I HAVE a small farm in south Donegal. I keep some Angus cattle and I also keep three to four Irish Draught mares. I bought my first pony as a foal when I was 10 years of age and from then on, kept ponies for a number of years.

I always had a passion for Irish Draughts from the time when I worked with my uncle Michael Tracey who had an Irish Draught mare he used for carting, mowing and drawing in cocks of hay.

Marie and I bought our first Irish Draught mare, Red Beacon, from a lady in Bandon in Co Cork. We then went on to purchase two fillies in Mayo the following year. These two fillies were very lucky for us and went on to breed several champion foals.

The majority of our foals have been sold within Ireland but we’ve had some sold to the UK. They are now competing in various disciplines such as dressage, showjumping, side-saddle and hunting. We try our best to keep track of the foals and where they go, making many good friends by doing so.

1.Congratulations on breeding Edenagor Star (Dunsandle Diamond - Edenagor Rosie), one of this year’s Class 1 stallions at Cavan. Tell us about his background.

Edenagor Star is out of Edenagor Rosie, by Carrickrock Close Shave. We bought her as a three-year-old in Galway in 2018 and the following year, we put her in foal to Dunsandle Diamond as we felt this stallion would be an excellent cross for the mare.

We went on to show her in the young mare class at the Dublin Horse Show in 2019 where she was placed second. She had a lovely colt foal the following year which I sold to Grace Maxwell-Murphy. Grace and her husband William have done a fantastic job in producing Edenagor Star and having him passed as a Class 1 stallion.

2. Why do you breed Irish Draughts?

As I mentioned earlier, my uncle kept an Irish Draught mare for working the farm which led me to have a great passion for the native Irish breed. Myself and Marie bought our first mare in the early 2000s while on holiday in the South and we have been breeding and producing Irish Draughts since. We look forward to our new arrivals every spring and the showing season ahead.

3. Proudest moment as a breeder?

There have been several great moments. We bred two champion Irish Draught foals at Dublin Horse Show down through the years; Edenagor Woodie in 2007 and Edenagor Ted in 2009. Edenagor Ted went on to also win the All Ireland Irish Draught colt foal championship in Ballinasloe that same year.

We also bred Edenagor Kate who won the All Ireland foal championship in 2014 and to date we hold the record of the highest-priced Irish Draught foal sold at Cavan Equestrian Centre.

4. Best advice you ever got?

When picking a stallion for your mare, it’s important to see him in the flesh before making the final decision. All aspects of the stallion need to be taken into consideration to be compatible with the mare and to produce a top-quality foal. This piece of advice has stood to me well over the years.

5. Favourite broodmare, past or present?

Maries’s Dancer, our 21-year-old Gold Merit broodmare or Dancer, as she is known as at home. She has bred numerous champion foals and was one of the original two-year-old fillies that we bought in Mayo in 2004 along with Edenagor Lady, who unfortunately we lost some years later.

Marie’s Dancer is by Crosstown Dancer out of Dowdstown Princess. She has foaled again this year, a colt foal by King Elvis I. This is her 16th foal. She is the matriarch of the herd and is part of the family here in Edenagor.

6. What is your template for a Draught?

A short cannon bone, not too tall, a good topline, good bone, good ear and a nice head. These are the traits we look for and try to breed.

7. It takes a team – who is on yours?

We have a great team with years of experience. Our daughters Fiona and Brídín, their husbands Eddie and Thomas Óg, and our grandchildren Tadhg, Ted, Mary Kate and John. We all work together to get the mares and foals show ready every year with the highlight of the year being the Dublin Horse Show in August. We’ve had some great days out.

8. What do you think are the greatest challenges facing Irish Draught breeders?

For us the greatest challenge is trying to pick the right stallion for your mare which will breed a foal that is true to type.

9. Describe your regime for keeping stallions/mares/youngstock.

We generally only keep broodmares as we sell our youngstock on in the autumn/winter. In the winter season the mares are rugged, generally turned out during the day and are stabled at night. We feed them haylage and hard feed. During the spring and summer months, they are turned out to fresh grass.

10. Do you feel there could be more done to encourage people into breeding the Irish Draught Horse in this country?

Yes, currently the Department of Agriculture offers a minimum subsidy payment through the ACRES Scheme if you have a rare breed such as an Irish Draught mare which breeds an Irish Draught foal in a year. Although this is very welcome, I feel if the incentive was better it may encourage more interest in the breed.

Jim McNulty (left) with Edenagor Kate, the 2014 All Ireland Irish Draught filly foal champion at Ballinasloe. Also pictured is ISA then-president Jim Harrison and Paddy McCarthy, HSI \ Susan Finnerty