In County Kildare in Ireland, the lifestyle is all about horses and racehorses. In Ireland, Goff’s is the thoroughbred horse sale name that is known worldwide. There are 55,000 Goff’s horses in the country. We visited the Irish National Stud and Gardens, a working thoroughbred horse farm in the town of Tully.
The Irish National Stud and Gardens is a working thoroughbred breeding facility as well as a school for the young thoroughbred enthusiast to get quine training and education for a career in the thoroughbred industry. Our tour started out in the Maternity ward for the foals. Our guide David Wardell explained all there is in the foaling process and what the farm offers to its customers. In the maternity ward, about ninety-nine percent of the foals are born in the darkest of the night. Nature has designed this so the foalswill have some protection against predators and then within a couple of hours the foals are strong enough to run away on their own. On the farm, they have a “bounty” or contest for the students, and if one can find a mare that is in labor and she foals in her foaling box that night, the student gets 100 Euros. The day we were there, this happened the night before, and we saw the baby foal with his mother in the foaling stall, it was so precious.
In the entire northern hemisphere, every racehorse has one official birthday, and that is January 1st. This is very important because if a horse were born on December 25th, it would be one year old on January 1st. Therefore a one-year-old horse would be too young to race. The horses they breed at the farm are for flat racing. Flat racing is a form of horse racing that is run on a level racecourse and is run over a distance up to three miles. It is either speed, stamina or both along with the skill of the jockey that determines which horse will be the best. A flat racing horse will begin racing at ages two to three, and they mature at about four and a half years old. They have found this age of horse for racing is the best, kind of a like a college-age kid who does not have his mind on other things yet. If you get the age of the horse wrong, then you will never have a chance to win.
The Irish National Stud has many different operations at its facility. The first is the maternity ward, where owners can bring their horses to be cared for while they are birthing their foals. The second is the mares come in to be breed with the prize-winning stallions that the farm owns, like Free Eagle and Invincible Spirit.Each of these stallions costs from 20,000 euros to 120,000 euros to breed with. They also hold around 35 mares that they breed for their yearling sale each year. The property is also used by wealthy horse owners that live in cities and do not have a farm to house their horses, so they board them here at the farm. Lastly, they are known as a ‘walk-in” breeder, which the owners of the mares, call to arrange a stud to mate with their mare. The Irish National Stud has an award-winning breeding school to learn everything that has to do with horses, breeding, and stallions. The students work on the farm during the day and then in the evening have lectures on insurance, business administration and yard management. The school is hard to get into, and each student has to have basic horse knowledge to be considered for acceptance.
The Irish National Stud and Gardens was a great experience even if you know very little about horses and racing. In the next article, we will explore the beautiful grounds and gardens that draws visitors back to The Irish National Stud and Gardens.
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