AS a young fellow, I worked with Irish Draughts, doing odd jobs around the farm like turning and raking hay. After I returned home from working in America, I continued working with horses along with my late brother Patrick and was involved in hunting Irish Draughts.

My daughters Hannah and Lily eventually came along and they also enjoyed hunting with Irish Draughts. We are located near Millstreet in North Cork, in Carrigaline, Rathmore. It was from here where my passion for these horses was found.

1. Congratulations on breeding Carraigstud Callum (Goldsmithcountry Oliver - Goldsmith Easter), another of this year’s Class 1 stallions at Cavan. Tell us about his background.

Callum’s sire is Goldsmithcountry Oliver, we owned him as a foal and got him passed as a Class 1 stallion in 2016. Callum’s dam is by Clonakilty Hero. Callum is the second stallion that we got passed out of these two great horses.

As a foal, Callum was strong and appeared to be a great prospect for show-ing. However, due to the pandemic, we were unable to show him and his first outing was this year’s inspection in Cavan where he passed as Class 1.

When I began my breeding journey, this small foal caught my eye and although people did not think much of him, I saw the potential. I brought Max to shows around the country and we began a winning streak along the way of red rosettes show jumping and also hunting.

In 2016, we went to the UK to the Irish Draught Horse Society (GB) inspections where he [Goldsmithcountry Oliver] passed as a Class 1 Stallion. It was a time of great pride for me.

2. Why do you breed Irish Draughts?

Irish Draughts are powerful and versatile animals. They range from show jumping to dressage to side-saddle and breeding. Their temperament makes it all the easier to work with them and an enjoyable undertaking.

3. Proudest moment as a breeder?

My proudest moment as a breeder was winning an All-Ireland with our colt foal Carraigstud Den, now competing in Scotland and going on to have our home-bred stallion Carraigstud Jack passed. He is now in Florida, show jumping and covering.

4. Best advice you ever got?

My father said, “Stick with Irish Draughts” and funnily enough that stuck with me!

5. Favourite broodmare, past or present?

One of our favourite broodmares is a Clonakilty Hero mare.

6. What is your template for an Irish Draught?

The first thing I look for is a Draught with straight limbs, nice, short cannons and good conformation. I prefer Irish Draughts that are light on the ground with a good stride. A lot of Draughts can have a common head, whereas I like them having a nice, sweet head. I like a clean limb and think it is important to have a good topline.

7. It takes a team - who is on yours?

It does take a team to breed good standard horses and thankfully I have great help. My own son Denis is a massive help to my success. I have also been so lucky to have a young neighbour of mine John O’Connor who has been with us for years. I must give credit to Marion Summers who is our groom and does a fantastic job and finally, Steph Fintan who never lets me down.

8. What do you think are the greatest challenges facing Irish Draughts breeders?

At the moment I think the biggest challenge facing Irish Draught breeders is the height of mares out there. We have this problem ourselves, with some of our mares reaching 16.3hh. Luckily enough they are able to carry themselves well.

Another major issue would be prices. Some of our best Draughts are going out foreign as breeders are getting better money for these horses. Although this results in some of the best stock leaving the country, it also maintains Irish Draught breeders in Ireland, so this issue is a double-edged sword.

9. Describe your regime for keeping stallions/mares/youngstock?

Probably two mares of ours do not do well inside and prefer to be outside all year round. The youngstock are brought in the start of November. We like to have our mares foal outside, of course this depends on the weather. We feed them with high quality hard feed, haylage and hay.

The stallion’s regime can be a little bit more complicated than that. I like to leave the stallions outside by day as they have to be in during the covering season during the summer. I also like to have them competing in show jumping, it’s good for the stallions wellbeing and it’s also a good way to get their name out there!

The stallion’s diet consists of high-quality hard feed, haylage and hay. Rising costs of feeding have resulted in our covering prices being raised as it is vital our stallions’ diets are kept to the highest standard.

The farrier’s role is very important. We have very frequent farrier visits, especially for our youngstock and this ensures that their limbs are kept straight and healthy.

10. What are your hopes for the future?

During the Celtic Tiger economic crash from 2008 onwards, there was a decline in breeders. It is great to see that there is an upscale in the Irish Draught industry.

Irish breeders take great pride in the horses they breed and I hope this standard is maintained going forward.

All Right Den: Denis O'Brien with his 2019 All Ireland Irish Draught colt foal champion Carraigstud Den at Ballinasloe \ Emma Finnerty