Since staring this blog I have happily gained many new followers here on Calvados Bloodstock, on Calvados Bloodstock’s dedicated facebook page, and on my own twitter page – Calvadosbloodst. I tend to take it for granted that you all know who Calvados is, who Millisecond is, and that you all know the background to this website. Well, the reality is that many of you are visiting this site for the first time, and very few of you have been following the site since its inception, back in April of this year (2010). And, unless you have been following my site avidly, or are a member of my family, well, then the names Calvados and Millisecond are probably new to you. This article (hopefully), will bring you all up to speed.
Calvados was a beautiful chesnut Irish Sport Horse gelding that I (reluctantly) had been brought down to Bantry, in Co. Cork, to try out. It was June 2000. He was 4yrs old, I was 15. I had outgrown my first horse (Trixie, a 15HH piebald cob gelding my parents bought me for my 13th birthday). Calvados sounded like the perfect horse for me. He was a 16.2hh, well bred, 4yr old Irish Sport Horse gelding that would be ideal for progressing my riding ambitions with. But, like every teenager, I had my own ideas. There was a bay Irish Draught x Thoroughbred mare that I had set my sights on. She, my parents thought, was less than ideal. While she was a very nice horse, well bred, with plenty of potential, she needed alot of work to bring her on (she was 7yrs old and had been out on the side of a mountain with a leg injury since she was 4). While her injury looked to be a thing of the past, my parents were reluctant to take the risk on her, and so, I found myself a reluctant passenger heading to Bantry one weekend with my parents to take a look at a chesnut horse the Pony Club secretary, Roger Alison, had recommended.
Calvados was beautiful. All my teenage pride and stubbornness could not hide the fact that I fell for Calvados (pictured the day of purchase, June 2000) the moment I saw his chesnut head and white blaze looking out over the stable door. I watched him being ridden and jumped in the arena by his owner/breeder Zora Feurer, and I was impressed. When the time came for me to have a go, I had all but forgotten the bay mare back home…this was the horse I wanted. He was green, as you would expect from a 4yr old that had been broken at 3yrs, then turned away for a few months to mature. I was green myself, certainly no expert with bringing on talented young horses but I felt like Calvados and myself were meant to be. I went to try him out one more time, and then the deal was done.
You may notice I am referring to Calvados in the past tense. Alas, Calvados, or Mealagh Calvados (Habs Lad – The Conquer Lady, by The Conqueror) as he was officially registered as, sadly, and tragically, had to be put to sleep in October 2006, aged 10yrs following a horrible road accident, which I will not detail here. Suffice to say that we had spent a wonderful 6 years together and forged a formidable partnership, a partnership I had hoped would last a great deal longer than it did.
Calvados, (pictured) as I mentioned, was a well bred Irish Sport Horse. His sire, a Thoroughbred named Habs Lad (Habat – Trackalady, by Track Spare) was a multiple winner on the flat who established himself as a good Sport Horse sire. His dam, The Conquer Lady (The Conqueror – Polyanna, by Blue Cliff) was registered as an Appendix Irish Draught. She was very well bred with quite a bit of Thoroughbred blood in her (by a grandson of the famous Irish Draught show jumping sire King of Diamonds, and out of an Irish Sport Horse whose sire was the Thoroughbred Blue Cliff, by Preciptic).
One evening, at the age of 16, I sat down in front of the computer with Calvados’ passport and started researching the Irish Draught horses in his maternal pedigree for a school history project that I was doing. I thoroughly enjoyed researching his ancestors but found it frustrating that in most cases with Irish Draught horses, it was only possible to go back a few generations before hitting a brick wall, where a lack of records meant it was impossible to research any further. In contrast, when I started researching his Thoroughbred paternal pedigree (for my own personal interest), I was astounded to discover that I could research as far back as the 1600s. It was then, at the tender age of 16, that I first developed a love of Thoroughbred pedigree research.
At the time of Calvados’ passing I had graduated from University College Cork with an Honours degree in English and Politics. I had, up until this point attempted to allow my head rule my heart and reluctantly steered myself away from a career with horses. I had toyed with the idea of reading law, then I decided I wanted a career in the Garda Siochána (Irish police force). I kept telling myself the sensible thing to do was to get a good, pensionable job that could afford me the luxury of having horses as a hobby – as opposed to working with horses and being perpetually broke!
