Farm Ireland

Saturday 23 March 2019

Twelve of the best from Ballypatrick heading for Dublin

Caitriona Murphy

Broderick family stud is producing top jumpers by using high performance mares, the best stallions and embryo transfer

With no less than 12 horses qualified for the Dublin Horse Show next week, Ballypatrick Stables in Thurles, Co Tipperary, is in the throes of preparing for the biggest event of the year.

Dublin is the showcase for the best horses in the country and it is an astounding achievement for any yard to have such a high representation.

It's even more remarkable that this operation is almost completely family run.

Showjumper Greg Broderick and his sisters Cheryl and Olga, together with parents Austin and Maureen, run their showjumping performance and breeding enterprise on the family's former beef farm. Evidence of the farm's previous duties are still in evidence everywhere, with many of the mares foaled down in large and airy lean-to sheds that used to house cattle.

However the addition of a 60m x 40m sand arena, a grass jumping paddock, indoor arena, horse walker, and several blocks of stables at locations throughout the yard is evidence of the growing equine population.

The Ballypatrick team includes the very successful and loyal owners, as well as cousins Oliver and Darragh McCarthy, Tom Maloney, Brian Cassidy, neighbour Ciaran Shanahan and head groom Ashleigh Skillen.

While 26-year-old Greg looks after the performance side of Ballypatrick Stables, his sister Cheryl is the breeding boss.

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With some of the best young mares in the country stabled in the yard, the aim is to produce foals from them while they are still competing.

To this end, Cheryl uses embryo transfer and runs a herd of up to 25 recipient mares to carry the high performance foals.

Sounds simple? Definitely not. Embryo transfer (ET) is not for the faint-hearted and monitoring and managing the reproductive cycle of both donor and recipient mares to ensure success is a full-time job.

Cheryl works closely with her vets, Pia Tonani and Kathleen Walsh, to ensure the breeding operation runs smoothly, while Tim Brennan in Gowran, Co Kilkenny, is responsible for the actual embryo transfers.

The cost of using embryo transfer will depend on stud fees, cost of recipient mare and number of flushes required and veterinary charges. Stud fees range from €800-2,500, depending on the sire chosen, while the cost of a recipient mare can vary depend on whether she is bought or rented.

"It's a juggling act," says Cheryl. "You could be carrying 20-25 mares to get only seven or eight foals.

"To even consider embryo transfer you need to have a very good mare and a top stallion," she explains. "Don't even think about embryo transfer if you're not aiming for a foal that you're hoping will jump internationally or at Grand Prix level on the national circuit."

Among the elite mares that Cheryl has produced ET foals from are Ballypatrick Mystique, the mare that famously put Ballypatrick Stables on the global map by winning a bronze medal at the World Breeding Championships in Lanaken, Belgium in 2010. The 2003 chestnut mare by Heritage Fortunus (HANN) out of Lady Ligustra (ISH) by Cavalier Royale (HOLST) showed her potential early by winning the national championships as a five-year-old and as a seven-year-old.

Now sold to Canada, Mystique has left a legacy in two foals born by embryo transfer, sired by Indoctro, one of the top ten stallions in the world. A VDL stallion, Indoctro (by Capitol I) produced three Olympic horses at the 2008 Games.


Other mares to produce foals by embryo transfer include Ballypatrick Flight (owned by the Brodericks), Mrs Quinn, (owned by Canada-based Caledonia Stables) and Ballinakill Clover (owned by Dr Noel Cawley).

Ballinakill Clover is the dam of Golden Exchange, who won the six-year-old class in Dublin last year and competed at Lanaken in 2011. The same mare has also produced other international horses such as Cruise On Clover.

Ballypatrick Flight, known at home as Lily, is by Laughton's Flight out of Gowran Lady by Cavalier Royale. National champion as a seven-year-old, she produced four embryos last year and has a foal and a yearling on the ground. Sires used on her include the KWPN stallion Verdi (Quidam de Revel x Landgraf I x Calypso), the Swedish Warmblood Cardento and Ars Vivendi, who stands with Michael Quirke in nearby Littleton.

