Business in Focus with Oonagh O’Brien

The Doyle family are a staple name in the Munster Equestrian sphere – spanning decades in horses and being massively involved in the Munster Showjumping and Grand Prix. 

Timmy Doyle has been a regular competitor on the Showjumping circuit, both at home and abroad,  since a youngster and is a highly successful producer of jumping horses, both for himself and his clients.  Here, I chat to him about the ins and outs of a career in horses, owners expectations and what it is he does, to keep him as one of Ireland’s most sought after young horse producers and rider.

You’ve been on the showjumping circuit a long time now.. there has been a lot of changes over the decades, from animal welfare to jumping surfaces and the level of competitors – has this had any impact on the modern day horse – or indeed rider, in your opinion?

Yes, most riders want a sand surface now, but in my opinion, I think it’s very important for the footing of a grass surface because years ago all horses were hunted before they were jumped and because all major shows around the world, for example Achen and Dublin to name a few, are all grass. Years ago that’s all we had and now days I think we are a little too spoilt for choice. 

With younger horses that you own – what is your approach to sales – do you feel it’s better to sell on early – as a just broken 3 or 4 year old blank slate – or do you prefer to start their education taking them to a few shows and so on?

We like to start and produce and break correctly giving them the right amount of time, taking them to their first show at 4 and moving them up when there 5 or 6. Only doing a couple of shows as a 4 year old.  From my viewpoint, the most important thing is that the horses enjoy their job and not overdo it and make them sour. 

What is your training philosophy?

With horses in training with us,  we like to get them used to their surroundings.  They are only worked 4 days a week as well as a show and they get two days off so that they enjoy and like their job and not turn sour. We like to let them out on days off as much as possible and let them be horses . Horses are on the walker every day and we also like to school them over fences to get jump fit. A variety is also a very important part of their training –  some days horses get on the walker, some days gallop and some days arena and other days lunge work.

Being given the opportunity to produce a young horse for someone is a huge compliment as well as a huge responsibility. How do you feel knowing that people entrust their horses to you and have the confidence in your riding and horsemanship to bring their horses on?

I take it as a huge honour when people ask me to work with their horse.  This to me means I’m doing something right and they respect my riding. Although there is pressure, there is also a great sense of achievement when you see the horse come on and go on to bigger and better things.  I’m incredibly lucky to have some great owners,  some of which are good friends of mine now. 

Could you ever see yourself doing anything else in life career wise?

No, I don’t think so. Horses have always been my go to. I broke my leg 9 years ago and although it had been a long and rough time being out for 12 months longer than expected; I didn’t delay on getting back on a horse and doing what I love best.  I knew then I was never going to do anything else. Horses are a lot more to me than just a career, they are my passion in life. 

Your main role in the business is riding and competing horses, with your Dad and brother Mark, focusing more so on the breeding side of things, but with this experience combined, it must lead to a very elite eye for a good horse and benefit the production of youngsters to no end – but does it ever lead to difficulties in the choice between breeding, competing or selling?

There has been discussions in the house when it comes to breeding,  jumping and selling.  Dad and Mark are all for keeping and producing horses – bringing them up along the ranks whereas my aim is to break and sell them on quickly to start them on their career paths with their new owners and enable me to bring on and produce more.

For anyone looking to get a horse broken, produced or just a little extra help – finding the right person and yard to accommodate them can be mind boggling – your yard has a lovely home from home feel to it- can you tell our readers how they can rest assured that their horses will be well looked after and comfortable? What will be their horses typical day be like there?

Every one of my family are involved so there’s always someone home to mind them. All horses, be it our own or for customers they become our pets and become family. Our typical day is feeding early in morning followed by an hour in the walker while being cleaned out, then ridden.  They are washed , 20 mins back on the walker, brushed over and then left out if weather good enough.  They are fed in the evening and we do a final night check before going to bed to make sure all are ok . Alot of my customers would be referral from satisfied customers.  I think the thing I pride myself on, is that we do treat all animals in our care as we would our own and I take the time to get to get to know each horse through bonding exercises like the above. I am not merely their jockey – I form relationships with them from the ground up. 

Is it difficult to say goodbye to some horses that you have ridden – be it for other people, or through selling?

Yes it’s never easy saying goodbye as I said they become part of the family they all have their own individual personalities and little quirks. When horses leave they have already made their mark and you start to miss them around the yard. For most, it’s nice to see them going on to do bigger and better things but it’s still never easy not working with them every day.

What is your biggest accomplishment do you feel in your life with horses?

There are so many answers to this question – any time a horse accepts me on their back, surpasses a fear they might have, or a youngster goes out and jumps a nice round are achievements for me.  But in my jumping career, I think I’d have to say my biggest acknowledgement would be as a young rider finishing second in the overall league of the Redmills Grand Prix to Francis Connors who is unarguably one of the best in the country.  Also winning a leg of this grand prix with Hi Dude is an outstanding moment for me.  

What would you say to anyone who aspires to do what you do for a career? What words of advice could you offer? The good and the bad….

The bad is it’s a 24-hour job with a lot of sacrifices. It’s not like, say, football where at the end of a game you can just put away the ball. After a day of jumping, you still have to come home and take care of the horses.  

The good is that you’re doing something that you love day in day out. Watching horses come along through the ranks and achieving the best of their ability, and also when things go well, there is no other feeling quite like it . My advice would be to work hard, make sure it’s what you want, be prepared for a lot of long hours and if things go wrong with one horse get up on your next horse with a clean slate and don’t carry the bad ride with you. 

For more information – contact Timmy via:

Facebook: T Doyle Sporthorses

Phone:        087-9074365


Business in Focus with Oonagh O’Brien

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