, master farrier Shane Carey, Sheila White with Erreplus saddles, our vets Jerry O’Connor and Robert Stuckenberg and performance vet Henk Offreins.
Dominic Furnell backs all my youngsters and competes the event horses. Robyn Moran competes the showjumpers, assisted by dad, Brian. Nikki Cutlar brings me, my horses, and the land into a deeper level of connectedness and awareness.
Lucinda Stockley, an expert in many fields, always with sound advice and hands-on support at the RDS and so much more.
Last but not least, Johnny Mac, our neighbour, looks after the farm and dogs when we are away.
9. Best advice you ever got?
Twelve years ago, Peter Leonard of Ringwood Stud, Newcastle West, advised me to change my breeding/stallion choices to reflect the modern requirements for competition horses and which has truly helped with my successes to date.
10. Tell us about your pets.
A couple of cats, two terriers and three rescue Great Danes.
I learned to love these big dogs as a teenager when I worked for a lady who bred them. She gave me one and the love affair is still ongoing.
Unfortunately, too many people get them as pups and don’t appreciate how big and boisterous they can be, if not allowed room to move. A bit like young horses!
Naturally, like horses, they need clear boundaries but thrive on company and love. Like life – they come and go when their time is up but I am happy knowing their last years with us were good ones ... then along comes another needing a home!