Report from the Visit to the Mount St John Stud, Thirsk, North Yorkshire

Wed 30th June 2021

What a wonderful way to spend the morning!

The visit to Mount St John Stud yesterday was a delight from start to finish. Many thanks to Fiona Harrison for organising the whole visit including the excellent lunch afterwards at the Carpenters Arms. A very big thank you to Emma Blundell and her whole team at Mount St John for making us all so welcome and Emma for taking the time to personally talk to our group of about 30 and show us round before she whizzed off down to Hartpury for her practice time at the Nationals!

In the indoor arena we were shown a daughter of her competition horse with her own 8 week old colt foal – a lovely mare with a well-grown, very correct and happy foal. We then had the chance to see a second foal, this time an embryo transfer foal – again a happy, correct, exuberant, leggy foal, this one with her surrogate mother.

Throughout this presentation Emma talked about her ideas on breeding, her use of different stallions, how she tried to match them up to her mares to improve the conformation and rideability in the offspring, the importance of the mother line. We were taken through the foaling areas and mare and foal barns and were able to admire some of the foals and mares out in their paddocks. She shared her business ideas and enlightened us on how the stud evolved, including the background to her thinking, which started during her own travelling years watching embryo transfer, and developed further during her university business degree. She emphasised that we are all always learning how to do things better for our horses.

Emma also talked of how much she liked her youngstock to have an all-round education, to hack and lunge including pole work. Her head girl demonstrated this to us with a big 4yr old mare on the lunge working in the outdoor school in a lovely relaxed loose manner using the poles there despite our presence and the rather exuberant help from the paddock next to the arena.

Part of Emma’s horses’ training programme includes regular sessions on their water treadmill which is wonderful for cardio fitness and maintaining good joint suppleness and opening and loosening a horse’s back – this we were able to observe in action!

A tour of the yards at the stud, the scanning areas, the working horses’ yards, and the “recipient mare” barns was all fascinating. The explanation of the embryo transfer work and labs was very informative. This is a private stud with many advantages in that the work is only on her mares and it is the produce that are sold commercially throughout the world. The sad thing is that not enough of these beautiful young horses are bought by British buyers to stay and compete for Team GB!

A truly memorable visit.

REPORT BY Louise Smales