Situated in Foulksmills in County Wexford, Garryrichard Stud is a name synonymous with National Hunt success. Owned by the Hickey family, this business began in 1870 and boasts an enviable record.
A family of stallion masters, their stables were home to great stallions such as Lord Americo, Over The River, Callernish, Master Owen and Arctic Slave etc.
The late Michael Hickey was an important link in the chain of success in Garryrichard and was recognised for his achievements with the Goffs National Hunt Personality Award and the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ National Award.
As the saying goes, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” and at Garryrichard Stud this was certainly the case as the stud was handed down to his son Denis Hickey. Under his watchful eye, Garryrichard has had its fair share of racing success.
The story now continues as his sons, William and Patrick are involved in the breeding programme, albeit in taking a different interest. The brothers, who are no strangers to success in the show jumping ring have chosen to incorporate the sport horse into their breeding programme.
Over the last year, William and Patrick, with the help of their parents Denis and Lucy are making a name for themselves as breeders and producers of quality sport horses.
If all be known, it wasn’t so strange that the brothers went down this road, as their grandfather Michael also had an interest in the sport horse. He was the founding member of the Wexford Showjumping Association and he served on the RDS Equestrian Committee. His record in the hunter championships at Dublin is second to none, winning the supreme hunter title on six occasions.
On their mother’s side, the boys’ grandfather Billy McKeever was master of the Louth Foxhounds and competed at Badminton. Their mother Lucy followed in her father’s footsteps, enjoying many days out with the Louth Foxhounds.
For the Hickeys, they believe, if you are going to breed champions, the principles that apply for breeding horses for racing are the same for the sport horse.
The family’s long association with producing winners in racing is paying off now in show jumping arenas. The family knowledge and support has allowed these young men to build up a strong business.
“My dad Denis and my mum Lucy both play a central role in the business too. Both have a lot of knowledge and without them we wouldn’t have got this start,” William said.
Both William and Patrick competed on ponies in the show jumping arena. Upon completing his Leaving Certificate, William, through the connection of Declan Orphen got an opportunity to work in America.
After making contact with Alex Jayne, who was looking for someone to ride his young horses, he took up the position and remained there for three years. While there, he was responsible for breaking and producing young horses, while jumping at Grand Prix level. From there, he went to work for the Jacob family in North Star Farm, before returning to Ireland.
“I didn’t see myself coming back from America as I really enjoyed it,” William explained.
“With COVID-19, everything shut down and it made sense to come home for a while. Patrick was studying economics and business in UCD and he had decided to take a year off to pursue his show jumping career full-time.
“He is now based in Switzerland with our cousin and international show jumper Mark McAuley. We have a very good partnership and we both work to our strengths and to the contacts that we have made, be it in Europe, America or Ireland.
“With Patrick away at the moment, he can take in the shows in Europe, which is a good place to meet clients and for access to world ranking shows. Hopefully in time as the pandemic eases, I will also be back in Europe and America,” he adds.
Although William is determined to grow his business in Ireland, he still has ties in America, which will no doubt help him in the future in terms of client base.
For William, Ireland is the place to produce young horses. “Ireland is the best place to produce young stock, and to do it slowly. You are never too far from a good centre and there are plenty of very good competitive classes and leagues to test your horse. We have a lot going for us in Ireland when it comes to producing horses,” he adds.
Patrick has also demonstrated talent in show jumping arenas. He spent time with Dave Quigley in Shropshire learning from him, represented Ireland on the junior European team in Slovakia and was part of the Irish junior team that finished second in Hagen.
Patrick has plenty of success on ponies, which included a win in the RDS. Last year aboard GRS Lady Amaro he secured the win in the 1.35m class beating number one Steve Guerdat into second place.
Denis’ interest in breeding sport horses began eight years ago.
“His first foal was GRS Lady Amaro which Patrick has had much success on. Her dam sire, Over the River, was a great National Hunt stallion for my father and his father before him. At the moment, the business is split 50/50, between thoroughbreds and sport horses. It is very much a family business,” Patrick said.
The brothers have chosen to go down the embryo transfer route in their breeding programme.
“I really think that embryo transfer is the way forward. I realise that it is expensive, but it allows us to keep our top mares in competition and at the same time breed. We use Tim Brennan and he is brilliant,” Patrick explains.
For William when it comes to breeding a sport horse, he believes that the dam line is even more important than the sire. He is not opposed to looking at young stallions when choosing to breed, but the dam needs to have shown form. Last year they bred 14 foals and this year they are expecting 16.
Stallion at stud
Garryrichard is home to Hillstar (GB) (Danehill Dancer (IRE) – Crystal Star (GB), by Mark Of Esteem (IRE)), the winner of the 2014 Grade 1 Pattison Canadian International who was victorious in Royal Ascot’s Grade 2 King Edward VII. Hillstar is a half-brother to Crystal Ocean.
The oldest of his offspring have just turned four and are looking very nice. The stallion is proving very popular with breeders.
William says he has a very good temperament and loves to work, so they are expecting good things for his offspring.
• GRS Lady Amaro has moved up impressively to 1.40m level with ease, being placed in the recent 1.40m Grand Prix in Metoliva. The Hickeys got an embryo out of her by the lovely young stallion Lucky Luck (Grandorado TN x Cannabis z).
• Martini Van Overis Z (Montreal VDL x Ramiro Z): Martini jumped up to 1.60m with Donald Whitaker and numerous 1.50m Grand Prix with Patrick. She is a full sister to 1.60m jumper Bart C and a half-sister to 1.50m jumper Deauville Van Overis Z. In foal to the Hickey’s own young Kannan stallion.
• Quandurina (Quidam De Revel x Calato): This mare jumped junior Europeans with Patrick. She is in foal in year to Lucky Luck (Grandorado TN x Cannabis Z).
• Camina Van De Kornelishoeve (Kannan x Lys DE Darmen): She jumped to 1.40m with William. Camina is the dam of 1.60m jumper Luikan Q and six-year-old GRS Jessica Jones (Toulon x Kannan).