Running Enniskerry Horse Farm, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow on ninety-five acres is a family effort, with Syl, Mary, Miriam and David Bourke at the helm of the operation.
The family have always had a close affinity for sheep farming and in the last two decades, the horse enterprise has become the families' predominant focus.
“Gradually, me and my sister’s friends in pony club were looking for places to keep their horses. We thought that we were in the prime location here, because of our close proximity to Dublin.” David Bourke told Catherina of That’s Farming.
“It all started from here and once we got bitten by the bug, it stayed with us! ” David said.
A young horse breeder
David’s interest in horses blossomed from here and now, as an ambitious 28-year-old, he continues to climb the ranks, as one of Ireland’s youngest and most successful horse breeders. With his eyes securely fixed on breeding a “modern sports horse with plenty of blood” David’s breeding programme has been greatly influenced by the horses that have caught his eye from a competitor’s perspective, at events down through the years.
Enniskerry Horse Farm advocates a philosophy that places emphasis on quality, with two main lines; Enniskerry Tigerlilly and Enniskerry More Joyous now leading the way. In 2017, two foals hit the ground, progeny, that are sired by European stallions, renowned for their excellence.
“In recent years, I have tried to use top European stallions. This year I have used frozen semen on my mares and this is the direction that I would like to take going forward, depending on the success.” David explained.
"Before I started using these stallions, I used the best thoroughbreds that I could get in Ireland. Nadal and Foxy are 75% thoroughbred horses." David added.
David has years of education behind him, which he believes has contributed to the progressive paths that he has carved out. Mr Bourke is a graduate of the ISH Young Breeder Programme, a joint programme between Teagasc and Horse Sport Ireland.
“I was on one of the first ever trips that the programme organised to go to Germany. The programme itself is divided between practical and theory assessments. It incorporates many areas from judging mares on movement, conformation, jump and techniques.” David explained.
“Whoever gets their score closest to a panel of judges, who would be well-known equine specialists, rises to the top,” David explained.
David has one powerful portfolio, which is backed by outstanding achievements, that go above and beyond his years. In 2009, David represented Ireland at World Young Breeder Championships in Kildalton, where he received a fourth placing as an individual competitor, while the team secured bronze.
The same year his first foal Enniskerry Foxtrot was born and she now competes at International 2 star eventing, while currently her 2010 younger brother Enniskerry Nadal at CCI one-star.
“I am continuously trying to push our horses to further success. I hope to move both up the grades.” David explained.
David travelled the hop and jump of the Irish sea to take a trek ‘down under’ to experience the explore the wonders of the thoroughbred industry on large-scaled stud farm back in 2011.
“It was really interesting to see the business aspect of the stud. The thoroughbred breeders are very business-minded when it comes to breeding, because of the commercial nature of their operations.” David explained.
Bringing well over a decade of experience to the table, David has earned his fair share of accolades down through the years and he has several outstanding achievements under his belt, that many horse breeders only try to secure.
“From a breeding perspective, I would say that riding NADAL to ninth in the Camphire International event, earlier this year would definitely be my stand-out achievement.” David explained.
In terms of his best personal achievements, David draws attention to having his two home-breds- Foxy and Nadal at Millstreet International.
“Some of the world’s best event riders attend this event and it was fantastic to be warming-up next to Olympic gold medalists like Blyth Tait and Andrew Hoy. That was the special bit on my home-breds.” David explained.
David takes his place as one of the youngest leading ambassadors on the horse scene. While he continues to grow his leading operation, David relishes the idea of gradual expansion tapping into quality mare families that are proven breeders of quality progeny.
“I will be breeding horses when I am a ninety-five-years-old! I would love to see a few of my home-breds run at Aachen Grand Prix by the time that I am in my nineties. It is ambitious but you have to aim for the top.” David concluded.
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