I have always loved the traditional Irish breeds of the Connemara pony and the Irish Draught horse. Over the last number of years the popularity of the Connemara Pony and the Irish draught has dramatically increased both at home in Ireland and abroad. This popularity is undoubtedly down to their strength, versatility and their kind temperaments, all of which make them the perfect all-rounder for both leisure and competitive riders.
2017 was a phenomenally successful year for Derryronane Stud’s performance Irish Draught horses and Connemara ponies on the Irish showing circuit. So a few months back I approached Hannah Gordon, chief rider for Derryronane, and asked would she and owner Liam Lynskey be willing to share their thoughts on the traditional Irish breeds and get some insight into the preparation of Team Derryronane for the upcoming season ahead.
DERRYRONANE Stud, located in Swinford, Co. Mayo, is home to gold merit Irish Draught sire, Moylough Bouncer and his son, DS Ballagh Bouncer. It is also the home of champion Connemara performance stallion, Black Shadow, a son of the legendary grade A showjumper, Silver Shadow. Not to mention the many more new and exciting prospects added to the team in recent months.
Liam, a member of the Traditional Irish Horse Association, runs the stud along side his paving company. When asked how Derryronane stud came to be, he says; “You could say that I’m following in the footsteps of my grandfather, in that he kept stallions, and I believe I got my love of horses from him. He gave me my first pony when I was about 7. I left school at the age of 15 and my first job was working in a Connemara pony stud, where Westside Fred and Wings of Victory were the resident Connemara stallions. It was there with Stephen Joyce that I became involved with in hand showing of Connemaras. After 2 years working here, I realised I would not make enough money to be able to afford the ponies that I wanted through horses. I made the tough decision to pursue a different career which led on to me setting up my road works company. After 10 years away from ponies, I decided that I could stay away no longer. I set up Derryronane Stud and ran it along side my road works company. The first addition to the stud was Black Shadow.”
Hannah, a qualified physiotherapist from Crossmolina, Co. Mayo, started riding for Liam nearly 5 years ago. Hannah has been riding her entire life. Coming from a traditionally showjumping background, she puts it herself, “I have been riding since before I could walk – by riding I mean having a sit on everything in the yard! I’ve been competing since around age 9 with my 128cm pony ‘Fortridge Pebbles’ A.K.A. ‘Jiggles’. I grew up competing in showjumping primarily, having competed to around 1.20m, and did some showing at a handful of local shows. About 5 years ago, Liam asked me to work for him. During those 5 years I have competed in mainly working hunters, performance classes (a combination of a simple dressage test and a derby style course with both cross country and knockable fences) and showing/ridden classes. Last year, I dipped my toe in the water of eventing, competing in 4 year old classes mainly.”
The success of Derryronane Stud has gone from strength to strength in recent years, with numerous wins both regionally and at national level. Having several horses and ponies in preparation for the upcoming season, not to mention a string of upcoming young horses and the general management of the stud itself, there is a dedicated team keeping the ball running at all times. Liam is the driving force, along side his wife, Gráinne, who helps with the general organisation of the stud. Hannah rides and produces the performance horses and ponies along side her dad, Matt, who focuses on producing showjumpers and young horses for sale. The team also includes Shaun, the stud manager.
With so many horses on the go, Hannah says, “When it is very busy, it is almost impossible to keep track of every horse and so we often have to focus on the animals we will compete ourselves. During this time, my sole focus is on the horses for qualifiers and weekly competitions. Liam will focus on the younger horses, anything that will be competing in hand and the stallions. Shaun will also focus on the younger stock and on the mares that are at the stud for covering duties.”
When asked what it is about the Irish breeds they love so much, Hannah replies, “We love the Irish breeds for a multitude of reasons. They are the ultimate all rounders, being competitive at every discipline and also at every level in their chosen discipline. Connemaras and draughts are very sought after for novice and amateur riders, pony club, riding club, happy hackers…
On the other end of the spectrum, they are competitive to an international level. Some examples of draughts competing at the highest level are, Grange Bouncer, the sire of Moylough Bouncer, competed at 3* eventing. Moylough Bouncer himself competed to Grand Prix level showjumping. Steeped In Luck, a draught stallion related to Ballagh Bouncer, competed at Grand Prix level dressage. One example of a Connemara competing on the international stage is Silver Shadow, the sire of Black Shadow; he represented Ireland for showjumping numerous times!
It is the same traits that we like in both the Connemara and the draught. This is because, draughts are essentially just big connemaras!! You often find that people follow the very natural progression from riding connemaras into riding draughts.”
The DS Team
DS Ballagh Bouncer aka Ballagh
DS Ballagh Bouncer is a 6 year old draught stallion by Moylough Bouncer. As a youngster, Ballagh was a prolific winner in the show ring in hand, being the Supreme National Young Stock Champion in 2014. Having mainly competed in draught performance classes, he was reserve champion in the RDS 4&5 year old draught performance class in 2016 and qualified again in 2017 placing 5th. He also competes in working hunter classes and was the winner of the working hunter qualifier in the Irish Draught National Championships 2017. He has competed in a handful of showjumping competitions and last year he stepped up to competing at 1.10m level.
