MAKING the buying of Irish horses easier for the international market can only be a good thing for all involved. Reducing the amount of time, expense and risk can make the prospect of shopping for horses here much more attractive.

After two decades spent producing, competing, buying and selling, Laois-based couple Daisy and Richard Trayford have launched a service which allows buyers from all over the world to avail of their expertise.

They spoke to Róisín Sheridan this week and explained how it works. “We think the majority of the profit made on the sale of a horse should go back to the producer and even the breeder, and not be spent on agents, trainers and vets, which unfortunately, is often the case these days.

“Buying horses online is getting more and more popular. People are getting more confident about buying that way. Everywhere you look, from DoneDeal to horse specific websites, every type of horse is on offer. I spoke to Michael (O’Donoghue) in Goresbridge recently and he told me that a huge percentage of their sales are online now.

“We’ve created a really, quite simple, service. What we offer is feet on the ground essentially. I’ll give you an example, the past three calls we have received one was from America, one from Dubai and third was from Scotland with people saying ‘I’ve seen this horse online and I’d like you to go and see it’.

“Daisy and I will go. We take video at the trot up to show its conformation and size. Then we take extensive video of the horse being ridden by the person selling it, as well as by me or Daisy.

“Then we have a clipboard with about 10 categories based on what the client is looking for, we fill out a report for them. We send on the report and then they can decide whether or not they wish to go further and get the horse vetted or come and try it themselves.

“We have no skin in the game. We charge a fee for this service and it is not dependent on whether the sale happens or not, end of, we don’t steer them any which way. Obviously we love it to work out, but we have nothing to gain either way.

“Sometimes we have just narrowed down the field for them and they come over and try the final short list, but it is becoming more and more the case that they will just move straight on to the vetting, which is really exciting for us.

Daisy Trayford with two of her young prospects for the 2024 Eventing Ireland season. The Bay is by Tyson and the grey is by Eldorado Van De Zeshoek

Pink-haired lady

“We’ve been married for over 15 years, but have been working together for over 20. We met out hunting. I was with my friend, Jamie, who was visiting from the States.

“This pink-haired lady flew past us on this bucking cob-cross and, I think, Jamie commented that that was probably my perfect partner.

“When we started, we produced horses on Exmoor where we lived. Daisy was competing pretty much full-time up to international level. She was devoted to bringing youngsters up through the levels and was competing at the Blenheims, Bramham, Blairs and all of that.

“We were both hunting alongside that, so it was a natural progression really. Just about half the horses we sold went hunting, and the other half went eventing.

“I do want to point out that Daisy is the star of the show really. Through our dealings with horses, we have met a huge amount of really different and interesting people.

“Somewhere along the line, Madonna contacted us and bought a couple of horses. She became a patron of Daisy’s, and Daisy coached her for about six years.”

Daisy explains: “She was really interested in the bond between rider and horse and how the relationship developed. She loved to have lessons and always wanted to do better than she did the last time.

“It wouldn’t have been possible for her to compete really, but she loved learning and improving. She was very competitive with herself.

“She lived in Wiltshire when she was married to Guy Richie; they lived on a 2,000-acre estate. She bought some nice Irish horses from us and brought them on herself, which was pretty cool. She is nothing like her public image. She is quite shy, and timid, but witty. She was a bit of fun really.

Richard and Daisy Trayford hunting with The Laois Foxhounds with two Irish Sport Horses

Move to America

“About 10 years ago, our friend, the Australian event rider, Clayton Fredericks, was based in the States. He called us one day from Ocala and said you’ve got to come out and check this place out.

“I’d never heard of it, but we decided to head out there, and we really loved it. We jokingly said maybe we should move here; and eventually that is exactly what we did.

“There was a deficit of eventing competitions, so I took over that aspect of it and created two new venues, a circuit rather like we have here.

“In England and Ireland, we have an embarrassment of riches with regard to eventing, but in America, you have to drive for hours and hours.

“It became incredibly popular. I remember one day we had entries of up to 1,200 in one class and I saw a horse lorry with number plates from Alaska; that’s how far they were coming from.

“We did five years with the events in Ocala and then bought a farm in New York state and stayed there for a further five years before deciding to come back to Europe.

“We figured out that Ireland offered the best of all worlds. We are close to our now ageing family and are loving being in Ireland, which is paradise as far as we are concerned.

“Having spent all this time hunting and eventing in the UK and the USA, we have not only developed a very large client base and many, many contacts, we have also been able to build up a great feel for the type of horses different clients are looking for. The subtle nuances of what Americans are looking for in event horses and what the Brits like to have.

“Britain is much more of a finishing school; they will take on a greener horse whereas Americans like to buy, not build, something a little more developed.

“We took all we had learned from our years in the business and discovered what we think is a great way for people to buy horses.

Our passion, and I have no problem admitting this, is a bias towards the Irish Sport Horse. My favourite hunter is a traditional TB/Irish Draught cross. We believe that there are a lot of great Irish horses to choose from and want to help people find the right one for them.”

Very fortunate

“We have about six in work in our own yard here at Baunoge Meely in Timahoe, which Daisy is producing up through the ranks in eventing, and I have my hunters, but we try to keep a firewall between the two things; the service we offer as ‘The Trayfords’ and producing our own horses.

“We are very fortunate, with the horses we have, I often think of the great Irish saying ‘everyone wants the horse that will sell itself’ and I think that’s what we have here, so we never feel under too much pressure to try to sell our own.

“We chose this location because it is so central to everywhere. If we have to travel to see horses all over the country, we want to try and keep the distance reasonable.

“We know reputation is everything in the business, and Daisy is brutally honest, which works well for clients, but for the most part, I see the service we provide as one which is helping the sellers; they get numerous questions about a horse, which they have to take time to reply to.

“We accelerate the process; we qualify our buyers. They are paying us, it’s not very much, but they are not time wasters and they are driven to make a decision. They know that after we’ve seen and reported on a horse, if the person then comes to see it, there’s a very good chance they are going to get an offer on it.

“We’ve been selling horses for 20 years, and we know what it is to be frustrated by time wasters, so if we can cut that out, and maybe streamline the process for everyone, then we will have done our job.”