Back in 1989 when farming was going through a rough patch Tucker and Bea Geraghty of Pelletstown, Co Meath, made a brave decision that has reaped far- reaching success. There were six young children in the family – three girls Sasha, Jill and Holly and three boys Ross, Norman and Barry.
The youngest son Barry, who has scored almost 2,000 racing winners, was only 10 back then, but he recalls that decisive moment in his memoir True Colours: “My father announces we are going to start a riding school and everything changes for me. There are ponies to be cared for, lessons to be led and I’m out there riding for hours and hours at a time.”
Bea says: “Local people could come and learn to ride. All of our friends and neighbours sent their kids here and that’s what started it.”
When I first visited there back in the early 90s, I experienced the easy-going welcome for myself. I am sure that some of the youngsters I met there then are parents to some of the six-year-olds I saw this time being schooled by instructor Elaine Geraghty (no relation) who has been with Pelletstown for almost 30 years. Yard manager Stephen Popovych, who hails from Ukraine has been with them for 18 years.
So, permanence is part of this place’s charm and in fact its association with the horse goes back a long way. The great five-time Cheltenham Cup winner Golden Miller was bred here. Tucker rode as an amateur himself and had a trainer’s licence when the decision was made to start the school.
“A friend of mine said to me, ‘Leisure is the thing of the future’. We had a couple of ponies about the place and it just went on from there. From the start, the fun and the success we have had is just unbelievable,” Tucker declares.
A good deal of that success has been through the family itself in the competition world. The kids started out with wins in pony racing, inter-schools jumping, hunter trials and then on to the big tracks. Five of the six won under rules. Four of these were on a horse they bred themselves called What Odds. Of course there have also been Ross’s Irish Grand National win and Barry’s extraordinary career.
But there is more to come. Recently Pelletstown has linked up with Dunboyne College in a third-level business/equine course run by Siobhan Cooney. Through it, qualification points can be gained for Green Certs and for entry to degree programmes at Maynooth and Limerick.
It is a cert that the Geraghty family plus 11 grandchildren will surely keep the Pelletstown success story going on from here.