HAVING initially started in Ballylinch Stud as an 18-year-old student on work placement, I have worked my way up to become assistant broodmare manager at the farm. At the age of 25, I am proud to be playing a prominent role with one of the leading stud farms in worldwide racing at the present time.
I started horse riding when I was nine years old in a local equestrian centre. I later went on to compete in some small show jumping competitions and pony camps.
Horses were definitely in my blood from distant relatives; my great uncle Eddie Moran, who is in his 80s, is a keen huntsman in Cork. He still rides his reliable ‘grey mare’ every season.
My parents and siblings are not into horses but my dad always cared for the horses I had at home when I was in college.
When I was 12 years old, we moved from Portlaoise to a country house in Ballyfin. I was always a huge animal lover and wanted a kitten so my dad and I went to the house of a woman who rescued cats. She also had a few horses and it wasn’t long before I spotted them in the field.
By the time we left the house I had three kittens in my arms and my first two horses on loan arriving the following week! A former racehorse called Penny and a companion in her 30s called Judy. I had the two girls for a couple of years, I would ride Penny in the field behind my house, happy out that I had my own horses to look after. I even got my dad on her one day, the first and last horse he was ever on!
I had a couple of more horses after the two girls went back to their home. An Arabian stallion called Comanche and a sport horse mare called Cherokee. I also started western riding in a ranch outside Timahoe in Laois called Fossey Mountain Springs.
I competed in barrel racing competitions held on the ranch and was out on the trails as much as I could during secondary school.
There was never any doubt to myself or my parents that working with horses was where I was heading after school.
I started Kildalton College in 2008 when I was 17. I completed the two-year stud management course. In my second year we were required to complete a nine-month work experience on a stud farm.
I was sent to Ballylinch Stud in Kilkenny. During my time here I learned a huge amount about the daily running of a successful stud farm.
I was kept on as summer staff and by September, I found myself applying for a year-long contract in Tralee to study for my BHS exams. I completed up to my stage 3 by the end of the year.
I also worked in a hunting\ competition yard in Cork for the winter of 2011 where I hunted, clipped, exercised livery horses and assisted in the on-site equine dentistry.
By the end of 2011 I was missing the foals and I was drawn back to stud life. I remember ringing the current broodmare manager in Ballylinch in December of that year and asked him if he would have me back. He told me that there was a foaling night watch job for me and I started back in Ballylinch a couple of weeks later as a full-time staff member.
I completed the season as one of the foaling attendants, with approximately 70 foals born that year. I went onto days once the last foal was born and have been a day staff member ever since.
In 2016 I was promoted to my current role as the assistant broodmare/foaling unit manager. In this role I am responsible for the daily care of all mares and foals born onto the stud. This season we foaled down approximately 140 foals, our busiest season to date.
I am also one of the people responsible for the running of our on-site laboratory which includes running three blood machines, cervical swabs of all mares pre and post covering and worm counts of all horses on the farm.
It’s great to have a lab on site especially when we are an hour or so away from the nearest hospital, we can have blood results in as little as five minutes. At the minute we are finishing up with weaning and are currently prepping mares for the upcoming sales.
A typical day during the season for me would be checking all mares and foals individually for any problems, checking pregnant mares, administering and making up oral treatments, assisting the vet and farrier when needed, pulling and running bloods, preparing and assisting mares for covering, foaling, post-natal care of all foals.
The veterinary side of things has always interested me and there is never a shortage of people when it comes to helping out with a sick horse. The team on the yard is second to none when it comes to emergencies and everyone is willing to do whatever it takes to help.
Whether it’s coming onto the yard during the night for a hard foaling or giving fluids to a sick foal. Everyone is in it together and there is never any complaining even when there is a long busy day ahead!
It’s great to be a small part of success stories. One would be watching Aunt Pearl, who was born and bred in Ballylinch, go on to win at the Breeders’ Cup. You can’t help feeling proud to work in one of the most successful stud farms in Europe.
I was nominated for the Goldolphin Horse Care award by a friend and former colleague, Ethan Blackmore.
I was absolutely delighted to be nominated but did not think it would come to anything more despite Ethan trying to convince me otherwise! So, I was in bit of shock when Steph (Kennedy) called me into the office to tell me I had been shortlisted to the final three!
It’s another great personal achievement of mine to have gotten so far and I am very grateful to everyone who supported me along the way.
The care of the horses always comes first and they are given every possible chance to reach their full potential here.
Ballylinch is a great place to learn and improve your skills and work with some incredibly successful horses, such as the great Lope De Vega.
I came in as a student who knew next to nothing about stud work and am now assistant manager in a hugely successful farm.
I would like to thank managing director John O’ Connor, general manager Adrian Sherry, broodmare manager Nevelin Neykov and the amazing team and horses who I work alongside every day.
Jennifer Breslin was in conversation with John O’Riordan