ORIGINALLY from Naas, Co Kildare, I’m now based in Tullogher in south Kilkenny and spend my days surrounded by horses, working with my husband, Declan.

We breed mostly thoroughbreds for flat racing and a small number for National Hunt too. The show jumpers are my hobby.

My passion for horses was instilled in me by my mother, Rita, who took me for my first lesson at the age of three. I was always pony-mad as a child, but didn’t get a horse until I was 13.

Although never competitive myself, my sister, Aoife, had 138cm and 148cm ponies and I used to love helping her, schooling the ponies on the flat and going to shows.

I get a real satisfaction from working with the young horses and watching them grow and develop, mentally and physically. I like to do all the groundwork, lunging and driving with them myself, as I give them plenty of time. I believe this gives them the best foundation when it comes to being ridden.

1. A great start to 2024 with Tullogher Lady Liberty’s recent win with Janika Sprunger. Tell us more about the mare.

Tullogher Lady Liberty, or Ella to those who know her, is now a nine-year-old. An exceptional model of a mare, standing at over 17hh, she’s by Indoctro out of Dalivia VDL (Indorado).

Her dam, Dalivia VDL, was purchased back in 2012, while on a trip to the Netherlands under the guidance of Andrew Hughes, whom I met while participating in the Young Breeders training and competitions.

Ella’s outstanding conformation, along with her super temperament, add to her rideability.

She’s earned a spot as a firm yard favourite with both her riders and grooms wherever she goes. Ella was produced firstly with Paddy O’Donnell from four to six years of age and he did so, slowly and sympathetically, given her size.

The mileage was always kept low with her and Paddy qualified her for the four-year-old and six-year-old classes at the RDS on the first time of asking.

There was no Dublin Horse Show in her five-year-old year, due to Covid and the unique format of the six-year-old class saw her jump in the main arena, where she came to a lot of people’s attention when jumping the first clear round of the class. Paddy went on to compete her at Lanaken that year also.

Ger O’Neill, of Castlefield Sport Horses, then produced her for her seven and eight-year-old career; the highlight of which was winning the seven and eight-year-old international class in the main arena on Friday, as well as placing in Wednesday’s opening round in Simmonscourt.

The plan has always been to retain Ella for as long as possible to give her the chance to fulfil her potential, hopefully in the top sport. So, when the opportunity arose to continue her career at CYOR Stables, home of Janika Sprunger and her husband, the world number one show jumping rider Henrik von Eckermann, we were undoubtedly over the moon.

Janika is a prolific producer of young horses, bringing them on to the next level in the sport. She has a lot of faith in Ella’s abilities, having won a two-star 1.40m only two weeks after arriving at her stable back in September 2023.

Now stepping up to jump the two-star LR 1.45m classes, it was great to win the class on Friday night at Kronenberg and to follow it up with a fourth place finish in the Grand Prix on Sunday.

Team Liberty: New mum Ciara with her own mother Rita, husband Declan, Ger O’Neill and Tullogher Lady Liberty at Dublin where the mare has excelled \ Susan Finnerty

2. There is also a Tullogher House Stud connection to Maja’s Hope (Porter Rhodes - Brown Sue, by Flagmount King. Breeder: Jack Murphy), one of the top ISH five-star eventers last year?

Tullogher House Stud has been predominantly a thoroughbred breeding operation although Denis, Declan’s father, traded in hunters and leisure horses, as well as standing sport horse stallions, most notably Flagmount King.

As part of the recent sport horse revival here, we have decided to make frozen semen from Flagmount King available again. We expect next month the first foal in 20 years to be born by him out of a point-to-point-winning mare.

3. With a mixture of thoroughbreds and sport horses, what’s your aim as a breeder?

To dream big and breed horses that can compete and win across all the different disciplines on the world stage: Ascot, Aintree, Aachen!

4. How many mares do you currently have?

We have a small number of sport horse mares breeding, as it’s my hobby and I have to focus on quality over quantity.

  • Biscaya D’Eversem (1.60m. Sheyenne de Baugy), competed by Joan Greene. This year, we expect foals by Diamant de Semilly, Chacco-Blue and Cornet Oblensky.
  • Chesterfield (1.60m. Landino), competed by Abdullah Al-Sharbatly. This mare won 27 1.50m classes and expecting foals by Cumano and Comme Il Faut.
  • Elandra (1.60m. Coconut Grove). A half-sister to the stallion Baltic VDL and G&C Don Vito (1.60m). Expecting foals by Chacco-Blue and Emerald.
  • Our most recent acquisition is Kyra van de Bischopp (Nabab de Reve). Her first foal is Nika van de Bischopp, ridden by Frank Stuttard to jump clear in the Global Champions Tour in 2023 as a 10-year-old. We have embryos now to implant for 2025 by Chacco-Blue, Emerald and Cardento.
  • Tullogher Lady Liberty, of course. We have retained a Cornet Oblensky two-year-old filly, a Tyson yearling colt and have a frozen embryo by Tyson also.
  • 5. Describe your regime for keeping mares/youngstock?

    We aim to keep all the stock out for as long as the weather permits. Then all the mares are individually stabled and the youngstock are housed in loose sheds. They are fed exclusively on Gain Stud Cubes.

    6. Tullogher is your prefix, what are your views on prefixes?

    Prefixes are part of your brand, make your horses easily identifiable and, in my opinion, should not be allowed to be dropped.

    7. Your go-to websites?

    Hippomundo and ClipMyHorse TV.

    8. If you could have bred any horse?

    I will have to say a modern horse and the current jumping sensation, United Touch S - although I wouldn’t be brave enough to breed from such close lines!

    9. It takes a team - who’s on yours?

    My team is small and a family affair. My husband, Declan, is a huge support to me in achieving my dreams of breeding and owning show jumping horses.

    My mother, Rita, and father-in-law, Denis, are of constant help. We welcomed the newest member of our team, a little baby boy, Edward, almost two months ago now.

    10. What’s your favourite non-horse-related pastime?

    I enjoy playing chess and also people-watching, while drinking a cappuccino in a café, when I get a chance.