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Monday 23 October 2017

A man for all seasons - draught legend David Cosby

As his 70th birthday approaches, draught legend Cosby shows no signs of slowing up

David Cosby has rarely missed a day's hunting this season
David Cosby has rarely missed a day's hunting this season
Siobhan English

Siobhan English

Most people will have thought about retiring from the hunting field by the time they reach 70, but not David Cosby.

Rarely has he missed a day in the country this season with the Shillelagh & District Hunt and judging by his enthusiasm of late, he has no intention of hanging up his boots anytime soon.

"He is just loved by everyone out hunting - he really is an amazing character," said one of his co-riders during a meet of the pack near Tally Ho Stud, where David was aboard his faithful Irish draught mare Minerva.

Sporting the Ballycreen prefix, which has now travelled the world with their home breds, Minerva is one of the latest additions to what has been a hugely successful line of horses that have given David and his wife Judith much joy as breeders for three decades.

One of Ireland's true gentlemen, David inherited the love for all equines through his parents, Ashworth and Enid Cosby. While living at Stradbally Hall, his mother was a successful breeder and astute judge of Welsh ponies. She was also a keen hunting enthusiast with the Queen's County Hounds in Laois (now Laois Foxhounds), as was his father, and it was here on the hunting field that Ashworth and Enid met in the 1930s.

"I clearly remember hunting also as a child along with my sister Anthea," David recalls. "My father was joint-master for a number of years, following in the footsteps of his own father and those before him. I believe the hounds may have been kennelled at Stradbally Hall at one point."

Successful

To this day, Stradbally Hall continues to have close ties with the hunt, as point-to-points and hunter trials are just a handful of the local equestrian events that take place there during the year. The 550ac estate is also home to the National Hound Show and the Riding Club Festival, as well as the hugely successful Electric Picnic.

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Stradbally Hall is now run by Thomas Cosby, son of David's eldest brother Adrian, and his wife Gesa. After he finished school, David's love for hunting continued when he moved to England and he has fond memories of days out with the Fernie, and also whipping in to the local pack of beagles while studying at Cirencester College.

"At one stage, the beagle pack made it into the Guinness Book Of Records for accounting for 87 and a half brace of hare in one season," he remembers.

From there, he did a short stint in the British Army and it was while working in a "stuffy office" in London that he met his future wife, Judith. Born in India, Judith also loved the country life. David proposed unconventionally while milking a cow and they married in 1974.

Various jobs in Ireland and the UK saw them move homes between Devon, Wexford and Kilkenny before finally settling in Wicklow. Their two sons now live abroad.

"Having been brought up at Stradbally Hall, people assume you are born with a silver spoon, but that is certainly not the case," says David. "I have always worked hard throughout my life and I had several jobs managing estates over the years."

It was while working at Mount Loftus in Graiguenamanagh that David and Judith purchased their first mare with a view to building up a small breeding herd.

"We used the money from a tax return and bought a lovely mare by King of Diamonds out of Goresbridge. I remember riding her home bareback."

That mare was Old Grange Lady who appears in the back-breeding of many of their successful broodmares today.

From there, the couple renovated the Old Rectory not far from Mount Loftus and sold it on for profit before purchasing property in Devon. Soon afterwards, David acquired the Irish draught stallion Clonfert thanks to the keen eye of the late Pat Kinsella.

"I had always wanted an Irish draught stallion and although he did not cover that many mares in England, he did prove successful here in Ireland and sired the Class 1 stallion It's The Quiet Man."

On returning to Ireland, Clonfert went on to win at Navan Show and be placed at the RDS, as well as having many fun days out hunting.

During his term in Devon, David was instrumental in setting up the Irish Draught Horse Society of Great Britain and was their first chairman. He is currently President of the Irish Draught Horse Breeders' Association, as well as chairman of the Laois branch.

In 2016, he was recognised for his contribution to the breed by being awarded the Athlone Show National Hall of Fame Award.

Now approaching his 70th year this April, David continues to breed a few Irish draughts each year, as well as sport horses, while also running a busy farm with Judith outside the quaint village of Aughrim in Wicklow.

"It's a little piece of heaven here," he said. "Under the mountain, with spectacular scenery, what more would you want."


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