Meet Lucy Fabby, a south county Dublin native, who has years of experience in the equine sector. She is part of the team at the family’s veterinary practice, West Vets, providing AI service to horse breeders in the west of Ireland.
Lucy’s mother was from a farming background in Co. Wicklow and her grandparents also had a farm in Meath, beside Fairyhouse, which she visited when she was growing up. “I presume that’s how I got such an interest in the horses,” Lucy said.
As a youngster, Lucy competed at Dublin Horse Show in hunter classes and showed for different people, as well as producing her own ponies.
Lucy first began working at Sue Langran’s livery yard and riding school on Glenamuck Road, Dublin. She stayed there for four years as a working pupil, while studying for the BHS Assistant Instructor qualification between 1984 and 1987.
From there, Lucy went abroad to Denmark and worked with Ria and Kristian Krus Madsen Dressage. Through them the Dublin native ended up working with Mads Palm Greisen’s four-in-hand driving team, who evented all over Europe.
“As a groom you do a lot of background work, whereas in the driving you were a very important part of the competing side,” Lucy explained.
The international competitions, in which Lucy competed, were time trials with kilometre markers. The grooms were on the back and kept balance on the carriage. “With a team of four, it’s a lot of work; there’s a lot of harnesses,” Lucy commented.
Returning to Ireland
After 14 months in Denmark, 22-year-old Lucy returned to Ireland. She had met a girl in Denmark from Westport and called to see her on her way down to Ballyconneely, near Clifden, where she spent her summer holidays. Lucy ended up staying in Westport and never left.
There she met her husband, Tom, who was studying veterinary in University College Dublin at the time. Lucy got a job with Paddy Joe Foy in Drummindoo Stud, Knockranny, Westport, where she spent 9 months.
Lucy continued to drive for two years after returning home from Europe. She regularly drove her mare and carriage from the quay in Westport town during the summer.
From 1989 to 1997 Lucy worked for Val Moran, producing all his Connemara ponies for the ring, as well as Eoin Hallinan in Killawalla who had Ginger Dick, the famous Irish showjumper.
“I got involved in stud work with Eoin. I’m very proud to have broke Ginger Watt as a three-year-old, the same horse who went on to win the Royal International Horse Show at Hickstead with Dermot Lennon. That’s my claim to fame,” Lucy said.
During these years, Lucy was an instructor with the Irish Pony Club and was a founding member of the Clew Bay branch.
Her interest in stud work, brought her to Ballinteggart Stud in Craigavon, Co. Armagh, an EU-approved equine AI centre, run by Philip and Helen Troughton. In 2006, Lucy qualified as an equine AI technician at the stud.
Lucy was one of the directors of Inishturkbeg Stud, located on the small island in Clew Bay, from 2007 to 2012. The business was then disbanded due to the economic downturn.
Over the last 30 years, Lucy had always been working in the background of the family veterinary practice in Westport, answering the phones and “being hauled in when needed, as vets wives are”.
Lucy and Tom’s daughter, Rebecca, has just qualified from University College Dublin with an honours degree in veterinary medicine. “She is now the third generation of Fabby vets,” Lucy said proudly.
With a special interest in equine fertility and years of experience dealing with mares and stallions, Lucy saw a new opportunity open for West Vets when they moved out to their new spacious premises on the West Road.
With stocks on site, the Westport veterinary clinic provides artificial insemination (AI) service, which offers horse breeders in the region a higher standard and approach to breeding.
Lucy has had a number of mares use the facility this year to be inseminated and believes the number will grow into the future.
AI allows for a greater choice of stallion. The service allows mares to be covered by stallions from anywhere in Ireland or abroad without having to travel long distances, especially if there is a foal at foot. AI has success rates comparable to natural service.
“The process is safer for everyone also, horses and handlers, especially maiden mares. It’s a very simple process, but I have found every mare to be different. Every time is never the same; it keeps it interesting,” Lucy commented.
When in season the mare's ovaries and uterus are scanned. Growth of the follicles and uterine changes are monitored closely.
Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is administered to the mare when she is clearly in heat and a large follicle is present. This will help the follicle ovulate at a predictable time, typically between 24 and 48 hours after the drug has been given.
Chilled semen should be ordered for 24 hours following the hCG injection. After the mare has been inseminated, she should be rescanned the following day to check that she has ovulated as planned. Early pregnancy detection, within the optimum 14-16-day window post service, is also advisable.
In the future, Lucy would love to see West Vets become an approved equine semen collection centre. “We haven’t gotten that far yet, I would love to eventually. If people wanted to collect off their stallions they could then come to us,” Lucy said.
As the breeding of mares is seasonal, Lucy also established a dog daycare service, targeted at working professionals. At the moment the service is provided two days a week, but Lucy hopes to increase this to Tuesday to Friday.
“We’re here with the dogs all day, 8am to 6pm. I also bring them out to our farm, which is 3 miles out the road along the Belclare river. They get a run twice a day in the winter and early in the mornings during the warmer weather,” Lucy explained. Two girls are also employed to come in and play with the dogs during the day.
“We’re booked out all the time. They come in and go home wrecked and that’s why the owners love it. I’ve even had one little dog arrive down by himself one day from the top of Westport town, with the owner puffing and panting behind,” Lucy laughed.