I’VE grown up with horses all my life on our family farm in Co Clare where my parents, Tom and Margaret Frost, bred mainly show jumpers and I’d do the show circuit during my summer holidays. When Des and I got married, I moved to Wexford in 1993. We started our sport horse breeding programme five years later when we took over the family’s Ballykelly Farm, the only blackcurrant farm in Ireland.
My career in international marketing led me to founding Good Food Ireland, the trustmark for premium local food and drink experiences of the island of Ireland.
1. Proudest moment(s) as a breeder?
Oh, there have been so many proud moments but the one that stays in my mind is, when after winning as a two-year-old at Dublin, Ballykelly Eva (O.B.O.S Quality) returned there the next year to win the filly championship, the All Ireland final and the championship at every show she competed at that year. As an orphan, her journey was like a Disney story.
2. Tell us about the Ballykelly mare herd.
My parents gifted us a well-bred Traditional Irish Horse (TIH) mare to start us off. We then bought two more TIH mares that were in my father’s yard: Corrib Eva (Salluceva) and Debbies Clover (Farney Clover) from Tom Casey.
These were our three foundation mares, they had lots of blood and went back to some great old Irish bloodlines like Clover Hill, King of Diamonds, Flagmount Boy and thoroughbreds Sky Boy, Blue Lanza and Triggerero.
In 2015 we purchased our first mare with continental bloodlines, Ballykelly Notalot (Lancelot), from our good friends Rebecca and Ray Monahan O’Halloran. And later another from Co Clare; Ballykelly Donail Belle (Shannondale Sarco) from Sean Cunningham, out of a half-sister to our foundation mare Debbies Clover and a full-sister to CCI5* eventer Woodstock Bennett (AUST).
All Ballykelly Sport Horses come from these mares and we are now breeding from the third generation.
3. 2022 foals?
We have four in foal for this year, including two maidens which we are very excited about: Ballykelly Eva, our Dublin champion filly, is in foal to Greg Broderick’s Rock ‘n Roll Ter Putte and Ballykelly Donail Belle in foal to Kieran Kennedy’s Conticco. Ballykelly Notalot is in foal to Diarado and Ballykelly Debbies Belle to Tyson.
4. Favourite broodmare, past or present?
Our three foundation mares gave us so much joy winning multiple All Irelands, Dublin and show championships around the country. But I suppose today, it’s an equal split between Ballykelly Eva and Ballykelly Notalot.
Eva, twice Dublin and All-Ireland champion, was an orphan and the last of the line from Corrib Eva. She has immense athleticism and we’re very excited to see how she’ll cross with Rock ‘n Roll.
Ballykelly Notalot was Dublin supreme champion, All Ireland champion and Stepping Stones champion. Well, what can I say only that she’s a legend and has now proven her greater worth in her upcoming progeny.
Dublin supreme champion, Laidlaw Cup winner Ballykelly Notalot and Rebecca Monahan \ ES Photography
5. Favourite stallion/mare lines?
We have six TIH mares and fillies; two by Gortfree Hero, possibly our favourite ID stallion. We also have some lovely progeny by the thoroughbred Road To Happiness.
Diamant de Semilly is, without a doubt, our favourite foreign stallion. He brings such a great mind, strength and incredible character. Introducing Chacco-Blue and Numero Uno lines next year will be very interesting to see how they will cross with our mares.
6. From Good Food Ireland to selling youngstock, marketing is important for you. How have you adapted your marketing strategy in 2021 and any advice on how to best market horses?
In any game marketing is very important. Your brand is what you build and this is not just a logo. People are brands and I suppose the key component of any brand is trust. We’re very small breeders and have always aimed to breed the best quality performance horses we possibly can.
Thankfully, over the years, we have built up some very loyal owners who repeatedly buy Ballykelly Horses and year on year, we are garnering new interest in our home-breds.
Digital marketing is integral to what we do. Showing has always been our shop window, it highlights good quality horses with correct conformation.
With no shows this year or last, we decided to hold on to Ballykelly Notalot’s first foal, the four-year-old Ballykelly Mistral de Diamant.
He was produced by MK Sport Horses’ Ciaran Moran and competed this year in the RDS national show jumping championships. Since then, he was purchased by a US client and will be produced on the continent by Cameron Hanley.
7. How and why have you changed your breeding policy over the years?
In today’s professional world, intense planning in any breeding programme is vitally important. Over the years we’ve introduced new bloodlines to produce modern horses for today’s disciplines. Retaining traditionally bred animals is also a key component of our strategy as we have many clients looking for TIH horses to compete at professional level.
We believe that with good mares crossed with good stallions there’s always a solid commercial market. We don’t specifically make a decision to go all warmblood or thoroughbred, it completely depends on each individual mare and producing the best foal for the respective discipline.
8. Plans for 2022?
The main focus at the moment is keeping mares well and safe for spring foaling, from February onwards. Dublin Horse Show is always on the cards for multiple disciplines, from broodmares to young horses. We hope very much the ISA shows will return in 2022 and we get to meet up with everyone again.
9. Best advice you got?
Always do your best and celebrate every achievement because with breeding there’s always up and downs. It’s the good times that keep you going.
10. How do you juggle Good Food Ireland, the blackcurrants business and the horses?
Like any good relationship, lots of compromise!