I WAS born in a small village called Fuerty in Co Roscommon, hence our prefix for the horses. I grew up on a small farm and worked in cattle breeding for 40 years, so researching horse pedigrees came very easy to me.

When my youngest daughter Maeve wanted to start horse riding lessons, it wasn’t long before the horse addiction caught me.

Most of the mares back through the years were ridden by Maeve as it always gave me a better chance to see their strengths and weaknesses having been ridden by a young rider. That helped me to pick stallions to suit them.

Chatenique (Carismo), Maeve’s first mare to retire for breeding gave us Fuerty Captain Carismo (Captain Clover), Fiona Quinn’s three-year-old loose jumping champion at the RDS in 2012.

In total, we have four Irish Draught and four sport horse broodmares.

1. From all the Fuerty-breds, your proudest moment as a breeder?

2022 was very special year having bred Fuerty Emperor (Welcome Emperor - Fuerty Grey Mist, by Carrickrock Close Shave) the champion heavyweight hunter at the Horse of the Year Show (HOYS).

2019 was a year I will never forget as I was still recovering from illness and received a phone call from a great breeder and friend, Martin Murphy in Mayo, telling me that Fuerty Princess (Welcome Emperor - Bengour Mist, by Ben Calverstown) had won at a local show and was bound for the RDS.

Being there to see her lift the Eileen Parkhill trophy as the champion Irish Draught mare was the dream of a lifetime.

Shortly after that, Fuerty Hero Brigade (Querleybet Hero - Brigades Cruising, by Clover Brigade) or ‘Bert’, ridden by Camilla Speirs and owned by Bourns Sport Horses won the Irish Breeders’ Classic four-year-old championship at Barnadown.

We still follow Bert, who has progressed very well finishing in the ribbons in the seven-year-old class at the Cavan Indoor Championships with Joanne Blair.

As we sell our foals each year we love to see them progress on with their new owners.

2. Tell us about your recent visit to the BWP stallion inspections?

It was great to get back to the BWP stallion show having missed two years due to Covid. Over three days, 120 three-year-old stallions were assessed and roughly a third of that number will go forward to the final approvals in March.

The stallion competitions also took place, totalling over 200 stallions competing in their four to seven-year-old age classes.

My main observations are that Belgian breeders now are not afraid to breed their younger mares to stallions, based on the knowledge of their pedigree.

In 2022, young stallions had sons approved which fast-tracks the genetic gain. Having 300 stallions at the same show is incredible to see and an amazing event.

Belgium has three studbooks and yet it is only half the size of Ireland. So, for sure we were probably watching some of the next generation of world champions.

Bourns Sport Horses’ Fuerty Hero Brigade jumping on the Spanish Sunshine Tour with Joanne Blair \ Hervé Bonnaud

3. How do you think Irish sport horse breeding has changed?

Breeding in Ireland has definitely improved. Ireland is now in a position to field a Nations Cup team of entirely Irish-bred horses. Which hasn’t been the case since we started breeding horses.

4. Favourite broodmare?

It’s hard to pick favourites since we breed both Irish Draughts and sport horses. The one we are most excited about is Fuerty Molly (Pollux De Muze - Molly C, by Pacino). She is a genetic full-sister to Pablo C who competed two years in a row at the World Breeding Championships in Lanaken.

Her dam is a full-sister to Pacifico and half-sister to Serpico (Ars Vivendi), who both competed at 1.60m level. Her first foal by Pegase Van’t Ruytershof was purchased by Bourns Sport Horses. Last year she had a lovely filly by Kafka van de Heffinck which we have kept. This year we are looking forward to her foal by I’m Special De Muze.

5. Describe your winter regime for mares/youngstock?

The youngsters stay close to the yard for housing in bad weather. It’s an opportunity to do some handling with them throughout the winter.

The broodmares go off to clean up the aftergrass and have mineral licks available. We only house the broodmares closer to foaling time.

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

A small team, just Maeve and myself. Maeve works full-time outside of horses, but does most of the handling with the foals and preparation for shows and sales. We usually don’t start foaling until March.

Our stables have foaling cameras and we share the night checks.

7. If you could have bred any horse in history?

A mare called Cordulla de Laubry (For Pleasure - Uganda de Laubry, by Darco), she has bred eight offspring competing at 1.60m level including two approved stallions. One of her offspring is Brooklyn Heights, competed by Denis Lynch.

8. Do breeders get enough recognition?

It is improving but I would still like to see more breeders prizes at our major competitions. It is also important that the prefix breeders use is protected and recognised by studbooks around the world.

9. Best advice you got?

Spend time selecting stallions that suit your mares, not just selecting the most popular stallions.

10. A wish for the future?

Being a cancer survivor, I hope the Lord above still believes I have lots to learn about horse breeding before he has any vacancy for me in his heavenly stables.

Breeder Michael Bailey with Martin Murphy and Fuerty Princess after the Irish Draught mare champion won the Eileen Parkhill trophy at Dublin in 2019 \ Courtesy of Bailey family