PREDOMINANTLY a breeder of Irish draught and traditional bloodlines, I live near Swinford in Co Mayo. In 1983, we bought a house and holding of land in Barnacogue, a few miles from the town and the following year, I got married to Mary T.

We have three children: Shane, Ian and Keara. For many years I worked in Dublin in construction with my late brother Eddie.

My first introduction into farming was breeding pedigree cattle and my first Irish Draught - a filly named Keara’s Delight, by Duleek Hero - was bought from my late father Hughie.

Later on, we bought a filly foal, bred by my brother Eddie. By the Dublin champion Irish Draught stallion Grosvenor Lad and out of Ginger Grace, this was the great show winning mare Lady In Red.

A few years later, after great success with Lady In Red, we bought a foal named Cogan’s Dawn Star and then the following year, bought her full-sister Ballyglass Flying Star.

Both mares were by Annaghdown Star out of Annie’s View, by Carrabawn View and both were bred by Brian Cogan in Kilmovee. It was easy to see as they matured that we would have some rewarding times with this pair of mares in both breeding and in the show ring.

1. Why did you start breeding Irish Draughts?

My father was a well-known stallion owner who stood Innisfree, Mountain View, Boherbue and numerous other Draught stallions. As a result of this, my passion for Irish Draughts was instilled in me from an early age to this day. There is also a great tradition and pride amongst their owners within this county for the Irish Draught breed.

2. Proudest moment as a breeder?

I’ve had a lot of proud moments as a breeder. I suppose one that stands out was breeding the Limerick Lady champion at last year’s Traditional Irish Horse Association (TIHA) Festival of Traditional Breeding: Barnaview Dancing Queen.

She is by our own thoroughbred stallion Singing’N’Dancing, bred by Jim Bolger, and out of our prolific show winning mare Barnaview Queen, by Clonakilty Hero.

Ian Murphy with the future Limerick Lady champion Barnaview Dancing Queen at Balmoral Show last May \ Susan Finnerty

3. Favourite broodmare, past or present?

Our favourite broodmare would have to be Cogan’s Dawn Star. She just gave us so many fantastic days, both in what she bred and results in the show ring. She’s our foundation mare for the Irish Draughts that we breed here.

4. What is your template of a good Irish Draught?

Quality and movement for me is vital, a Draught must be correct with nice clean bone. I like them to be at least 16.2hh with a good head and rein with a nice sloping shoulder. I think it’s very important when picking a foundation mare to know the back breeding.

5. What do you think are the greatest challenges facing Irish Draught/traditional breeders?

I feel the biggest challenge facing us Irish Draught and traditional breeders is the amount of time and ever-rising expense that goes into producing a foal and the lack of return at the end of the day.

6. Describe your winter regime for keeping mares/youngstock?

For the winter months, the horses are wormed and kept indoors. The mares receive ad-lib haylage until about a month before foaling, then we introduce hard feed e.g. oats.

Once they foal, the mares feed is changed to stud nuts to help feed their foal. They’re kept on stud nuts until they go out on grass and then will be adjusted accordingly to their needs.

Young horses are fed low protein feed during wintertime to give them time to develop. They’re assessed through the winter and of course their feed can be adjusted to suit their needs. The foals and yearlings are checked over by our master farrier Pat Ruane, to keep their limbs and feet correct and sound.

7. Breeding Irish Draughts - it sounds more like a labour than love than financially profitable. Would you do it all over again?

Yes, we would! There is nothing like the Irish Draught, they’re such a versatile animal with great temperaments. They can be crossed to the thoroughbred and produce a lovely sports horse. I can never see the time where there won’t be an Irish Draught horse here at home.

8. Best advice you ever got?

The best advice, which I got from my father, was “It’s the same cost to feed a good horse as a bad one”.

Hughie and Mary Murphy's winning foal in the Horse Sport Ireland championship at Louisburgh Show in 2018, pictured with Hughie and Ian Murphy and Kathleen Cunney, Horse Sport Ireland representative \ Susan Finnerty

9. It takes a team - who’s on yours?

Our team consists of my wife Mary T who looks after the paperwork and entries side of things and my son Ian, who helps to produce the horses for showing.

Ian is now carrying with breeding Irish Draught horses along with his wife Amy and hopefully this family tradition will pass on to their three children for future generations.

My daughter Keara and her husband Praful always make sure we are looking our best on show day.

10. Your favourite time of year?

That has to be when the mares are due to foal; the relief of a live, healthy foal, the excitement of whether it’s a filly or a colt and watching those foals mature over the coming months.