Overseas with Daryl Kinney
By Daryl Kinney
As far back as I can remember I have always wanted to go to Ireland. Not just because of all the fabulous horses that seem to emerge from the country, but because of the beautiful countryside and all the history the small country contains. I came close to going twice, once when I was working in Belgium for Karin Donckers and once when I was working at the German National Riding School. Circumstances worked against me on both occasions and I was not able to make the short trip to Ireland. Fast forward 13 years, and I finally had the opportunity to not just go to Ireland, but to go horse shopping in Ireland!
A very good friend, Gayle Davis, was already planning to take a trip to Ireland in spring 2019 and asked me if I would be interested in getting a resale horse. I jumped at the opportunity; it was really a dream come true! I love the American thoroughbreds, and I will always have some in the barn, but I couldn't deny that I have always had a soft spot for the Irish horses too. So, the planning began.
We talked a lot about what we would be looking for, which ended up being two different horses. It was decided that we would get one with resale in mind and one to keep and produce as far as we could. We went to Fernhill Sport Horses and worked with Carol Gee. We had limited time and seeing all the horses in one central location made the process very efficient.
We landed around 5:00 am, got our rental car and drove to the hotel, dropped off our luggage and went directly to the farm. Carol had her barn full of horses and had many horses brought in from around the country. In total we saw 30 horses in 3 days. There were 4 of us looking and Carol made sure to have horses suitable for each person’s needs and desires.
It was a very low-key setting, there was no pressure to get on the horses and when you did get on, they were happy to let you do as much or as little as you liked. We kept detailed notes on each horse and if we liked them on day one and/or day two, we were able to ride them again. I sat on several horses on day one, but one really stood out to me - a 5-year-old handsome chestnut named ‘Fernhill Picture This’ aka ‘Dougie.’ I loved the look of him the second he came out of the barn and when he went to work, I knew I had to sit on him. I loved the ride, he was very sweet and laid back, but you could tell he was still a good worker ... and the jump on him! Wow and at only 5! We took him to the cross-country field and he was just the same as in the ring, confident and brave with plenty of scope. I sat on a few more that I also liked and wanted to ride again, but none of them came close to ‘Dougie.’
The second day I rode several more horses and rode two others from day one that I was thinking could be good resale horses. I rode ‘Dougie’ again, closer to the end of the day and he was just as fabulous as the day before. I jumped him just a little, I didn't want to drill him when I already knew I liked him. He was my number one pick. The second day was much colder than the first day, so it was nice to see he came out just the same as on the much warmer, day before.
On the morning of day three we had narrowed the horses down to a very nice grey mare who had done one schooling event at prelim to be our resale horse, and ‘Dougie’ to be the horse we bring along and see what he can do. I rode both in the morning, just doing some flat work with ‘Dougie’ (in the cold rain and again he was just the same good boy!). I jumped the grey mare again, as I had only ridden her on day two. I really liked both horses and thought the mare would be a fun resale project and would make a nice young rider horse.
In the afternoon, we went to one of Carol's business partners farm to see a few more horses. Since we had already pretty well decided on ‘Dougie’ and the grey mare, I wasn't sure if I would sit on any of the horses, unless they really caught my eye. Carol told me she had a mare she wanted me to see since I mentioned that I really like the mares. We were out watching one of the other horses jump some cross-country jumps and when we came back into the ring, this beautiful dark bay was trotting around. We found out it was the mare, ‘BEC Valencia.’ She was the last new horse we saw on the last day. We watched her do a bit of flat work and then jump and she seemed to have plenty of scope. I got on her and just riding around I wasn't sure if she would be a better resale horse than the grey, but when I started jumping - she really seemed like something special. She as very nonchalant about the whole thing but before I knew it, we were jumping over 4' and it felt effortless. I honestly didn't realize the jump had gotten that big until I finished and looked at it. I then took her out and jumped some cross-country jumps, again she seemed totally unfazed by them. I would have loved to have been able to sit on her again, but we were leaving early in the morning. Gayle and I talked a lot and decided we should proceed with her and ‘Dougie,’ with the grey mare as a backup, in case one didn't pass the vet.
The rest of the process was very easy, the horses were vetted the following Monday, and all the X-rays and vet reports were sent to our vet in North Carolina. Both horses passed and Carol arranged for their shipping. They both flew into JFK and spent two days in quarantine in New York and then shipped down to NC. ‘Dougie’ came right to the farm, but ‘Valencia,’ being a mare, had to do an additional CEM quarantine at the NC State Equine Research Center.
I gave ‘Dougie’ a few days off after his long trip and then have been taking it fairly easy with him. He seems to be settling in very well and has been a pleasure to be working with thus far. I can't wait to get ‘Valencia’ home and start getting to know her as well.
This trip was incredible and very eye opening to me. Honestly, I was a little intimidated at the thought of going horse shopping overseas. What if you pick the wrong one? What if you go all that way and you don't find one at all? I was prepared to go over and not feel pressured to get one just to get one, it needed to be the right ones. Carol Gee made the process so easy and pressure free that it was really a treat to work with her. I am so excited about the two that we found and so incredibly thankful to Gayle for going in on this adventure with me and making it all possible.
Daryl Kinney is an upper level event rider, training, teaching, and competing out of Tamarack Hill Farm in Southern Pines, North Carolina.
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