Chasing the Irish dream
Published 27/05/2015 | 02:30
Irish Draught horses are not for everyone, but for long-time breeder and producer Jimmy Quinn, it is a breed held close to his heart.
Born in the US to Irish parents, Jimmy spent much of his younger years working in New York. However, his love for Ireland and horses eventually brought him back to his roots in Galway to set up the breeding empire, Cappa Stud, in 2007.
Now eight years in operation, today it boasts a fine selection of Irish Draught stallions, along with an equally impressive herd of broodmares.
"I always loved horses and while living in the States I did some research on the breed," he said.
Jimmy moved back to Ireland with his parents when he was eight but returned to the States to study architecture after completing school in the late 1980s. He met his wife Edel (Burke) in Ballinasloe in 1997, although both lived in the States at the time, but the lure of greener pastures proved too tempting for the couple and they made the decision to move home for good in 2005. They married in Rome two years later.
"When we came back I was still doing some work in construction but we figured we needed a farm close to Galway so we bought 20 acres in Annaghdown. We also purchased a farm in Gurtymadden for a place to keep our broodmares."
One of Jimmy's first purchases was Cappa Cochise. "I saw him advertised online as a foal while I was still living in New York and so I called the owner in Kerry. I told him I'd be home at the weekend to see him, but in the meantime asked a friend of mine, Noel Ryan, to take a look at him for me," he said.
"We named him after the great apache warrior Cochise as Arizona was one of the last places we visited before returning home to Ireland to live."
By Fast Silver, Cappa Cochise topped his performance testing as a three-year-old in 2006. He was reserve Irish Draught champion at the RDS in 2008 and 2010, as well third there in 2011 and in 2014.
Standing at the top of the line at the Dublin Horse Show in both 2012 and 2013 was stable companion Cappa Cassanova. He was shown both years by Seamus Sloyan. "He's also been very lucky for us and was reserve champion in 2011 and 2014. He also won the All-Ireland title at Clonaslee Show in 2013," Quinn said.
Indeed Cappa Cassanova has been very lucky for the Quinns and got his showing career off to a flying start as a yearling with wins at Galway County Show and Corrandulla. He was put forward for performance testing as a three-year-old in 2009 and was the only Irish Draught approved that year.
In addition to his success at showing in-hand, the stallion has also won under saddle, and in 2011 was crowned supreme ridden Irish Draught at the Equifestival at Cavan.
Cappa Cassanova is one of the last foals by Welcome Flagmount, who was killed in a freak accident that same year.
Quinn also suffered his own misfortune earlier this year when two of his young horses disappeared from a field close to the water's edge and showed up almost eight weeks later on an island two miles away. "We believe they got scared for some reason and swam to the island. It was only by chance that they were spotted by fishermen and traced back to us. Both were malnourished and sadly one did not survive, but we managed to get the other one, a four-year-old by Cassanova, to swim back to the mainland. He is doing fine now."
Cappa Cassanova boasts a fine Irish Draught pedigree as his dam Headford Beauty is by Kildalton Gold, a sire of multiple champions down through the years. "Cassanova already has a gold merit in showing but we hope he will achieve the same in show jumping himself this summer."
Another of Cappa Stud's fully-approved RID stallions is Ballineen It's William, by Bealagh Blue. He won on numerous occasions as a foal in Britain before being imported and was one of the youngest stallions to be placed at the RDS in 2011 when only a three-year-old.
Also recently joining the stud roster at Cappa is Cappa Aristocrat. By Star Kingdom, the four-year-old received the highest score at the recent stallion inspections and Quinn believes this latest addition to the team could be another RDS winner. "He comes from a great family and four sires on his dam's side were also Dublin winners."
At Cappa Stud Jimmy and Edel Quinn strive to produce the best of Irish Draught stock and their 40-strong herd of broodmares goes a long way towards achieving their goal.
Among them is Cappa Princess, by Agherlow. "She won a lot for us, including titles at Galway, Athenry and Mountbellew and one of her foals is now with the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment in London."
More recently the couple have sold several horses to the US and they are currently in negotiations to secure a market for their horses in China.
"I always like to see our youngstock going to good homes, and these days there is a greater demand for three and four-year-old geldings, especially for hunting in the UK."
Having maintained the business during the recession Jimmy Quinn believes standards are improving again, and this is in part due to the level of broodmares being passed at inspection. "I always said 'the better the breed, the better the market'.
"This is definitely the way forward," he said.