Last year, Ballagh qualified for both the RDS draught performance class and the National Irish Draught Performance final. Hannah says, “Ballagh produced an amazing 2nd and 5th place positions in the RDS last two years, and while it would be lovely to think that we could replicate this success, we are definitely not going forward with any expectations. Anything can happen in Dublin!! As long as he behaves himself well and gives a good account of himself in the ring, I will be very happy with him. He is still a very young horse and is one with a very bright future ahead of him we believe. He has the most wonderful nature and this will allow him to be competitive in almost every equestrian pursuit in my opinion. He has already shown a great aptitude for showjumping, working hunters and cross country. He could also have a career in the dressage arena as he has shown in the Performance Class in RDS last year, scoring 9/10 for every movement in a simple dressage test. Hopefully in time, he will follow in his father’s footsteps and showjump to a high level also.”
Moylough Bouncer is an Irish draught grade a showjumping stallion, now retired to stud. He is the sire of 3 approved ID stallion sons – Ballagh Bouncer, Darragh Moylough Vision and most recently Archie the Great achieving class 1 status. He also has a numer of prolific winners in the show ring including supreme champion Irish Draught mare, ‘Strictly Come Bouncing’.
Bouncer was awarded HSI’s highest award of a Gold merit for his showjumping ability, having jumped to 1.35m level. He has had numerous in hand results including a top 6 position in the RDS 6 years in a row; as well as various working hunter results, including reserve working hunter champion at the Irish Draught National Championships in both 2015 and 2016.
Hannah says of Bouncer, “Bouncer has now retired to stud duties having had an extremely successful competitive career with Derryronane Stud. To date, he has produced quality, correct offspring with kind natures, intelligence and impressive paces. We hope he will continue to produce this quality stock and that we will continue to be lucky enough to produce some of his offspring.”
Black Shadow, sire to 3 class 1 Connemara stallions, has competed both in hand and in ridden classes, being reserve champion ridden Connemara Stallion at the RDS in 2012. He has proven to be a force to reckoned with in working hunter classes, having represented Ireland in the Connemara Working Hunter Nations Cup Team in 2016. Further accolades include reserve champion at Clifden High Performance show in 2015, champion working hunter Connemara Stallion in Clifden 2011, as well as wins in the Connemara performance classes, namely supreme champion in the Connemara Performance Championship at the RDS in 2016.
As Shadow and Hannah won the Connemara Performance Championship in 2016, it means that they cannot compete in this class as a pony/rider unit again. Both Liam and Hannah feel it would be unfair to Hannah to allow Shadow to compete in this class under another rider so Shadow is enjoying a small change of career at present. The plan for Shadow this year is to compete in some showjumping classes once the breeding season has come to an end. Unfortunately, Hannah is too old to compete him in showjumping, as she says “being well past the age limit of 16!!” and so they plan to find something new to compete him in. There are some ideas in the pipeline for Shadow and Hannah but it is too early to reveal these plans yet. Shadow is currently showjumping at 1.20m level with junior Irish team rider, Ciarán Nallen.
Brackagh Dream aka Dreamer
Dreamer, 7 year old Connemara gelding and son of Black Shadow competes in mainly Connemara performance classes, having qualified for RDS in both 2016 & 2017. Like his sire, he also has shown himself to be an excellent working hunter prospect with top 5 placings in Clifden, Northern Ireland Festival and at Arena UK. He has also placed in some ridden classes, with a successful debut at the RDS as reserve ridden champion in the 4&5 year old ridden Connemara class back in 2015. Dreamer has also shown his potential as a future event pony, placing in both of his first outings. Over the last year or two he has begun his showjumping career, competing up to 1.10m level.
Hannah on Dreamer: “For me, Dreamer is a really exciting pony. I think he has all the attributes to make a really nice eventer. He has the nicest attitude and really aims to please when he is riding. He has beautiful paces which continue to improve as he grows and develops. He loves jumping and is one of the bravest animals I have ever sat on cross country (beaten only by his father, Black Shadow) while staying careful for the showjumping. He has no fear of dykes, water, etc., just sit and point and this pony will take you around.”
Strictly Come Bouncing
Strictly Come Bouncing is a 2011 Irish Draught mare by Moylough Bouncer owned by Sean Ruane and is produced by Liam at Derryronane. She was supreme Irish Draught mare in the RDS in both 2015 and 2017. Hannah tells me, “On the way to Dublin to defend her title in 2016 she had a bad accident and never made it to the show… she was in foal at the time and we were lucky she didn’t lose it. The foal was born and called “Silver Lining,” as every cloud has a silver lining, missing the RDS being the cloud!”
Strictly Come Bouncing went on to win the draught mare class and supreme champion Irish Draught horse at the National Championships last year. When asked what the plans for this mare is in the future, her owner Sean apparently replies, “Whatever Liam thinks.”
