I’M originally from Blackwater, Co. Wexford and living in Co Galway for the past 19 years with my husband Oliver, daughters Eva (16), Abigail (14) and James (3).

I grew up practically next door to Jack Deacon’s yard and he, along with Christine Keymer, provided me with my early education and fuelled my love for horses and ponies.

Jack was no stranger to success with horses having Slaney Valley, Phoenix Park and Biko, to name but a few, passing through his hands. At the age of nine, I got my first pony who taught me a lot, a second pony followed a few years later and I was a member of the Island Hunt Pony Club.

I liked show jumping but I loved hunter trials and hunting. I was always glued to the television watching Olympia at Christmas and Badminton and it was always a dream to go around the Badminton track like Mary King and King William. It obviously didn’t happen.

Following my Leaving Certificate, I went to Kildalton College to study Horse Breeding & Training. On completion of that course, I went to work for the late Bunny Cox in Dundalk, then came back home and worked full-time for Jack.

I worked for Jack and Christine for five years - weekends, holidays, any chance I got - in all aspects of horse work with show horses, eventers, show jumpers, and racehorses. I can say that I gained invaluable experience during this time in every aspect that no book or course could ever teach.

At the age of 22 I decided to go back to college and graduated from UCD in June 2005 as a qualified veterinary nurse.

My father bought my first broodmare Grand Hero (Duleek Hero), from Jack, when I was 21. She was a real old-fashioned, half-bred mare, the type that’s hard to find now. Little did I know she would be the grand-dam of a great horse many years later.

1. Congratulations on breeding

Swallow Springs, third at Badminton this year. Tell us about him?

Swallow Springs is out of our mare Kilila (Cult Hero - Grand Hero) and by Chillout, who stands with Anthony Sheridan. I was trying to decide on a stallion to cover Kilila with and after a chat with the late Harold McGahern, I took his advice and decided on Chillout. The rest is history.

Incidentally, my other choice was Courage II, the sire of Ballaghmor Class.

I sold Swallow Springs as a foal up north and some years later, decided to Google him and, to my surprise, discovered he had placed ninth in Le Lion d’Angers in 2014. This was then followed with a third-place finish in the eight/nine-year-old class at Blenheim Palace 3*.

His next big win was in Burghley four-star where he finished third on his dressage score. He won Barbury four-star twice and then obviously was fifth at his first Badminton attempt and third this year.

It’s amazing as he was quite the problem child when he arrived at Andrew’s yard. Andrew, aka ‘Mr Stickability’, persevered and made him the horse he is today.

2. Is his latest Badminton result your proudest moment as a breeder?

I’ve had so many proud moments with him; on his first time around Badminton five-star, he had a top-five finish with Andrew Nicholson, which is a wonderful achievement. Although this top-three finish is definitely my proudest to date, as it’s also a new pairing with Oliver Townend. I’m really looking forward to see what the future holds for these two. Ask me this next year!

Swallow Springs (Oliver Townend), pictured at Badminton Horse Trials 2022 \ Nigel Goddard

3. How many broodmares do you currently own?

We currently have two broodmares: Kilila, who bred Swallow Springs and his full-brother Ghost Story.

A few years ago, we bought Triptic Dancer (Ramiro B - Ballyvaldon Natalie, by Blue Laser) who, incidentally, is a full-sister of the late great Ballynoe Castle RM. She has five foals by Chillout, all very nice horses. I kept one of the fillies for the girls to compete and she’s showing promise. We covered her with Udancer Hero this year. Sybil, our recipient mare, is also carrying Swallow Springs full-sibling. Exciting times ahead, we hope.

4. What’s your aim as a breeder?

To breed quality horses with plenty of blood and movement. A high percentage of blood is very important. I suppose I’m trying to do the same as everyone else.

We are hopefully going to cover Kilila this week and flush for embryo transfer and later ICSI.

5. Describe your regime for keeping broodmares/youngstock?

I outwinter the mares as much as possible, exercise is vitally important. They have haylage and are rugged. We have recently built new stables as the winters in Galway are quite wet, so they can be brought in if it gets very bad. I try not to have any youngstock over the winter!

6. Do breeders get enough


I really don’t think breeders get the recognition they deserve at all. It is getting slightly better but needs to improve a lot. There really should be some monetary incentive to encourage people to continue breeding from good mares. These days it’s even more expensive to keep horses and the temptation could be to sell those mares or not breed at all.

7. If you could have bred any horse, which one would it be?

It would have to be Stroller. What a pony! Classic thoroughbred-Connemara cross, standing 14.1 and won a silver medal in the 1968 Olympics.

8. It takes a team, who is on yours?

I have quite the team. My husband Oliver helps me with every aspect of our enterprise. There are my two daughters, Eva and Abigail, who both compete and help me with the horses. The three of us are gone nearly every weekend with the competition horses. My son James is also a great help in making horses quiet!

I have a brilliant veterinary team; Tina Roche, based in Athenry and Larry Dunne in Enniskerry. Larry did ET (embryo transfer) on Kilila and managed to get one embryo which was a miracle.

I also have my best friend Angela McGahern whose advice over the years has been invaluable.

9. Best advice you ever got?

What’s for you won’t pass you.

10. What would be your ideal evening and who would you invite along?

My ideal evening would be at my house and would include lots of cheese, wine, Tayto sandwiches and just to keep it classy, Prosecco!

I would invite Anthony Hopkins, because he has a lovely voice; Andrew Nicholson because he rode Swallow Springs first and Oliver Townend to convince him to let me have Swallow Springs for the RDS amateur qualifiers next year!

Then, Joe and Sr. Michael from Derry Girls, Florrie Knox from the Irish RM and Father Ted.

Finally, and most importantly Angela as I never get to see her!

At the end of the evening Anthony, Andrew and Ted would sing ‘My Lovely Horse’ and Angela would make tea and cheese sandwiches for everyone!