A couple of weeks ago I was in Dublin and was lucky enough to go out to Tully, Kildare and visit the Irish national stud. There we met David Wardell who showed us around the amazing site and facilities.
The Irish national stud is set in 900 acres of beautiful grounds, it was originally purchased in 1900 by colonel William Hall Walker. He became the most successful breeder of his time, his finest moment being when king Henry VII led Minoru, who was born and raised at the stud, into Epsom’s winners enclosure following victory in the 1909 Derby. In 1915 the stud and all its stock was gifted to the crown and became the national stud. Under new leadership of sir Henry Greer the success continued, with the stud producing the winners of all 5 classics. In 1943 the newly formed Irish government took over the land and buildings, and then in 1945 the Irish National stud company Ltd. Was formed and it officially took over the running of the stud in august 1946.
The stud is beautifully designed with individual yards including specialist yards for stallions, mares and foaling unit. It has a full time on site saddler, we were able to take a look in his workshop where he was hand crafting the leather foal slips ready for the imminent arrivals. Walking in we were hit with that wonderful smell of the best quality leather (one of my favourite smells, strange I know). There is also an on site forge and farrier to ensure all hooves are kept in tip top shape.
The individual yards are beautifully designed around a courtyard with matching stables. The stallion yard houses some amazing horses, it was a real honour to walk along and meet them and hear all about their successes.
As you may or may not know in the thoroughbred industry breeding is strictly done naturally AI (artificial insemination) is not allowed. As all breeding is done naturally there are strict tests which each mare must undergo before being covered. The stud has stocks, scanners and veterinary facilities on site. To ensure the covering process is undertaken in the safest possible way they have a strict routine in place to ensure both mare and stallion can be protected from risk of injury. The coverings take place in a special building with padded walls and a sand surface, the mares will have back hoof boots put on and a protective pad on their backs, some may also be hobbled, the stallions may have protective hoof boots on as well.
As well as being a successful world famous stud, they also run an internationally renowned breeding course. The first thoroughbred breeding course was held at the stud in 1971 and it remains the best known equine training programme to this day. The aim of the course is to educate young people for a career in the thoroughbred industry. Many of the graduates have been prominent in stud farms throughout the world, training, bloodstock sales, insurance and the media. Unlike university based courses, this one is designed to provide students with a hands on experience and approach to every aspect of breeding. The course starts in February and lasts for 6 months. It is a residential course and the students work on the yards during the day and then there is a lecture very evening from industry experts and specialists.
And of course we couldn’t possibly go there without meeting some of the ‘living legends’, we were lucky enough to be able meet kicking king and beef or salmon and give them some carrots and lots of pats!
If you ever go to Ireland then I highly recommend you visit the Irish national stud, as well as the stud they have Japanese gardens and a museum packed full of wonderful history. If you’re a groom thinking of getting into the breeding or thoroughbred industry then I’d really advise considering the breeding course they run, what a brilliant way of gaining practical experience in one of the best thoroughbred studs in the world.
Below are a couple of links to check out, with a few videos from staff and students at the stud.
Also go and check out the Irish national stud on Facebook and Instagram for regular updates on what’s happening and the latest foal arrivals!