'Rightly or wrongly, I'm having all my mares covered this season'
Industry figures tell us how they are managing in self-isolation
Simon Sweeting, who runs Overbury Stud in Gloucestershire, tells us about how he is managing – both personally and professionally – with the Europe-wide lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus
How is life at Overbury Stud ticking over?
We’ve been lucky. Thanks to quick work by the TBA working with Defra on how stud work could continue safely we've been able to carry on with the covering season uninterrupted. Day to day life has been completely normal, with the exception of no racing to watch.
What measures have you brought in on the stud to deal with the coronavirus and lockdown?
We’ve all got very clean hands now! Social distancing feels normal and everyone has adjusted to it without any problems. We were already fastidious about cleanliness and sterility around stables, as would any stud housing young foals.
Staff aren’t sharing tools any more but the big step forward for us has been getting paperwork for mares online prior to covering. Having everything we need before the mares arrive has saved a lot of time in the breeding shed.
Are you and your clients covering any fewer mares, or are you carrying on as normal in the hope the market recovers?
Rightly or wrongly I’m covering all my mares, as are my clients. I don’t pretend to know how things will pan out over the next few years but ours has historically been a very resilient market. If there is an appetite for racing, there will be a market for horses.
What's your view on online sales, if they had to happen in Europe this year?
It would change the dynamics of the ring, for sure. No doubt the sales companies are working hard to create a workable model and it will be in everyone’s interests to make that work. I’m sure some of the new ideas will be adopted when we return to ‘normal’, but I can’t imagine video images will ever replace viewing a horse in the flesh.
How have you found launching your new stallion, Le Brivido, in the current circumstances?
The hard work was done before the lockdown. Le Brivido has done his bit to make our lives easy as he is a joy to work with – he has a fabulous temperament and is very fertile.
We had booked a lot of French mares and some of those didn’t travel but otherwise it has been normal.
Schiaparelli had a breakthrough Cheltenham, did it result in an upturn in bookings?
He had colic surgery as the season was starting. He’s fully recovered now but only covered his first mare this week. Yes, there has been plenty of interest and I expect he will have a busy May and June.
It was a shame but most importantly he’s back to full health and I’m afraid everyone in the horse business knows that even when things seem to be going your way, there’s always something that can knock you back again.
However, Indefatigable’ s win was a joy to see, firstly as Schiaparelli was due a win on the big stage, and also for Paul Webber whose first Festival winner she was. He's a superb trainer and deserves all the success he has.
Do you think there will be any positives to come out of the crisis eventually?
I'm sure there will, but I don’t know what! I expect we will all be more aware of what our electronic devices can do and make more use of them.
Any film, TV or book recommendations to share to get through home confinement?
There are a couple of great podcasts on the Apollo moon missions called 13 Minutes To The Moon, which I really enjoyed.
And Bryan Stevenson’s book Just Mercy stopped me sleeping for a few nights.
What are you most looking forward to when racing returns?
For a start I hope it’s going to be soon – clearly subject to all safety caveats. There is a lot of work being put in so that a workable plan is in place and racing can start as soon as the government gives the green light.
The EBF, which is generously funded by stallion owners, will be helping by continuing to support races as originally planned. Also, we will use money not spent during the cessation of racing to support additional races during the first month or so of the resumption. Prize-money will doubtless be in short supply.
The horse I’m looking forward to seeing back out is Urban Icon, a son of our own stallion Cityscape. He won a Listed race last time in March and I’m excited to see how far he can progress.
Read more Life in Lockdown Q&As with industry figures