Michael Bailey grew up on a small farm in Fuerty, Co. Roscommon and like most farms west of the Shannon they had an Irish Draught horse for drawing turf home from the bog, ploughing the land and cutting the hay.
Since then, 50 years down the line, the Irish Draught has changed dramatically, to a point now where it can compete at the highest level across most equestrian disciplines.
Michael, with help from his daughter, Maeve, runs an Irish Draught breeding enterprise at his home in Enfield, Co. Meath.
Staying true to his Roscommon roots, Fuerty Irish Draughts began in 2005, when Michael purchased his first Irish Draught, Litchfield Moira by Coosheen Liam.
She was approved as a Registered Irish Draught the following year in 2006 and produced two filly foals, Fuerty Herself and Fuerty Grey Mist, both by Carrickrock Close Shave.
Fuerty Herself was sold to the UK as a ridden horse and went on to showing success as a ridden hunter, with placings to date including 6th in the heavyweight hunter class at the Horse of the Year Show.
The Baileys kept Fuerty Grey Mist for breeding and she produced a colt foal by Welcome Emperor, who placed 2nd in the heavy weight class at the RDS as a five-year-old. Two of her other fillies have been sold to the UK.
Michael then purchased Bengour Mist, by Ben Calverstown, when she was in foal to Fast Silver. She had a colt foal that year who went on to be the champion foal at the national breed show in Mullingar.
Her next foal, Fuerty Princess by Welcome Emperor, was the filly foal champion at Mullingar in 2012 and was subsequently sold to Martin Murphy in Swinford, Co. Mayo.
Fuerty Princess was crowned All Ireland Champion two-year-old Irish Draught filly in Limerick in 2014 and also placed in the RDS as a three-year-old. The Baileys have kept two full sisters of Fuerty Princess and intend to breed from them in time.
Bengour Mist currently has a colt foal at foot by Moylough Legacy, who recently came 3rd in the Draught Stallion class in the RDS. Michael is looking forward to showing him at the upcoming national show in Punchestown this September.
Michael then sought a performance line and went about finding a Welcome Flagmount mare.
“Why I was anxious for Welcome Flagmount was, he’s one of the few Irish Draughts that has represented Ireland at the World Championships for Young Horses in Lanaken, Belgium. It was all about performance,” the breeder explained.
Michael purchased four-year-old Fuerty Failte, by Welcome Flagmount and out of a Glenagyle Rebel mare. Her pedigree also includes Queen of Diamonds and Fantane Anne, mares who have bred approved stallions.
She had very little work done with her, so the Baileys broke her and she went on to compete successfully in working hunter and performance Irish Draught classes, including a clear round in the RDS Irish Draught Performance class two years in a row.
Fuerty Failte and Meave Bailey at Dublin Horse Show 2012
Following her success in the arena, the Baileys started to breed her. Fuerty Failte’s first foal by Clover Brigade is now a four-year-old, broken and jumping a small course of fences.
“What I was trying to find was Irish Sport Horse stallions that had competed successfully and Clover Brigade had jumped at the highest level,” Michael explained.
Her next foal was an athletic filly foal by Cougar (Cruising x Rain Star). Bred by Dr. Noel Cawley, this stallion comes from a very strong family of showjumpers. The Baileys will keep the Cougar filly with the plans to eventually jump her.
“And then we said we would go Draught,” Micheal said. Currently, Fuerty Failte has a colt foal at foot by Gortfree Lakeside Lad, Champion Performance Irish Draught of the 2017 Dublin Horse Show and National Breed Show 2017. He secured the title again this year at the RDS and most recently, won in England last week.
Colt foal by Gortfree Lakeside Lad
This foal will also compete at the upcoming national show in Punchestown. He most recently won the Irish Draught colt foal class at Castleblayney Show, where he also qualified for the Roscommon Mayo Breeders Select Sale in Mullingar later this year.
Michael complemented the efforts of the Roscommon Mayo Breeders group in organising the elite sale of 20 pre-selected Irish Draught foals.
With Goresbridge no longer holding an Irish Draught sale, Roscommon Mayo Breeders group organised the select sale in Mullingar, giving breeders an opportunity to sell their young Irish Draught horses. Michael predicts this is something other groups will do as well.
Michael has a great passion for the horses and loves being involved throughout the whole process, right up to show day.
“I like to be hands on, you know the horses better and you get more fun out of it then. If you do get a rosette, no matter what colour it is, you can say this is ours, this is what we put into it,” Michael explained.
“The horses for me are like a pressure relief valve, from the time you walk into the field business, work, everything goes out the door,” he added.
Michael currently works as stud manager at the National Cattle Breeding Centre but is heading for retirement in the next year or two. With this in mind, he is looking forward to being able to devote more time to Irish Draught breeding with his daughter and grandchildren.