Kilbunny Sport Horses began five years ago as a past-time but has now taken over the lives of the O’Haras. Together with his father, Richie has established an impressive yard of up to 20 mares, producing some top competing horses in recent years.
A pharmacist by trade, Richie was full-time in the chemist up until about three years ago, then the horses took over and he now does two or three days a week, with the rest of his time spent in the yard in Portlaw, Co. Waterford.
“Our mum was the main reason for us catching the riding bug. It was easier to lead a pony then push a buggy when we were growing up. If she knew then what she knows now I reckon she would have pushed the buggy.
“My older siblings, Conor and Susan, started competing at shows and I followed suit. Admittedly they had far more success than me and we still call on Susan if we need help handling youngsters,” Richie commented.
Richie still rides himself, however, he said the breeding side of things has taken over more and more. “Generally, when the breeding season starts winding down we start getting out to more shows,” he explained.
On the yard
“We have a selection in work the whole time, of all different age groups. More of our homebred horses are starting to come through now so it makes it more worthwhile,” Richie said.
“We generally have them up and running before they move on to different homes. However, more recently people are happy to take them unbroken or just backed...We have a couple of horses starting to come through the ranks with different riders both home and abroad.", he said.
Kilbunny Sport Horses is home to a nice selection of blood mares. Not all well-bred horses are athletes, but most athletic horses are well bred.
“We try and have mares from strong dam lines that get automatic 3* selection for their own performance, in saying that our most successful mare is Bitewing who’s a thoroughbred by Bob’s Return. She has already bred two Osberton finalists and her six-year-old won a novice event in the UK last weekend,” the Waterford breeder said.
Residents on the Kilbunny yard include a mare who bred the champion foal in Holsteiner, a mare who bred the top-priced foal in Zangersheide and a French mare who has wins at 5* shows.
“We’re using better and more proven sires, so hopefully the standard of horse that we are producing is getting better and better every year,” Richie said.
Foaling is going well at Kilbunny Sport Horses this year, Richie reported.
“I had a Catoki colt foal, a Kannan colt foal and a Royal Concorde colt. As well as a Canturo colt and one thoroughbred filly, so we’re going pretty well...In for 2019, we have two Vigos, two or three Malitos, Satisfaction and Hearld III,” Richie added.
“We just had a Clarimo colt out of our seven-year-old Casall mare, using embryo transfer. The mare has results at 1.30 level and will hopefully move up to regional GP level this season.", he noted.
Left to foal at the Portlaw stables is one by their own stallion, Kilbunny Kabana (Kannan X ISHD Cosmos) out of Glenlass.
“Glenlass’ dam was my Grade A pony that my brother jumped in Dublin and is a sister to a 3* eventer. She bred one of the sales toppers at Monart last season,” Richie added.
“We’ve done a lot of frozen semen this year. I’ve used Ballinasisla stud with Comeragh Veterinary, and Kilcash Equine Clinic also.", he said.
Richie gets semen through Emma-Rose of Euro Stallions and commented on the great service offered.
“Any of the mares that are proving difficult with the frozen semen, we use our own stallions Kilbunny Kabana, Kilbunny Blue, both five-year-olds, and imported colt Jolly Joker - a four-year-old Quasimodo who has over 60 international jumpers in his family.", said the breeder.
“They have a handful of foals on the ground each and they all look tall, blood, athletic types,” Richie commented.
Advice from on the ground
“I’m very fortunate to have a couple of friends that have and are still competing at the top level in three-day-eventing and show jumping, both in Europe and the States.", he explained.
“It’s great to be able to ask them about young sires coming through and the characteristics of the different stallions,” Richie said.
Richie stressed the value of rider’s feedback on horses and their offspring.
“I always ask any of the international riders that I’m talking with what certain sires are like, and they’re always very helpful and guide you in the right direction,” he said.
Highlights so far
Breeding four Osberton International Horse Trials finalists; breeding and producing the Stepping Stones final winner ‘Kilbunny Now or Never’ and his older sister qualifying for the Breeder’s Classic final the same year, are some of the accolades achieved by Kilbunny Sport Horses to date.
“We had another winner at novice-level at the weekend; Kilbunny Andy, a Monart Sale graduate,” Richie added.
For the future, Richie plans to continue to learn and improve the group of horses produced at Kilbunny.
“For me, it’s about breeding trainable horses with a good mind. Realistically they’re not all going to be superstars, but if they are kind-natured there will always be homes for them,” Richie concluded.