Nestled between Dartmoor and Exmoor in the heart of the West Devon countryside, the MGH Sport Horse Stud is a thriving young business with two ambitious people at the helm.
Padraig and Lucy McCarthy (nee Wiegersma) have only been trading under the MGH banner since 2013 but they have already seen a high percentage of their horses succeeding at 3 star level under some of the best riders in the world.
“Whilst breeding is our passion, our breeding programme is still in its infancy, so we have been buying in young horses to produce too,” explains Lucy.
Some of the first MGH graduates include Cillnabradden Evo, produced to intermediate level by Lucy and now one of the most successful CIC horses on the circuit with Oliver Townend. MGH Grafton Street has enjoyed three star level success with Pippa Funnel, while Vendredi Biats has recently been long-listed for WEG with Kitty King.
“It’s incredibly satisfying seeing horses that we’ve sourced and produced go on to do great things with good riders,” says Lucy. “The oldest of our homebreds are now 5 years old and its even more exciting to see these being snapped up by good riders. We’ll continue to supplement our homebreds with some bought-in stock – a nice horse is a nice horse, whether we’ve bred it or somebody else has, and if it’s nice we want it in our yard and on our books.”
But surely as professional riders Padraig and Lucy would want to keep the best horses for themselves? “We quite often get people assuming this, but the truth is we would soon be out of business if we cherry-picked the most talented ones for ourselves,” explains Padraig. “If we’re fortunate enough to have a owner who wants to invest in a horse for me or Lucy to ride, of course we will find them the nicest animal we can within budget, but every horse we own is ultimately here to be sold, and we really do get a huge kick out of seeing our horses go on and do well with other people.”
Padraig and Lucy are justly proud of how their trading business has grown during such a difficult financial climate, but it’s the stud and the breeding programme that really gets them fired up. “Our first year groups are now coming through to maturity and we’re so excited about the quality of our stock,” says Lucy. “It’s been a huge leap of faith in terms of investment and I’m not going to lie, we’ve had periods of doubt about the stud enterprise, but now the top end is supporting the annual breeding costs its all starting to fall into place.”
From the first crop of just five MGH homebreds, one is now with Gemma Tattersall and another with Georgie Strang, so Padraig and Lucy are clearly getting something right.
“Padraig is an absolute anorak when it comes to pedigrees and genetics,” laughs Lucy. “He’s lives on HorseTelex and Clip My Horse and spends hours researching possible matings for our mares.
“Knowledge of bloodlines is crucial, but I think it’s also important to remain really objective about your stock and what you’re trying to achieve. We originally started breeding because it was becoming so hard to find nice Eventing youngstock at a sensible price. Along the way we’ve modified both our breeding strategy and our business plan, and we continue to review both on a regular basis. One recent development is that we’ve started to put our three-year old fillies in foal. This in turn has enabled us to reduce the number of actual broodmares we carry, whilst keeping the foal numbers at around 10 each year.
“The majority of our stock is from good Eventing families, however, we’ve also bought into some really good show jumping bloodlines over the past couple of years and we’re now breeding some super ‘dual-purpose’ horses. These are horses with excellent show jumping pedigrees should they show exceptional talent in that direction, but crossed with enough Thoroughbred to also be top class event horses.”
So where do Padraig and Lucy see the MGH Sport Horse Stud in another 5 years’ time? “That’s a hard one to answer,” says Padraig. “Neither of us is getting any younger, but while we’re both fit and able we will continue to breed and produce for our clients the sort of horses we would ourselves like to take to the highest level, whether that’s in Eventing or show jumping.”
“We’ve also toyed with the idea of standing a stallion or two,” says Lucy, “although I don’t know how well that would sit with our own breeding programme – I’ve always been wary about the over-use of any one bloodline in our stock. If the right stallion came along though it might be an interesting venture.”
And so to the question everyone wants to ask – what does the MGH prefix stand for? Mighty Good Horses? Mostly Great Horses? “The answer is quite mundane I’m afraid,” smiles Padraig. “Although our business is based in Devon we wanted a nod to my Irish home too. My Townsland in Ireland – a bit like a parish here – is called Mullenaglough (Stone Mill in English) so we thought we’d use that. It’s a bit of a mouthful as a prefix though, so we shortened it to MGH….. maybe we should change it to Mighty Good Horses … I think that’s quite good!”