Friday, August 14, 2009

Irish National Stud Farm

Our tour this morning included a stop at the Irish National Stud Farm on our way to Dublin. Thoroughbred horses have been bred here since 1946 and the gardens were established as a millenium project commemorating Fiachra, the Patron Saint of Gardeners.


These cattle are used to eat all the tall grass, so that only the short, sweet grass remains for the horses to eat.

The mares and foals are kept in paddocks away from the stallions. A mare will carry a foal for 11 months and will be bred again shortly after. The horse laying down is probably exhausted!

Mares are brought to the farm from all over the world. For many reasons, they will not use artifical insemination and the mares must therefore be flown to the farm at a time when they are close to being in heat.

The stable boxes where the mares and foals are kept. The horses are never kept out in the rain or any cold weather. Their stalls must be manually cleaned out once a day, and there are often as many as 400 horses at the farm...a full-time job.

In order to ensure that the mare is actually in heat, she is brought to horse called a "teaser." Tommy the Teaser lives here and a mare would be brought up to window to meet him. If she shows an interest in Tommy and his "sweet nothings," the handlers know that she is ready to meet the stallion. Poor Tommy never actually gets to have a good fling! If a mare was presented to a stallion and she wasn't fully in heat, she could cause serious harm to the stallion with her powerful back legs. Tommy the Teaser has a very important job!

Tommy hanging around...

Falabella horses are miniature horses, even smaller than ponies.

The stallions are all kept in separate paddocks as they all think they are the alpha males and could harm each other by fighting. They are worth millions of dollars and are treated royally.

This is Verglas. Even though he is white, no thoroughbreds are called white. Instead they are "gray."

Something was really bugging Verglas when we were there. He kept running back and forth along the fence in his paddock. He could obviously see something.

This is Invincible Spirit, worth 250-300 million Euros. This is what he will earn as a breeding stallion. You would pay 60,000 Euros to breed your mare with him and he will breed about 190 mares in a season.

His poster...he was born in 1997.

The stallion boxes...they live a good life!

Each box has a brass placque with all the stallion's information.

Our tour guide, Tony, on the left. He was an excellent story teller. He looks like he might have spent a few hours in a pub in his lifetime!

The beautiful landscaped grounds...

The front of the museum...we have noticed everywhere in Ireland that the flowers are magnificent.

I guess this is what happens to you when your reign ends...

There are Japanese gardens as well as St. Fiachra's gardens and it was hard to see it all. We chose to tour St. Fiachra's gardens...

Ducks and swans enjoying the lakes....

The gardens are meant to be a sculptural and spiritual experience. For this reason, they included replicas of beehive huts, which were the most powerful and remote example of Irish monasticism closest to nature. We saw the original huts around the Ring of Kerry.

Statue symbolizing one at peace...

This tour was probably not one we would have done given the choice, but we were really glad we went there. It was very interesting and we learned alot about breeding thoroughbreds.

Back on the bus, for our drive into Dublin...

The sheep are definitely not afraid of cars, even on the small narrow roads....

Joe, our very competent and very patient bus driver...

One of the many old bridges...

Once we got to the hotel, it was time for a quick change, before heading off to Taylor's Irish Cabaret, for an evening of Irish dancing, singing and comedy. It wasn't Riverdance, but it was fun!

Part of our group...thanks for taking the picture, Kelly!

Tomorrow we have a day in Dublin on our own. We are all looking forward to it. We enjoyed the tour immensely, but 9 days of schedules is more than enough!

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