MY father always had horses growing up, so the love and interest began there for me, I’ve been breeding horses over 30 years. Sligo Candy Boy was the first stallion I stood here in Enniscrone and now his son Sligo Cavalier Candy. The best horses bred to date would be Sligo Hard Times who jumped international at 1.60m and Sligo Balou Boy who competed internationally,
1. Congratulations, you’re the owner of Sligo Cavalier Candy (Sligo Candy Boy - HHS Miss Cavalier, by Cavalier Royale. Breeder: Mary & Eileen Murphy) that passed Stage 1 at this year’s HSI inspections. By your own home-bred stallion, that must have been a proud moment?
Yes, I was delighted to get him passed and being by Sligo Candy Boy, it was extra-special. I’m looking forward to breeding a lot of very interesting horses and for him to follow in his father’s footsteps.
2. Sligo Candy Boy (Balou du Rouet - Sligo Candy Girl, by Conley), he’s been one of the biggest success stories from the HSI inspections at Cavan. Tell us more about him?
My son Ciaran bought the mother Sligo Candy Girl unbroken in Germany. In her first year jumping, she won the Cavan Classic five-year-old final, the five-year-old championship at Millstreet and the Ballina 5000 Star Of The Future class against six and seven-year-olds.
Vincent rode her up to Grade A, had lots of success and she went on to win Grand Prix classes. Then, unfortunately, she had an injury coming home from a show, after winning the Grand Prix, when the lorry partition opened. I was devastated.
I looked through Paul Schockemöhle’s stallions and had seen a young horse called Balou De Rouet, I loved his type and pedigree and thought he would suit Candy Girl. She went in foal to Balou de Rouet and Sligo Candy Boy was her first foal. He looked special from when he was foaled.
I had eight more colts with good pedigrees but Sligo Candy Boy was my top pick to keep for a stallion. I covered two mares with him when he was one year and 10 months old, the same week I brought him to Philip McManus in Galway.
Philip tested him for fertility and said he had very good semen. He liked him very much and advised me I should be collecting off this horse, rather than natural covering and that this way, I could mind the horse better.
I told Philip I did not know how to collect but I knew how to AI mares. Philip said: “If you wait with me for one hour, I’ll soon show you how to do it.” Philip gave me everything I needed for collecting off the stallion. I wrote down what he told me and collected from Candy Boy the next morning. I AI’d two mares the next day and the two mares went in foal.
Anytime I had any doubts on anything, I rang Philip. So I have to say thanks to Philip for getting me started.
I was very excited the day Sligo Candy Boy got approved in Cavan and felt he was going to make a very special stallion. I brought him back for Stage 2 as a four-year-old and got approved also.
3. It’s a long road in producing a stallion and seeing their progeny climb the ranks.
Candy Boy has a world of young horses jumping international at the moment and also has four-star eventers. He has progeny jumping up to 1.60m with Cooley Gangster in Australia and horses jumping and winning at 1.50m and 1.55m international level, for example MGH Candy Girl (Matt Sampson) and Candy Rose (Filippo Bassan).
You can see it very young in his progeny and you must believe in what you see. There is no point in pushing a stallion, he must talk for himself.
Pictured in February 2012, Sligo Candy Boy at Cavan Equestrian Centre for the Horse Sport Ireland stallion inspections \ Peter Mooney
4. A proud Sligo man, you’ve often used the county name as your prefix. Your views on prefixes?
If the prefix owner is happy with a name change, then I don’t see any problem with it.
5. How many foals due this year?
I have 17 foals due this year.
6. Describe your regime for keeping mares/youngstock?
We keep all the young horses in for the winter in loose sheds. I try to keep the mares outdoors for the winter and to foal them out if the weather is good enough.
They are handled as foals and then we never have any problems with them, we usually start to break/produce them at three-years-old.
7. You’ve won the Euromillions Jackpot and could buy any stallion in the world. If so, which one?
I’m very happy with my own two stallions Sligo Candy Boy and Sligo Cavalier Candy. As I got the free bus pass last week, I think I might have enough with these two!
8. It takes a team - who is on yours?
It really is a family affair. We’ve lost two very important team members only last year: my son Stephen and our lifelong friend John McGuinness, who were very much involved in the breeding and yard in general. They are missed terribly.
We have the whole family involved in the yard, which is very special to have. Everyone chips in and it’s especially great to see the grandchildren coming up and competing in ponies.
9. Best advice you ever got?
Joe Sweeney told me one time, “You’re better to be sorry for selling than sorry for not selling”.. so always know when to sell.
10. Is the RDS a good shop window for young horses?
I think the RDS is very special to us. Sligo Candy Boy has numerous wins and placings every year from his first stock of three-year-olds and all those who went on to jump and event to high levels. I look forward to Dublin from year to year.