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Saturday 20 October 2018

Burning ambition - Kilkenny woman with plans to breed and produce horses for Irish and foreign markets

Amy Finn has big plans for the future

Amy Finn (right) with team-mate Miriam Bourke at the WBFSH Young Breeders' World Championship in Canada last year
Amy Finn (right) with team-mate Miriam Bourke at the WBFSH Young Breeders' World Championship in Canada last year

Siobhán English

Amy Finn is a young lady with lots of ambition. A graduate of Kildalton College and now involved in the ISH Young Breeders Programme, the Kilkenny native fully intends to follow her dream of, one day, breeding and producing horses for both the Irish and foreign markets.

At only 21, she has already proven herself as highly competitive, having represented Ireland at the WBFSH Young Breeders' World Championships in Canada last year. She is now back training with a view to making the cut for the squad for the 2019 renewal in Austria next summer.

"I love learning and through the ISH Young Breeders Programme, we have such a great opportunity to do just that," she said. "Canada was such an amazing experience and we learned so much out there."

Young starter

Developed in 2005, the ISH Young Breeders Programme offers skills and knowledge through training for those with an interest in developing their knowledge of the horse.

These skills come into focus for varied uses including purchasing a new horse/pony; deciding about which mares/stallions to use for breeding; assessing offspring; presenting horses for inspection, sale, show or competition.

Amy's interest in horses came about at a very young age. "Mum and Dad had ponies when they were young but we got our first pony when I was still only a baby.

"She was heavy in foal at the time and rescued from the pound," she recalled.

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That same pony, that stood a mere 12.2hh, kick-started Amy's love of all things equine. "She was a brilliant pony and brought me up through Pony Club Minimus. I also jumped and hunted her until she was retired. She was at least 12 when we got her and must now be well in her 30s but is fit and well at home."

Amy's next pony was purchased using the proceeds from her communion money. "I always believe I have a good enough eye and found this one in Goresbridge. I was only 10 at the time and the pony was just four - I thought I was going to be Monty Roberts and wanted to bring him on myself."

This pony led Amy into the world of eventing, a sport which she also enjoyed with such Connemara ponies as Ashfield Coronal. Bred in Wicklow, this gelding took her all the way to the Dublin Horse Show before being sold on.

"The programme gives you ideas with regards to breeding and I particularly love the Connemara pony. I have already bought a few youngsters at Clifden and produced them for sale. I have a mare shortly due to foal to the stallion Too Much Melody and have a lovely yearling as well so I hope to produce him to sell too."

In addition to the Breeders Programme, Amy says that Kildalton also gave her an excellent grounding for the future. "It was hard work but I loved the fact we got to ride so much and it was such a practical course."

Such was her dedication, she finished both years with distinctions and graduated last autumn as Student of the Year.

Amy will soon start working in a local yard which specialises in producing young horses, and she said this will further add to her experience before she takes some time out for travelling.

"I would love to go to America or somewhere similar and learn more about the business there," she said.

"I love asking questions and I suppose it's the only way you will learn."

For now though, Amy is busy helping out on the family farm, where lambing season is in full swing.

"We have 120 ewes here to lamb. My father, Austin, works full-time for Macra overseeing the Land Mobility Service so I am doing most of the night shifts at the moment. It's extremely busy here, but when that is over, I will get back to the horses," she concluded.

Professionals offer their expertise to young breeders

The ISH Young Breeders Programme is aimed is aimed at young people aged between 14 and 25 years of age.

Training events are principally focused on building knowledge and confidence in assessing conformation, movement and jump of sport horses. The discipline of presenting horses in hand is also part of the programme and the Irish team now has its sights on the World Championships in Austria in July 2019.

Training events will be held throughout Ireland in the coming months, but there is no requirement to attend all events.

The next training session takes place at Ennisnag Stud in Kilkenny on Saturday, March 24. This training event is not only an opportunity to assess mares and youngstock, but also discuss mating plans and choice of stallions.

Further training days will be held at Lissyegan Stables, Ahascragh, Ballinasloe, Co Galway (May 12), Army Equitation School, McKee Barracks, Cabra, Dublin 7 (June 25), Tiernan Gill, Church Road, Ballina, Co Mayo (July 18) and Kildalton College, Piltown, Co Kilkenny (September 29).

Enthusiasts are particularly invited to attend the Young Breeders Seminar at the Hodson Bay Hotel, Athlone on Wednesday, April 4.

A super line-up of industry professionals and speakers include Irish National Stud CEO Cathal Beale, Annie and Katie Madden of FenuHealth, and British international show jumper William Funnell.

Commenting on the ethos behind the ISH Young Breeders Programme, co-ordinator Wendy Conlon of Teagasc said: "We have so many wonderful professionals in the equine industry in Ireland and many of these are giving up their time for these young people so they can develop their eye, confidence, skill and knowledge.

"This is a great opportunity for young breeders and the upcoming seminar will be of particular benefit to them."

See www.teagasc.clr.events for registration details.

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