Oliver Townend eyes up new sport horse venture

  • Eventer Oliver Townend and business partner Nina Barbour are launching a new stud and event horse production venture.

    They have submitted a planning application for the £1m Harthill Stud development on the Bolesworth Estate, near Tattenhall, Cheshire.

    Plans include a stallion yard, 20 stables and barn accommodation for 55 mares and foals, on-site veterinary facilities, and a full-size indoor school with viewing gallery.

    The Bolesworth Estate, of which Nina is director, will build the premises to rent to the stud.

    “It’s important for me to develop a business where we breed, train and compete our horses,” Oliver said.

    “We can’t rely on finding good horses by chance; we need to breed them ourselves.”

    And Oliver and Nina have gone 50-50 on their foundation stallions — 18-year-old Irish Horse Board-graded thoroughbred Power Blade and five-year-old ungraded Irish sport horse Honour Cruise, who shares his sire — Cruising — with Oliver’s four-star ride Ashdale Cruise Master.

    Oliver will event Honour Cruise and Nina’s Power Blade gelding Powerline this season.

    Explaining the purchase of a relatively unknown stallion, Nina said: “We were in Ireland looking at a colt by Power Blade and realised we’d rather have the sire. Power Blade has not been marketed to his full potential.

    Breeding trends have changed over the past 10 years, but it’s our mission to ensure Harthill horses maintain the quality and character of the Irish thoroughbred.”

    Power Blade will be based at Twemlows Hall AI centre in Shropshire this season. Oliver and Nina will use the two stallions on their own 20 mares and market their semen throughout the UK and Ireland.

    Honour Cruise will be put forward for grading this year.

    This is not the pair’s first move into breeding. They stood the ungraded event stallion Hollins Hall in 2008/9 before he was bought for J-P Sheffield.

    Marion Eydman of Sport Horse Breeding (GB) said setting up a stud in the present financial climate is not going to be easy. But she added that the Townend connection would raise Harthill’s profile and standing a thoroughbred stallion may also prove popular.

    “In recent years, it has been difficult to find thoroughbred stallions — the very good ones cost too much and we don’t get the old National Hunt stores going to stud,” she added.

    Building work will begin this spring, planning permitting.

    Oliver and Nina hope eventually to stand five stallions.

    This news story was first published in the current issue of Horse & Hound (24 February, 2011)

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