EVERY year when bookings open on the ITM website for the Stallion Trail, Coolmore Stud is among the first to fill up.
There is huge interest among the public – and those involved in the business – in getting inside the gates of one of the world’s most famous and successful stallion farms.
Demand is so great that specific time slots are allocated to those fortunate enough to get on the Coolmore guest list. In normal years, there could be 2,000 visitors accommodated over the two days at the Fethard headquarters and, at any one time, there could be up to a dozen groups being shown around the property by sales team members.
Numbers will be a lot lower next weekend as the Stallion Trail is restricted to industry personnel only. Nevertheless, the Coolmore team is putting in just as much effort – if not more - into preparing to open its doors and allow visitors to see the stallions in a safe manner.
Wendy Normile is head of Client Relations for Coolmore and is coordinating the Stallion Trail arrangements for the farm. “We’ve been involved since the Stallion Trail concept began and it’s been a huge success,” she reports. “Prior to the Stallion Trail, we used to have our own open week but the Stallion Trail works better as clients can tie in their visit here with other farms.”
When we spoke last week, Wendy was in the process of organising a place where visitors can safely congregate under cover before they begin their tour with a sales team member. “In the past we’ve been lucky with the weather but I know from experience that people will come hail, rain or snow. They come from all corners of Ireland and some from overseas. You would get a great cross-section of people, including children.”
Contact tracing will be easy as everyone’s details are already registered. Guests will be offered a hot drink before they begin their tour, which will last about an hour. “They will take a walk through the stallion yard. Obviously they won’t see all the stallions but we try to accommodate a special request if we can.”
Wendy never fails to be impressed with the racing knowledge shown by the visitors. “Some people know more about the stallion’s race record than we do! They will tell you where they were when the horse won a big race, or that their children have a pony named after the stallion.
“Their enthusiasm is what makes the event so special. When you see how much people adore the horses and the industry, it makes you appreciate how lucky we all are to work here every day. That’s what I take out of it. To see how passionate these people are about breeding would motivate you.”
Wendy also loves bumping into guests at the races or socially, sometimes years later. “They might say ‘I met you on the Stallion Trail and we had an unforgettable day’. That gives you a lift. You’d be looking back at your notes to see who they were and you might have had no idea at the time who they were. I know the sales team will back me up on saying that.”
It’s not unusual either for young adults to use the Stallion Trail as a way of finding out more about a possible career in racing and breeding. “They might ask our sales team for advice on how they can start in the business. Maybe they are riding out for a trainer at the moment but it’s only a hobby for them and they want to know if there is a future career for them in racing. They might want to get involved in a broodmare or a pinhooking syndicate.
“Teenagers will ask for advice on what courses they should do they start in the industry. You never know, they could end up working in Coolmore Stud one day, and it all started on the Stallion Trail.”