WE’RE based near the Old Head of Kinsale in County Cork on a dry stock farm. Horses have gone back generations on my dad Philip’s side of the family, primarily breeding and producing young show and event horses.

Cork has a great tradition of thoroughbred stallions and my great-grandfather, Bud McCarthy, stood and showed thoroughbreds, such as Pampas Hero and Keepatwoatwo in the 1950s, both placed in the Croker Cup at Dublin Horse Show.

Like many Irish breeders and farms, those same bloodlines are still in some of the horses we have today.

For example, dad’s showing career started with his first broodmare Millthorpe Lady (Sibthorpe x Pampas Hero). Her winning offspring include her first foal Step in the Dark (Smooth Stepper); he won the All-Ireland colt foal championship. Her second foal was Moonlight Serenade (Torenaga) and he won the Pembroke Cup for the exhibitor-bred champion at Dublin in 1992. Both of these horses were sold to America.

Fort Arthur Going For Gold (Clouseau x Hallodri) was my first event mare and her damlines also went back to dad’s foundation mare, Millthorpe Lady. Fort Arthur Going For Gold evented up to four-star level and represented Ireland in the European young riders’ championships.

Hunting is a huge part of our lives and has influenced what type of horses we breed and produce. Hounds have been kennelled here in Fort Arthur for 28 years. Dad has hunted since he was a boy and became huntsman in 1996. My mum, Avril, always brought my sisters, Grace and Adrienne, and me to the hunts from a young age.

We started hunting on ponies from when we were around 10 years of age, when we were old enough to mind ourselves! Our ponies were cheap and cheerful, which we had to produce ourselves, with hunting being the main aim for them. As we progressed through Pony Club, our hunting ponies then had to become eventing and show ponies. Dad started breeding his hunting broodmares to more performance sires, so my sisters and I had competition horses.

Dad and I do a lot of judging throughout the year, we make a good team. I’m primarily a ridden judge for show hunters, working hunters and ridden classes. This past season, I judged the All-Ireland Racehorse to Riding Horse final, which was held in Tullow Show. I also enjoy judging young horse classes, such as the All-Ireland three-year-old filly final at Dungarvan Show in 2022.

Dad pretty much judges everything! He also judged the Irish Draught classes at Dublin Horse Show in 2006 and 2009.

1. What is your breeding goal?

The goal is to breed good, quality horses that will find a pathway in life and will hopefully go far in their line of work.

2. Proudest moment as a breeder?

There have been many great moments as a breeder. From breeding top show horses that have won All-Irelands and the Pembroke Cup to four-star event horses, like Fort Arthur Going for Gold, whose home-bred bloodlines went back several generations.

Philip’s proudest moment of all is when we, as a family, turn up each week during the hunting season with a full lorry of well turned-out and produced young horses, often home-breds, and hounds to keep the hunting tradition alive. And may the hounds we follow always be in full cry.

3. How many mares do you currently have?

We currently have six broodmares, mostly traditional bloodlines and a couple have continental breeding. All the mares were well used during their ridden careers, so we have a better idea of what sires to use.

Fort Arthur Heart Of Gold is an own sister to Fort Arthur Going for Gold, Fort Arthur Queen Bee is another mare that evented up to three-star level. Her first foal Fort Arthur Prince won numerous small hunter classes and is now competing successfully in England.

Concentration: Philip Copithorne and Michael Hickey judging at Galway County Show in 2012 / Susan Finnerty

4. Describe your regime for keeping broodmares/youngstock?

We’re very lucky we have good, dry land, so all the broodmares and young horses can live out all year round. During the winter, the horses get haylage and the mares also get grain. The foals are all well-handled as foals by Adrienne and are then broken in as three/four-year-olds.

5. What do you think are the greatest challenges facing sport horse breeders in 2024?

We find a massive challenge facing breeders and producers these days is the cost of producing a young horse to an age, with enough mileage, to sell on. It’s getting very expensive and getting difficult to justify these costs.

The standard of horse being produced is sometimes too good for the standard and ability of leisure riders nowadays. Also, breeding a horse that will pass the numerous vettings and ALL x-rays now required for the international market is another challenge.

6. Prefixes - your views?

Our prefix is Fort Arthur, which we use as it’s the name of our farm. We wouldn’t change a horse’s prefix, as it gives a good indication of where the horse started off.

7. Which famous horse would you like to have bred?

We would have loved to have bred a horse of the same calibre as Supreme Rock or Bay My Hero. Both horses are traditionally-bred and stayed sound to keep winning at top-level eventing.

8. Best advice you ever got?

Breed a horse that would be good enough and sound in wind and limb to be a hunter and anything after that is a bonus. Also, all young fillies should be broken and tried, so you have a good take on their temperament and ability.

9. It takes a team, who’s on yours?

Luckily, the whole family is involved, so we all get stuck in during different parts of the process!

10. Which sires would you like to see reborn?

Carnival Night, a thoroughbred stallion that bred real quality horses. Also, Clover Hill, a stallion that is greatly missed, as he bred a lot of honest horses that could perform.