Dr Cawley's bay mare Mrs Quinn (by Laughton's Flight (ISH) out of Kyle Flower (ISH), by Sky Boy (TB)), had embryos by the Brodericks' own stallion Hitchcock van Overis (BWP by Darco ex Corrady Z by Corrado I) and Plot Blue, who jumped at the Olympics last week.

This promising young stallion stands just 165cm tall but is currently jumping 1m20 with ease and has much bigger horses in his pedigree.

"He is not a big horse but he has a huge canter and is so scopey that I need never worry about riding down to a combination," says Greg. "And as the saying goes, if you have no scope, you have no hope."

Greg is currently locked in a fierce battle with fellow riders Eddie Moloney and Tholm Keane in the National Grand Prix League 2012, having taken a surprising but very welcome win on the young Rincarina at Kildare International.

Rincarina is owned by Dr Cawley, who secured his first Grand Prix win in Kildare, Mrs Quinn and Cappanleigh Cruise owned by Klara Tus.

The 26-year-old rider's determination to get the best result everytime is perhaps best illustrated by his performance at the Dublin Horse Show last year.

The young rider fell in the seven- and eight-year-old international class on the Friday evening, resulting in a broken foot. However, instead of crying off like most sane people would, he simply continued to ride all of his qualified horses over the next two days.


His tally, complete with broken foot, included a win in the HSI Cruising six-year-old final, second place in the Puissance, third in the five-year-old final and fourth in the four-year-old final.

"I spent most of last year in the toilets crying," recalls his mum Maureen. "I'm sure people thought I was mad but imagine what it was like for me watching my son ride with a broken foot."

As well as riding his string of older horses, Greg works closely with his father Austin in the management of the stud's young stock.

With 18 three-year-olds coming through every year, he typically chooses five or six of the annual crop to keep and sells the rest.

"The first thing I look at in a youngster is whether it's got enough blood," he explains. "By that I mean, does it look sharp, reactive?

"A good balanced canter is essential, even in the very young horse.

"Personally I like to ride a horse that works itself, without having to rev it up all the time," he says. "I would prefer to have to spend a while riding a horse to calm it down than to have a horse than needs to be wound up."

Horses from Ballypatrick Stables are sold all over the world, with the main market being the US and Canada. Crucially, it is also a very bold and athletic type of horse that many of Greg's clients in Canada are looking for.

"The majority of the amateur riders in the US and Canada are female and they don't want to have to kick a big plain horse around the arena," he says.

"So it is more commercial for me to keep an athletic type of horse, even if some of them finish at 1m20 -- I need to produce for my market."

The youngsters are loose-jumped over poles a few times as two-and three-year-olds to assess their technique.

"We just use a simple grid of trot pole to a small crosspole, then one stride to another fence," he explains.

"It's not about getting them to jump the sky, particularly at a young age, it's about watching for how careful they are.

"I actually like to see a young horse hit the pole once or twice, so that I can what his reaction is -- does he improve the next time around?"

Talking to a group of 25 young people visiting the yard as part of the Teagasc Young Breeders programme, Greg urged them to take notice of the pedigrees of some of the best young horses coming through.

"Look at the winners of the young horse classes," he said.

"Research their pedigrees and try to buy into a foal from those lines. Follow the best five or six breeders in the country and copy them. Get into nice pedigrees and use good sires on your mares," he advised.

"If you can get into a good genetic family with a proven history of producing jumpers, you can give yourself a chance of producing your own."

He acknowledged the advantage that Ballypatrick Stables has in both breeding and producing from the same yard.

"There can be a huge amount of isolation in Ireland between breeders and buyers -- you can see it at the sales every year where there is a totally different crowd at the foal sales and the three-year-old sales.

"It's definitely a massive help that I ride the horses," he said.

"The information I gather from riding them can feed back into the choice of stallion we use."

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