There’s always a warm welcome, a cup of tea and a slice of cake on offer at Ballypatrick and it usually goes alongside a chat while watching some of the most exciting young horses and most talented riders in the country work the arena.

The Ballypatrick yard has burgeoned over recent years into one of the very best in the country, no style-over-substance syndrome here, but an amazing facility with the horse at its heart, and all done with tasteful practicality and forward-thinking.

Ballypatrick Breeding has some of the most thrilling equine DNA in Europe breathing in the clean Co Tipp air. As a novice journalist for Horse and Hound years ago, the breeding unit is what captured my imagination the most, and it’s safe to say, it still does.

Cheryl Broderick has always been at the helm of the breeding operation and for this visit, she shows me around the new breeding barns set on the newly purchased 220 acre-farm, just down the road from the main yard. Most of the work has been completed since my first visit and it’s time to knuckle down for another busy breeding season.

Helen Sharp (HS): The access to fresh air is so clearly intrinsically designed in the new barns, where did you look to get inspiration for the barns?

Cheryl Broderick (CB): We put a good bit of research into it. I went around a lot of places in Europe, and my brother Greg (Broderick, Olympic show jumper and coach) also went to a lot of different farms where they cater for big herds of different age groups. I think we took a bit from every yard back to Ballypatrick and what we have now is the result of it.

HS: How many staff do you need to have working here – less or more than before?

CB: Way less, because everything is set up in a way that one person could nearly do it.

The horses can be put back into their sheds while we clean off the concrete with the sweeper etc.

All the dividing walls are solid so it’s easier for loaders to go in and clean out very quickly. The flow of it works really well. A couple of people can easily manage a couple of hundred horses here.

It’s not one big open shed, they are still divided equally into manageable numbers. In each pen you have between eight and 12 horses, depending on the age groups.

Even though the shed as a whole is hosting a bigger amount of horses, individually they are in a nice manageable number of pens and so they are still getting a bespoke kind of care.

I think dividing them up has made horses more comfortable. They are a lot more at ease together – and no bullying, as you can see.

HS: In the summer the horses will all go onto your 220 acres here then?

CB: Yeah, they all go to the fields in their groups for the summer. The foals are weaned in their groups as well.

We have two-year-old fillies that are pregnant and recipient mares here too, so there’s a mixture of all different age groups of mares.

And then when you look opposite, we have all the stallion pens. I think having them outside here on the concrete in a way that it’s very easily cleaned off is definitely saving on the bedding. It’s a very easy way of keeping things clean and keeping everything looking well.

HS: It’s a big economic outlay but it’s going to save money in the long term.

CB: We wanted to have it up before Covid-19; we had plans in our head of what we were going to do but unfortunately it didn’t get up at that time and [the price of]steel has gone through the roof, materials and everything.

I think the breeding is going well and our horses are coming through, some are starting to go up to five-star level now. I think it’s the way forward to breed young horses with good pedigrees and good young horses coming through.

We have very good jockeys in the yard that can produce these horses, which is very important for us too.

HS: A one-stop shop?

CB: Yeah, I think so. And to be honest, it’s nice that these horses have rewarded us, our job is something we love, and the horses have given us a great time and great lifestyle. So it’s nice to give them something back as well.

HS: Do you come down here every day?

CB: Every day, this is my pride and joy. It’s lovely to see the horses so comfortable, to see the plans that you’ve had in your mind for the last couple of years come to fruition now.It’s amazing actually. And it’s lovely to see the horses, you can see yourself how calm they are, and quiet, they are all very happy.

Cheryl Broderick at home in Ballypatrick. \ Helen Sharp

HS: Are you are hoping to live on site, is that the plan?

CB: Yeah, please God, that’s the plan. We are here most of the time anyway because the foaling is done here. The embryo work is done here, too. It’s lovely that we can have everything together now.

I think, even for the summer, it’s going to be very handy to have the new pens. We have a herd of recipient mares, and obviously the mares that we’ve taken embryos from and our broodmares.

I think this will probably be used a lot all year round. It will make it

handy on staff that mares are at hand a lot more, without having to go down to the fields and bring them up. It will save a lot of time.

HS: Do you think having this facility will mean that you will breed more or are you at a happy number?

CB: I think the numbers we have will fit comfortably in the new set up. 50 foals will be our practical number. The foals get constant fresh, clean air because of the way we have designed the pens. They can lie down inside under cover and also have space to move around, and then they can come out to eat in an uncovered area which is also helpful to keep them active. It also cuts down on bedding.

In the coming years, Greg would like to have 50 homebreds. And try to have another 50 bred in partnership with other breeders. From this we hope to have a nice group of 10-15 high-end jumpers to produce. Plus horses to sell for eventing and the amateur market, which is also busy for us.

HS: You have told me often that breeders have to work with the riders, why is that?

CB: You look down here and you see a line of young horses looking at you, a breeder really is on their own, they get the horses on the ground and do a really good job. But you want the best for your young horses and you want to get them into an arena where they can reach their full potential and flourish. If you give them the best chance you can, it’s going to benefit your mare line in the future. So I know that I’m in a lucky situation that I have Greg there and we have brilliant riders in the yard in Ballypatrick, that all can ride and produce the horses and get the very best out of them. And that, in turn, is helping my breeding mares here.

I think that’s something for a lot of breeders, we all think all our geese are swans and that everything you breed is going to be brilliant but unfortunately, that’s not how it turns out in real life.

