BASED on the Loop Head peninsula, Shannondale Stud is a family-run stud farm with some beef cattle as well. Martin took over the family farm from his parents and together with his wife Pat, built it into the breeding enterprise it is today. Pat originally came from Miltown Malbay and is also very interested in horses.

1. A great year for West Clare breeding in the Hippomundo rankings with Jenny Glynn as the leading Irish breeder and your Shannondale Sarco and his progeny in the top-10. Standing stallions, would you do it all over again?

Shannondale Sarco (Darco) was purchased as a seven-day-old foal. The intention was always to produce him, jump him on and sell him. However, he was seriously and irreparably injured in the horsewalker as a three-year-old. That led to him being stood as a stallion.

Because of the stallion he is, I would do it all over again. He’s a horse of a lifetime. He breeds very sound, correct horses with good X-rays. It’s not lucrative, as we have never had ridiculous covering fees. Being breeders ourselves, we wanted to make him attainable for people. He’s more than a stallion to Martin and they share a tremendous bond and rapport.

It’s a really long road to get a stallion approved. Sarco is 22 this year and he’s still not approved by Horse Sport Ireland. He passed all his veterinary requirements at three and his progeny have long surpassed the performance requirements, having bred 1.60m show jumpers, five-star eventers and a litany of four-star and three-star horses.

It’s very disheartening and frustrating that you can have one of the best horses in the world not recognised in the studbook of the country he stands in. He is recognised in the sBs studbook.

We started standing a new young stallion in 2020. His name is Canturex VDF (Canturano), we purchased him at the Flanders Foal Auction. Beautifully-bred, his Casiro I dam has jumped to 1.40m. Canturano has sired world-class showjumpers including the 1.60m horses Canterall and Evita and also, Upsilon (Le Lion d’Angers silver medallist), Erano (four-star) and Danturano (three-star).

Canturex is a stunning grey horse, 16.2 with tons of athleticism and scope. He himself is a super mover, let’s face it, he wouldn’t be here otherwise! We’re very excited with his foals on the ground, they tick all the boxes so far and he was very busy in 2022.

When the Clare breeders use your stallion, you know you have a good horse. They are very discerning breeders and have already identified a good one in Canturex.

2. Proudest moments in the business?

One of my proudest moments was seeing Sarco in the top-10 of the Hippomundo world eventing sire rankings. It’s an incredible achievement for a small farm in West Clare, as he has only covered just under 500 mares. So his strike rate is incredible.

Seeing Woodstock Bennett finish eighth at Pau five-star; the home-bred Shannondale Mari, with Elizabeth Power, sixth at Le Lion and Capels Hollow Drift finish second in Burghley this year, that really made my day.

3. West Clare has produced many famous horses, including several Olympic horses like the Shear full-brothers (Stan The Man) up to MP Imagine If (Shannondale Sarco). What’s the secret to success?

The West Clare environment is excellent for raising horses, the ground is naturally mineral-rich and very low in nitrogen.

We let them mature fully, growing in their natural environment. It makes horses hardy and sound. We believe in giving horses plenty time to mature.

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

I can’t speak for everybody, but for our market, the blood model with looks, step and jump is a must. Also, producers are seeing the value in a good mare. At one time, geldings were the most sought-after, I have seen a very smart switch in that thinking. It’s hard to beat a good mare.

I think the market has changed and people have gotten more progressive. Our aim is to continue to breed absolutely world-class horses here for the modern market. We have built a robust selection of broodmares with proven bloodlines with as much thoroughbred blood as possible. They must be correct, straight, blood and have presence.

Our customers return for our proven, sound families that we have developed over many years.

5. Describe your winter regime for mare/youngstock?

In winter, our horses are housed in the rearing barn, separated by age. They are all fed haylage and oats. We have a barn for our mares so there again, no need to rug. Mares get oats, minerals and haylage.

6. It takes a team - who’s on yours?

It takes a village! Everyone helps out round here. There’s my wife Pat and daughters Nell and Ava. My father Michael and my mother Mary are always on hand as well. It’s a family business and you couldn’t manage without all these people, it’s a team effort.

7. If you could have bred any horse, which one?

I would love to have bred Colman (HOLST. Carthago). While on a trip to Germany. I was blown away by his stock and their stamp. They were impressive without exception and I saw quite a few of them. We used him ourselves to great success, putting one back into our mare herd.

8. Do breeders get enough recognition?

They get little or no recognition. All the big competitions should have breeders’ prizes for at least the first three placings. The only one I’ve seen do anything is Zangersheide, they take care of the breeder. It’s smart, you are looking after your grassroots production.

I feel that prefixes should not be changed without permission from the breeder. Otherwise, they are pointless.

9. Best advice you ever got?

“Don’t be afraid to go down your own road.” My father gave me that advice and I still follow it to this day.

10. Favourite holiday destination?

Has to be Florida! Love it!

The Walsh family at Shannondale Stud (l-r) Nell, Michael, Pat, Shannondale Sarco, Martin and Ava Walsh at Shannondale Stud, Loop Head