'HORSES are a disease," says Eudora O'Connor, a young breeder and horse trainer, at her Lough Na Solis Stud in Tallow, Co Waterford -- and she should know.
Eudora, along with her three sisters, two nurses and a vet, grew up around horses at the family farm, and horses are now, absolutely and totally, Eudora's life. She adores her horses. Every waking minute of the day, and sometimes the night, is spent looking after them.
"We always had ponies at home and I used to jump at shows around the country at weekends. I then started riding in flappers [pony racing] and I had really, really great fun doing that.
"We had a couple of mares at home and I just started training them and really loved it. I then decided to go into breeding and training horses full time."
Eudora got her licence this year, and the first horse she trained after that, On Trend, won.
She and her sisters had formed a syndicate to buy him for €5,000, and after he won he was sold at Cheltenham. The girls were thrilled.
Horses are in Eudora's blood, for her mother, Mary, also has a licence for track racing, but she says, "Eudora did all the hard work".
They are both very modest about their considerable success in the field of breeding and training.
In earlier years, while they always had horses, they were sent away for training.
Mary and Eudora say it is "so much more satisfying to train them ourselves because we know exactly what is happening, and if anything goes wrong, or if they get sick, we know immediately rather than waiting for a phone call".
It also helps to have a vet in the family, they agree.
For the number of horses they train, they have been very successful, having had winners in Galway, Punchestown, Leopardstown, and Killarney courses over the years.
On leaving school, Eudora went to Kildalton Agricultural College in Piltown, Co Kilkenny, which has courses on horse breeding and training. She never looked back, and got her Green Cert there.
The Fetac-accredited equine course aims to provide students with knowledge and skills relating to the horse.
It also gives students the qualification for employment in the industry, including jobs at stud farms, training yards and equestrian centres.
You would have to love this work because, as Eudora points out, it is 24/7 and there are no days off. There are good days and bad days, and "sometimes more bad than good".
We all think of the glamorous side of horseracing and training, but there is a horrendous amount of work involved in mucking out, caring for the animals, training and exercising -- it can be non-stop, heavy back-breaking work at times, particularly when you are as hands-on as Eudora.
"My sisters are fantastic," says Eudora. "Both are practice nurses, and at weekends they ride out as well, which is a great help."
She gets up early every morning, and feeds the horses on Red Mills Nuts, which they love, "because they sure lick out their bowls well".
After mucking out, it is off into the circular walker to loosen the horses up before they are taken out to be exercised. I watched, fascinated, at these beautiful animals padding around very contentedly and I realised that this is an amazing relationship of confidence and trust between horse and breeder.
While they breed and keep a lot of their foals themselves, they also have horses in training for other people and a few horses in livery. You couldn't but fall in love with these magnificent creatures.
Eudora also loves her dogs; her miniature Schnauzer Izzy had just come back from the dog beauty parlour in Youghal and was happily showing off her pink racing outfit.
"I want to have lots of winners," says Eudora. She is well on track in the sport of kings.