Prior to my arrival in Ireland, I was offered two general pieces of useful knowledge by countless friends, family, and casual bystanders:
1. It’s always raining.
2. It’s very green.
So naturally, when my plane arrived at 7 a.m. on August 16 to bright beams of sunshine, I was cautiously optimistic. Throughout my first week in the Emerald Isle I have found that the previous statement is in fact true (it has rained every day), but the amazing experiences I have already had the wonderful people I have already met far outshine the dreary clouds that often hover overhead.
Last week was my first week on the Darley Flying Start programme. If it was any indication of the two years that lie ahead, I think we’re in for the experience of a lifetime.
On the morning of August 15, the 12 trainees from the United States, Ireland, England, Australia, South Africa, and Canada (myself) all arrived at Kildangan Stud in good order, albeit Kate was short a bag when one of her suitcases decided it wasn’t quite ready to leave America (the luggage was quickly retained and immediately reunited with its owner). After settling in to our various new homes, we met up for a beautiful lunch at Kildangan House, where we were lucky enough to meet some of the personnel of Darley Ireland.
After spending the first few days sorting out administrative needs like computers, bank accounts, clothing, and bikes, we were treated to a stallion show and farm tour of Kildangan as well as three of Sheikh Mohammed’s other local properties: Ragusa, Old Connell, and Blackhall Studs. Here we saw mares, foals and yearlings with royal pedigrees, with yearlings by Street Cry, Invincible Spirit, and Pivotal among the lots, as well as mares that are sisters to Elusive Quality, Dubawi, Mozart, Goldikova, and Shamardal. The Americans were especially pleased to meet Bedazzle, the dam of Street Sense, and we were all intrigued by a gorgeous Street Cry colt out of a daughter of the great Miesque.
Our local tours were followed up by a Saturday of racing at The Curragh. For many of us, including myself, it was our first trip to the historic Irish track. Thankfully, we have our Irish representatives Barry and Michael to help us along, and they certainly have been helpful. After spending the day learning to read the Irish form and studying the horses in the paddock, we watched Pathfork roll to victory in the Futurity Stakes, a race historically known for turning out champions and top runners like New Approach and Giant’s Causeway. I’m pleased to say I picked another winner on the day: the Coolmore charge Meow, an American-bred daughter of Storm Cat.
The week was wrapped up with a trip to Dublin on Sunday, and I’m convinced the day could not have been better. For the first time since our arrival, the rain managed to stay in check all day, and we explored breathtaking cobblestone streets, historic buildings, and perfectly manicured parks beneath the beaming sun.
Our first week is over with a few minor observations on my part: first, it feels like we’ve been here far longer than a week, for two reasons:
1. The 12 of us seem to get along so well that it feels like we’ve known each other for a long time, and...
2. Kildangan has been made to feel like our home, and the wonderful people here have treated us like one of them since our arrival.
With much of the dirty work over, our coursework looks to pick up in the near future. I think we’re all eager to get started with the amazing learning and growing experiences that lie ahead.