'My sister butchered my haircut. I think she chose to get payback'
Industry figures tell us how they are managing in self-isolation
Jerry Horan, a breeder and pinhooker based at Ballynure Park Stud in County Wicklow and an auctioneer at Goffs, tells us about how he is managing – both personally and professionally – with the Irish government's lockdown to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
How is life at Ballynure Park Stud ticking over during lockdown?
It's going well. I’ve had a lucky run with mares being covered and going in foal, and so far I've foaled down two nice colts that I own in partnership – a Mastercraftsman and a Muhaarar – so I'm looking forward to see how they grow over the summer months.
Since my trading business outside of bloodstock has come to a complete halt since the lockdown it’s been really enjoyable having the horses around in the good weather.
I’ve been on a few walk-in covers this season. Travelling down for a cover one evening I came to a gardai checkpoint and the garda asked me where I was off to. So I told him Coolmore and just as I was about to pull off one of his fellow gardai shouted over "How are you fixed to do a walk in for me tomorrow? I’m on duty!"
How concerned are you over the horses you have pinhooked – do you think it will affect your reinvestment this year?
I definitely think the market will be dented but I also think it'll turn around quickly when the time allows. The first concern is the two breezers I’m in involved in; we'll aim for the sales but if that doesn’t work out it'll be a case of putting the racing colours on them.
I haven’t thought much beyond the breeze-up sales as hopefully the yearling sales might be back to some normality, all being well.
At the end of the day, this pandemic has hit us very quickly and I think people will be hungry to trade and get going again just as quickly when things have got better. There are plenty of people who want to buy horses and race but they just can’t in the present circumstances.
Your family owns and runs Horan's Bar in Baltinglass; how has business been affected by lockdown?
The pub and restaurant has been closed since March 15 and it looks like it will be another long while before we can reopen.
On a positive note, my parents have operated the pub for 27 years now so in a way they're enjoying the break, while getting a chance to do maintenance that would otherwise be difficult to do when open.
They put a wood-fired pizza oven in the restaurant two years ago and will be offering some popular choices from the a la carte menu as a takeaway option from next week to keep a revenue stream.
They miss the buzz of the bar and look forward to opening their doors when time allows.
What did you make of the Inglis Easter Yearling Sale and do you think an online sale could work in Europe?
I made a point of watching the live sale as I was interested in how it would go, and I was pleased to see it go so well both for Inglis and for the confidence of the rest of the global market in online sales.
The big help for digital auctions in Australia, though, is that racing is still on and most agents visit farms prior to sale. For the rest of the world the live auction has an exciting vibe like nothing else, and for prospective buyers to see the horse in the flesh in the ring as usual would still be the ideal situation for upcoming sales in Europe.
However, European sales companies can only work within the restrictions we have during this unprecedented crisis and online sales may have to be tried. Everyone just has to try to pull together. It's in everyone’s best interests to get the most for the animal being sold, after all.
You're an agent for Buyanom, the online platform for trading stallion nominations. How has that held up in the crisis?
Buyanom has been going well in the past few weeks – maybe it’s because breeders have had more time and are browsing online looking for value during the lockdown.
We're in the second part of the breeding season but we're still only in mid-April, when a prospective mid-March foal next year would be conceived, so there is still plenty of time to get mares covered.
In the coming days Buyanom is going to be completely free to bid and exchange contracts, as we're going for a big push to get all broodmare owners to engage on the site for the rest of the breeding season.
There’s plenty of attractive nominations still available on the site such as Aclaim, Cable Bay, Camacho, Cracksman, Decorated Knight, Golden Horn, Harry Angel, Highland Reel, Kodiac, Make Believe, Muhaarar, Nathaniel, New Bay, Profitable, Ribchester, Showcasing, Soldier's Call and Ulysses. There's also a selection of National Hunt stallions including Berkshire, Ocovango, Policy Maker, Shantaram, Sumbal and Zambezi Sun.
So I’d advise to get on the website and bid. If you're not in, you can’t win!
On a personal level, how are you keeping yourself busy during lockdown?
I’ve been kept busy at home as a relation hired me out a mini digger so I can put in a horse loading bay and a hardcore drive around the stables, so that's keeping me amused.
Saying that, it only took me a couple of days to turn it over on its side so that put me back in my box when it comes to digger driver skills. Thankfully neither I nor the digger got injured. I was just slightly stiff and the digger is now back in business.
I was also due a haircut so my sister said she would give it a try after watching a YouTube video; to say my hair was butchered would be a compliment. I actually think she does have an idea how to cut hair but she chose to get payback for all the tricks that have been played on her as the youngest member of the family.
I’ve since pleaded with her to find a better quality hair cutting demo on YouTube before she harms anyone else’s hair. She just laughs at me in response!
Any film, TV or book recommendations to share to get through home confinement?
I always have great intentions of sitting down and watching Netflix every odd evening but it never transpires. My siblings tell me Breaking Bad and Power are excellent.
I do have the Mark Johnston biography sitting on my desk and I will definitely get around to reading that in the coming week.
What are you most looking forward to when racing returns?
I can’t wait for racing to resume, even behind closed doors, and I particularly love watching the first-season sire runners.
I’m also looking forward to see whether Under The Stars, whose dam Jumeirah Palm Star I managed to buy for just €1,000 in 2018, progresses at thee. She has been very consistent and has big entries for the coming year.
Lastly, I’m looking forward to the barber shop opening again so I can get a decent haircut!
Read our Life in Lockdown Q&As with industry figures