If you have the expertise of a good rider, it helps you with your horses early. That you know what your three-year-olds are like under the saddle, and, if they are not going to do what you want them to do whether it be eventing, show jumping or you know whatever you have in mind, then unfortunately, you have to find a different road for them because it gets expensive. So you have to find what you want to breed, you need to get it to reach its best potential.

HS: There’s a job for most horses.

CB: There is a job for most horses yeah, but if you are trying to breed show jumpers like we are, you get to see them early, the canter and their balance, whether they are up-hill, good attitude, and if they are commercial looking horses. That’s before they ever leave the ground, before they ever get a saddle on them. I think it’s very important for breeders to be in touch with their riders so they can advise them early what their options are for the horse. It’s expensive going down the competition road. If they are not going to be what you are looking for then you need to re-think it.

HS: At Ballypatrick you have built your team, built your riding facility and now the breeding barn. What do you do with horses that don’t make the grade?

CB: I have a lot of fillies here and I breed a lot, so it could be 50:50 or 60:40 fillies to colts every year. So I might have a three-year-old who could be bred really well but may have bad x-rays or she’s not as good as we want her to be in her jump, that’s life – we have to deal with it. What we have found now is that we drop them back into the recipient herd. I think it’s getting harder and harder to find good recipient mares. And obviously they are probably the most important part of our embryo transport programme, so it’s in our interest that we have mares in the herd still and just give them a different job.

A lot of breeders never meet the riders. And unfortunately, if riders don’t give them the advice on what they need, what are they meant to do? Get in with riders early and get them to help you out to find out what your stock is.

Both Cheryl and Greg Broderick researched studs across Europe to fine tune their own barn design. \ Helen Sharp

HS: The public auctions were a bit up and down last year, there was some bad clearance rates and some not-so-great prices, that surprised a lot of people ((laughing), the Ballypatrick auction exceeded €1.19m in sales). Have you any thoughts on why that’s happening?

CB: I think when you see the results for the three-year-olds, yeah things are up and down, even foal sales across Europe were a bit back last year.

Embryo sales are down as well, and all sales agents will tell you that. But I think that’s the way it goes, it does go up and down a bit.

I think that a lot of horses were bred during the years of Covid-19 and I think there’s a lot of extra young horses that came out of those times. Obviously, you are not going to say that they shouldn’t have been bred in those years but I think we are seeing the effects of that a bit now.

Detailed thinking: large straw beds under cover lead to open air yards with feeding gates. \ Helen Sharp

‘When you’re travelling, you see different ideas and different facilities and you take a little bit from everything’

Helen Sharp (HS): It can’t be easy to keep having to invest to expand?

Greg Broderick (GB): The new barn is something we have been talking about for a long time but I suppose like the yard here, we have been building it up and reinvesting. When you sell a horse you are always trying to buy new ones – there’s always stuff to be done; your facilities, arena, trucks, just every little thing, there’s so much to be done. I suppose it’s all lovely to have outfits like this but then the bigger you get, the bigger your overheads are, so you are constantly having to be creative in your business mind as well.

The thing is that people don’t generally want to buy your bad horses, and you can’t blame them, they want to buy your good ones. So it’s a balancing act to try to sell some good horses to make the business run successfully and to try to keep some good horses for the sport for the very good jockeys we are lucky to have here.

When you’re travelling you see different ideas and different facilities and you take a little bit from everything. You put it all together and I hope the way it’s designed it should work fairly well.

HS: The straw works well under the cover, the beds are really clean.

CB: Yeah, the bedding is a big thing. And it cuts down on labour. All the gates fall back, so hopefully to scrape the yard shouldn’t be a big task. Even the horses being out in the fresh air every day as they are able to stand out in the unroofed section; it should be better for them.

They are walking around a lot too because they are going from the beds to the yard to eat, so the mobility and movement is also better for the horses.

HS: They are just so calm in their small groups, I noticed.

GB: Yeah, and that’s something I noticed in places with similar set ups, where the horses were coming out of the shed into a yard to eat, they were actually very relaxed with it. And that’s one of the main things we wanted. We then put a passage at the back for the hard feed. If you are putting tubs in the pens to feed, and the horses are in getting fresh, they fight a bit at feeding time. So if you are walking in around putting meal in tubs, there’s a good chance someone will get a kick.

Before we would have put haylage in where they are eating out through the bars, but then feed gets missed because it’s getting down through the haylage. It’s fine, but it’s not ideal. So then we came up with the idea that we put the feed troughs on the back side of the rear passage so that the haylage is out in the yard the other side. Then you can go along the feed passage and put the meal in the troughs. It wasn’t a spur of the moment thing that we built that facility, so we did consider a lot of different ideas.

The feed bars at the back can be changed in height because depending on how busy you are. Sometimes the whole barn can be cleaned out with a loading shovel. Sometimes we will be just be topping up hay or straw at different times – just to keep the beds dry - which would mean taller beds, more like deep littering. And if you are deep littering and there’s not enough time to clean it out to the floor, then you can take a bar off, so it should work practically enough.

HS: The drinkers on the outside looks like it wouldn’t work, but I just watched a horse come over and sure enough, they are happy as Larry drinking from over the wall.

GB: Again, same thing, if you are cleaning out with loading shovels etc, it’s very easy to hit one of those water troughs or a pipe or something and you have a mess. Whereas, when it’s on the other side of the wall, it’s out of any danger.

It also stops any young horses getting their droppings into it too, so it eliminates that sort of stuff. Hopefully they work very practically.

Still under construction when this photo was taken, the double breeding facility has sectional opening gates to make cleaning easier and requires less staff to manage.\ Helen Sharp