Candy Liquer and Castlerichmond Grace: Both are 5 year old Irish Sport horses, and last year competed in 4 year old eventing classes, namely the Stepping Stones to Success league, RDS Qualifiers and Burghley event horse qualifiers.
Hannah says, “The plan for them going forward will be some showjumping at a small level, nothing stressful, and maybe some ODEs. It is possible that we will aim for the RDS 5 year old event qualifiers if they progress as we hope.”
Aims for the stud
Liam has branched out and has included DS Are You With Me, a 5yr old Irish Sport Horse (Holstein) stallion by Corrado x Contender to his team. DS Are You With Me has over 55% Tb blood, and was the only stallion to have 3 foals selected for the HSI Foal Championships final in 2017. Also included in the roster is the fully approved Hans, a 6yr old 148 Irish Sports Pony (KWPN) Kojak x Holland. Hans’ sire Kojak produced many 160cm showjumping horses and his dam competed to 1.30m before retiring to stud. The introduction of both DS Are You With Me and Hans shows that not only is Derryronane Stud making a stamp amongst the Traditional Irish Breeds, but is also willing to expand out into the sport horse arena with the best of international breeding.
DS Are You With Me & Hans
“Since the start up of the stud, we have had horses and ponies competing in hand, in ridden classes, in working hunters, performance classes and in showjumping; and we have managed to produce winners in all of these disciplines. Last year, we have trialed some eventing with some of the younger horses. It would definitely be an aim of the stud to try to replicate our success in other areas in this discipline.
We have been trying to breed our horses with a specific aim towards each equestrian discipline. Our aim is, that the animals that we breed have the correct attributes to be competitive and successful in their chosen equestrian discipline. We aim to produce these animals to the standard required to be winners.”
Q&A: Planning ahead – Preparation and Dedication
Liam and Hannah are extremely dedicated and committed to the production and expansion of Derryronane Stud. If you would like to get a sense of what it takes to become and what it feels like to be a successful producer, read on.
What are the horse’s schedule/workout routine?
Hannah: Different horses will have a different schedule depending on a variety of factors including their age, attitude to work and what the demands are of their current level of competition. A horse’s schedule can also change on a regular basis depending on how they are progressing. The main focus at home is on flat work. I try to vary the routine so the horses don’t get bored. Most of the horses would have a day hacking every week. I vary between riding in the sand arena and in the field. I find that most horses prefer riding out in the field as they can get tired of working in the school and so when the weather is good, I try to do more work here.
Do you find the same schooling techniques work for each horse or do they need individual attention and planning?
Hannah: Different horses certainly require different approaches; they are not machines after all! We aim to keep things as simple as possible; it is very easy to over complicate things for young horses. We try to get each animal doing good basic flat work and to build from there. For each horse, this takes a different approach and a different time frame. In terms of planning, as a team, we are quite dedicated to taking time to discuss the horses and what approach may or may not work. This is where my dad’s experience (I don’t want to say how many years!!!!) of producing young horses is really important. He will often watch me ride or even sit on horses and it is always good to get that second opinion. We also seek the opinion of others, as it is always possible to improve. I get regular flat work lessons and this has a definite impact on the schooling techniques used with each horse.
What excites you & keeps you motivated about riding at competition level?
Hannah: For me, it is watching and feeling the horses improve and grow in confidence. For example, I loved producing Ballagh as a 4 year old last year. He started off as a complete baby that worried about everything. He improved from week to week and learned to trust me and what I was asking of him. He went from being eliminated week one of the qualifiers to jumping clear and qualifying for Dublin on week three! It is a time where you get to develop your relationship with a young horse, when they can be worried about something and you give them that signal to say ‘it’s ok’ and they rely on you and trust in your judgement.
Liam: “The feeling of success! The drive to improve on every outing. The ambition to be better than the best!”
What is the best advice you can give?
Hannah: Be willing to accept feedback and criticism! To not only accept it but to actively seek it out. Then, try to learn from it and try to improve on it!
With so many to ride who is your favourite?
Hannah: It would be impossible for me to pick one favourite! I like them all for different reasons. It is a running joke at the shows that I don’t understand the meaning of the word favourite as they are ALL my favourite!!!
Liam: That would be like asking me to pick a favourite among my children!!! There are no favourites.
Being home bred and produced, how does it feel to see the horses develop from foals to competition horses/ponies?
Liam: An unbelievable feeling – a feeling that your dreams actually can come true! It is a feeling like no other, the only thing I can equate it to, is that it is similar to watching your children growing up.
(aww ❤ )
I would like to extend my sincerest thank you to both Liam and Hannah for taking the time out to participate in this piece. Their dedication and passion for what they do is clear from the sincerity and enthusiasm felt throughout their answers.
If you would like to follow Derryronane over the coming year, or if you would like to contact Liam about Derryronane’s stallions, you can do via their Facebook and Instagram accounts here:
Wishing Team Derryronane the very best of luck for a successful 2018 campaign.
(Sorry it took me so long to finish this!!)