By Helen Sharp
Photography: Drumhowan Stud
Gladys and Eamon McArdle’s DrumhowanStud is based just outside Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan and demonstrates an enthusiastic approach in offering a diverse roster of stallions and a business that has spanned five decades. In some cases, the McArdle relationship with clients can count four generations of breeders from the same family.
Sitting down with Gladys McArdle, I learned why she has chosen a life with stallions, and what stopped her from running away with the circus!
The word stallion has its etymology in the old German word ‘stel’, meaning ‘to stand, put in order,’ and anyone who has had the good fortune to witness Gladys McArdle parade a stallion will have seen a master of her craft. No battles, no shouting, everything in order, her natural skill allowing these huge creatures, thick with muscle and power, to show themselves for stud purposes at their very best.
However, Gladys’s career with stallions began with big dreams and a slightly smaller equine. “With an inherited passion and from humble beginnings with my coloured stallion show-donkey, I developed my interest in stallions, neat show presentation, and general all-round horsemanship,” she explained. “I yearned to join the circus to train ‘trick’ horses. This was the dream. However, at 18 years old and following the passing of my dad, I chose to continue his stud business and leave the big-top dream behind.”
I once saw Gladys lead KWPN stallion Tolan R (2000: Namelus R - O. Termie 19 x Aramis Z [Hann]) into the arena at Cavan Equestrian Centre. Bred by Stal Roelofs, Tolan R was an incredibly handsome and elegant 17.1hh (173 cms) black stallion who belonged to Tyrone’s Alan Robertson. He had an immense physicality and was a creature that commanded all eyes upon him. Despite all the crowds and noise at Cavan, however, his only focus was Gladys. To me it appeared that she could have asked him to jump through a burning ring of fire and he would have obliged.
That day in Cavan, Gladys told me the secret was a packet of mouth-watering candy, but this time when I ask her, she is a little more reflective. “Stallions have a sensitive, clever intellect, with an extra sparkle. They demand my respect and, equally, I expect their control in return. Because I am not so tall and our stallions tend to be tall, we need to be compatible and work together. Being kind, confident. and always focused is paramount and helps bring the best in the stallion towards me. It’s a kind of two-way love affair.”
Drumhowan Stud stands some of the best stallions in the country across the disciplines and from across the world; horses retired from the very top of their sport due to age or injury, all of top quality. It isn’t always simple to fly a horse across Europe to Co Monaghan following a busy competition career, and Gladys is more than sensitive to the upheaval. “I’m sure if stallions could talk, they would say this is a significant – and sometimes challenging – change. Because the environment is different, and in most cases even our language is different for the stallions who arrive from Europe. However, allowing them my time and respect helps smooth the transition. We become familiar with each other.”.. To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber
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