BCTC NARA’s Mahayla West gives firsthand account of what it was like to experience a mentorship in Ireland
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Mahayla West, a graduate with an associate degree in Equine Studies from Bluegrass Community and Technical College’s North American Racing Academy (NARA), has written a firsthand account of her internship experience with Kildangan Stud Farm in Ireland. The mentorship was fully sponsored by the International Federation of Horse Racing Academies (IFHRA) through the generosity of HH Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al Nahyan of Abu Dhabi.
The following is Mahayla’s story, titled “My IFHRA Mentorship Experience.”
“When I found out that I had received the IFHRA scholarship and would be doing my mentorship in Ireland, I could hardly believe it. Having never flown on a plane, much less been out of the United States, I was both nervous and excited. My worries were immediately put to rest as everyone welcomed me warmly to Ireland, and to Kildangan Stud, which was where I lived during my stay. Together, Gerry Duffy and Joe Osborne from Kildangan and Keith Rowe and Paul Keane from RACE (Racing Academy and Centre of Education) helped organize my itinerary that covered the full Thoroughbred industry experience.
“The first three weeks I got to rotate through several of the different yards at Kildangan and worked with mares, foals, yearlings, and stallions. It was really helpful in understanding how the farm works together. I learned that everything you do to a horse, especially at a young age, will impact him for the rest of his life. For instance, when the foals are a few days old they start getting their feet picked out and are led behind their mothers. As I worked with the older foals and the yearlings, it was easy to see how the early handling had made a positive difference in their temperament and behavior.
“The next few weeks I got to experience the workings of the Kildangan office. I worked my way through the different departments such as Nominations, Human Resources, Finance, and the Stud Office. It is truly amazing how much work goes on behind the scenes. I think many people forget that the office work is just as important as managing the horses, you simply can’t have one without the other. Besides being in the office I got to ride along with a few of the vets. It was very interesting to watch them and help with reproductive work, vaccinations, and general health checks.
“I also got to take tours of RACE, Horse Racing Ireland (HRI), Irish Thoroughbred Marketing (ITM), Weatherby’s, the Irish National Stud, Connolly’s Red Mills, and the Irish Equine Center. Coming from a cattle farm in Kentucky, I also really
enjoyed learning how the stud farm uses cows and sheep to help maintain the horse pastures. They also compost manure to use as fertilizer and make their own haylage and straw.
“Throughout my time in Ireland, I had the opportunity to attend some of the horse sales and got to visit many of the racetracks such as Leopardstown, Naas, Punchestown, Cork, and the Curragh. (Many thanks to those who let me tag along!) It was very different from the racing we have in America, but I enjoyed it immensely. Of course, I couldn’t come all the way from the States and not see a few of Ireland’s famous sights. I was able to take a couple of weekends and do a bit of touring to the Cliffs of Moher, Galway, Dublin, Giant’s Causeway, Killarney, and Dingle. It is an amazing
country, and I would recommend that everyone visit. I can guarantee you that I’ll be back!
“There are so many people that I would like to thank: First of all, thank you to His Highness Sheikh Mansoor Bin Zayed Al
Nahyan and the International Federation of Horse Racing Academies for funding the mentorship and making it possible for me, and so many other students, to have an opportunity like this.
“Thank you to Gerry and Joe at Kildangan Stud for hosting me at the farm and for taking such good care of me. Thank you to everyone at Kildangan for taking time out of your busy days to help me, teach me, and make me feel welcome. Thank you to Keith and Paul from RACE, and Remi Bellocq from NARA (North American Racing Academy) for helping to coordinate my trip. And thank you to everyone at HRI, ITM, Weatherby’s, the National Stud, and the Equine Center for allowing me the opportunity to visit and learn about what you do. I truly can’t thank each of you enough for all of your kindness.”