Location: Westminster, MD
The most important thing in dealing with horses is patience. Every animal is unique. It takes a bit of time to acclimate a horse to a new situation and observe how he reacts to his surroundings. I assess a horse that is new to me by watching how he is with other horses in the pasture, how he relaxes in the barn, how he interacts with people and how he responds to a rider on his back. Does he eat well? If the answers to those questions are positive, then that horse is happy…and a happy horse will be happy in his work and open and willing to doing what you ask him to do. Some horses come to you very exuberant and happy to work; others need to adjust to a new situation, relax and see they can trust the people and environment around them. The keys to training successful horse are observation, patience, and trust. A 160-pound rider cannot make 1,200-pound horse do something he doesn’t want to do. Training is a partnership. You have to first understand the horse to develop a happy and willing partner.
My Experience and Background
I was raised on my family’s farm outside Waterford, Ireland. Although we didn’t have horses, I was fascinated by racing. I began riding at the age 15 and at 18 enrolled in the British Racing School in Newmarket. After completing my course of study, I got my first job in Sir Mark Prescott’s yard in Newmarket, where I did pretty much everything—riding, grooming, traveling to races with his horses. After four years there, I joined Bill Turner in Somerset, England, who had a reputation for training young, precocious flat and jump horses. It was while I worked for Bill that I got my jockey’s license. Four years later I went to five-time British jump champion trainer Nicky Henderson’s yard in Lambourn. While I was there, I came to the U.S. during the summers of 1998 to 2000 to work with Hall of Fame trainer Jonathan Sheppard. In 2000, I became the stable jockey for another Hall of Famer trainer, Tom Voss, and I stayed with him for nine years. I always knew that I wanted to train, so when I left Tom’s and retired from riding races, training became my focus. Six and a half years ago, I accepted my current position as trainer for Irv and Diane Naylor at their Stillwater Farm in the Greenspring Valley. I also maintain my own public training operation at Ballymoat, my farm outside Westminster, Maryland.
I have both trained and ridden multiple graded stakes winners. I trained back-to-back Eclipse award winners Dawalan (2015) and Rawnaq (2016) for the Naylors. To date, I am the only person to have won the Grand National Hurdle (Grade 1), as a trainer (with Dawalan and Rawnaq) and as a jockey (aboard Quel Senor). As a jockey I won numerous graded races, including the Crown Royal Stakes, the AP Smithwick Memorial (Grade I), the Zeke Ferguson Hurdle Stakes (Grade II), the Appleton, Michael G. Walsh Novice, the Valentine Memorial at Fair Hill, and set a Saratoga Racecourse track record for the 2 1/16-mile hurdle race aboard Equistar. As a trainer I have won: • Iroquois Steeplechase (Grade I) • Colonial Cup (Grade I) • Two Grand National Hurdle Stakes (Grade I) • Two Zeke Ferguson Hurdle Stakes (Grade II) • David Semmes (Grade II) • National Hunt Cup (Grade III) • Two Pennsylvania Hunt Cups • Two Temple Gwathmey Hurdle Handicaps (Grade III) • Two Virginia Gold Cups • Two New Jersey Hunt Cups • Two Noel Laings ' • The Peapack • My Lady’s Manor • 2nd, Valedictory Stakes (Grade III, flat)