Of course, as ever, life has a habit of getting in the way and f*#king up such grand plans. Calvados was dead, I somehow had escaped death, and it all made me realise that we just get one shot at this thing called life, so for God’s sake let us not spend the time worrying about what others expect of us. I had no desire to be a Garda or a Lawyer. I wanted to work with horses and someday become a successful breeder, maybe even, breed a champion or two. That was my dream and I resolved to follow it. Someday I would have my own Thoroughbred enterprise and I would call it Calvados Bloodstock.
Calvados was put to sleep in October 2006. By January 2007 I found myself working in a whole new world – a Thoroughbred stud farm. And, as the cliche goes, I haven’t looked back. My work has brought me from Ireland, to Australia, to New Zealand, and back and I have never regretted the decision to follow my dreams – albeit I sometimes wonder if I’m crazy, but, I suppose, time will tell.
Of course every breeder needs a mare ot two to start them off so naturally, I needed to buy one. Now, I’m not in the position of most aspiring breeders – that is to say I am not about to inherit a large stud farm with a band of broodmares, nor is my parents’ back garden big enough to keep a mare or two…No, I would have to figure out a way to buy a mare and pay her keep at another farm. Hmmm, dilemma you might think for a 24yr old working as a stud groom. I didn’t think dilemma, I thought opportunity. Nothing like a recession to bring down the prices of bloodstock and, if I couldn’t afford to keep a mare in Ireland, well then I would resolve to buy a mare somewhere where the bills would not be as much.
So, August 2009, I am on my way to New Zealand for the breeding and yearling prep season, I might as well stop off in Australia and pay my mates a visit for a few days – I worked down under for the ’07 and ’08 breeding seasons. The Inglis Scone Broodmare Sale happened to be on during the week of my visit so I thought I better take a look at the catalogue (just in case). 3 lots interested me so myself and a mate, Melissa Koop, took a drive over to Scone (just for a look). The first mare on my list, an Encosta de Lago filly, I liked a lot but I knew she would be over my 10k budget. The next mare, a Redoute’s Choice filly, I struck off my list, and the third mare, a Canny Lad filly was a bit on the small side but I liked her and went back for a second look. Her name was Millisecond (pictured) and she was lot 16. I registered myself as a buyer (just in case) and made a few frantic calls to my bank to ensure I could put up to 10k on my visa (just in case).
I found myself heading over to the ring when the lots got to double figures. I had only ever been leading horses around a ring – sitting there, as a prospective buyer, I felt a rush of adrenalin, even if it was old humble Scone sales ring that resembles a cattle mart more than a horse sale pavilion. Millisecond (Canny Lad – Damowin, by Danehill), a winner at 2yrs at 900m, looked good as she was being led around. I found my heart beating faster as the bidding started. 3 people seemed to be bidding on her. Melissa looked at me as if to say well? I raised my catalogue towards a bid spotter. She stalled for a moment as if surprised but then called my bid – suddenly I was bidding in $500 increments. It was just me and another bloke bidding, then, in an instant it was up to $8,000, the bid spotter was pointing at me and there were no counter bids. The gavel was down, and a form thrust on my lap before I knew it. I filled out the form and handed it back before I suddenly realised the magnitude of what I had just done. My heart was racing but there was a great big smile spreading across my face.
Melissa patted me on the back and said she couldn’t believe I just bought a mare. I couldn’t believe I had just bought a mare! An elderly gentleman sitting nearby congratulated me – I think he knew by my reaction it was my first ever purchase. He asked me what stallion I would send her to. Good question! The breeding season was only a couple of weeks away and I had no idea who my mare would be visiting.
A few phone calls later and I had arranged transport of the mare to an aggistment farm in nearby Denman (which I had visited the previous day…just in case!). The next morning I was on a train to Sydney and flew from there to New Zealand to start my new job. From New Zealand I did a quick bit of pedigree research and came up with the names of a few stallions. A few phone calls and emails later, I had Royal Academy (pictured), a wonderful, proven G1 producing sire booked for Millisecond. I can vividly remember that phone call, outside the Turf Bar in Cambridge, and the big smile on my face when I went back inside and told my new mates how I had just booked Royal Academy for my mare….
And so, a few months later, back in Ireland, I find myself creating a website; Calvados Bloodstock…Millisecond, by the way, went in-foal, and her impending parturition isn’t too far away. She is booked to visit Dreamscape, (picutred) for the 2010 season. Millisecond may be half way across the world from me but she is in very capable hands at Roseglen Estate in Denman and, for now, well, I’m still working away, following my dreams and writing articles for Calvados Bloodstock when I find a spare few hours…….this is the story thus far.