UK Equine Students Traveled to Ireland to Learn from World-Class Equine Operations 

By Holly Wiemers 

Recently 11 University of Kentucky Equine Science and Management undergraduate students embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn from the best of Ireland’s equine industry. During their trip, students saw some of the world’s top Thoroughbred racing and breeding operations, sport horse facilities and college equine programs.

Fernanda Camargo, associate professor and equine extension specialist in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, and Holly Wiemers, communications director for UK Ag Equine Programs, led the 10-day trip. It included stops at Karlswood Farm, Gordon Elliott Racing, the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprises, Cooley Farm, Curragh Racecourse, Kildangan Stud, Irish National Stud, Ballydoyle and Coolmore Stud. Participants also learned about history and culture, touring castles and sites and trekking on horseback along the coast.

“It is humbling to have the best equine operations in the world open their doors and host us with so much interest in our students, and be so candid about their day-to-day operations, their beginnings, what has worked or failed for them and why they do what they do the way they do it,” Camargo said. “One thing the places we visited all had in common was the awe-inspiring love and respect for the horse, and how they impact humans’ lives.”

The group’s first stop was Karlswood Farm, home of Olympic medal-winning showjumper and international horse producer Cian O’Connor. The farm focuses on a holistic approach to excellence in and out of the arena.

Students followed that up with a trip to the famous Gordon Elliott Racing stable and then traveled to Northern Ireland to the Enniskillen campus of the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprises. The college provides the widest range of equine courses in Ireland; courses developed through balancing the needs of the industry with the career aspirations of students. The group spent two days there, learning about the various programs on the 136-hectare rural estate.

The group visited Cooley Farm, a unique enterprise in the horse industry and home to one of the world’s leading sources of top-class horses for the international stage, especially in show jumping and eventing. They followed the stop with a visit to the prestigious Curragh Racecourse, home to one of Ireland’s most renowned flat tracks.

Students also toured Kildangan Stud, Godolphin Ireland headquarters, known worldwide for Thoroughbred racehorse breeding. In addition to touring the vast operation, students also learned more about the prestigious and highly competitive Godolphin Flying Start program, a two-year management and leadership training program that immerses trainees in the global industry of Thoroughbred horseracing. The University of Kentucky has had several students in the program since its inception more than two decades ago.

Another stop on the docket was the famous Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens, home to famous stallion Invincible Spirit. INS recently launched an interactive and award-winning educational experience about the Irish horseracing.

Participants said a trip highlight was Ballydoyle Stables, home to Aidan O’Brien, widely acknowledged as one of the greatest horse racing trainers of all time.

The last stop was Coolmore Stud, a global leader in Thoroughbred racehorse breeding. Students learned more about its business operations, breeding facilities, conservation efforts and toured its private museum showcasing the operation’s accomplishments.

“As someone who is pursuing their passion for the Thoroughbred industry at the University of Kentucky, the chance to expand my education in Ireland was an incredible opportunity,” said senior Grace Hamilton. “The opportunity to meet leaders in the industry and visit premiere facilities through the site visits was invaluable. The opportunity to tour Ballydoyle, an exclusive private training center, and meet Aidan O’Brien, one of the best Thoroughbred trainers in the world, was an unparalleled experience. And as someone interested in applying to the Irish National Stud course for next spring, it was an incredible opportunity to visit the facility in person.”

Senior Emily Johnson said she was grateful for the farms and professionals she was able to meet.

“The education abroad in Ireland was more than I ever could have imagined. The knowledge that we gained is truly invaluable and something I will use throughout my career,” she said.

Gabrielle DeLemme, also a senior, said the experience fostered personal and professional growth.

“My time in Ireland broadened my understanding of a different culture, their food and joy for life,” Professionally, I have learned about other techniques in the equine industry and gained contacts for potential future connections.”

Writer: Holly Wiemers

Image available on request:

(caption) UK students pose with world-renown Thoroughbred racing trainer Aidan O’Brien. Photo provided by Holly Wiemers.

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The Martin-Gatton College of Agriculture, Food and Environment is an Equal Opportunity Organization with respect to education and employment and authorization to provide research, education information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without regard to economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, physical or mental disability or reprisal or retaliation for prior civil rights activity.

Contact: Fernanda Camargo,
Holly Wiemers,