Horse Racing in a Japanese Garden

Is there a heaven for stallions?  I think I may have found it.

Suppose you were a stallion.  (We’re talking horses here guys, don’t get cocky.)  What would be your idea of heaven?

How about open fields with plenty of forage and room to run?  Covered stalls, well padded with hay for when the weather gets nasty.  A dedicated staff, employed to ensure your comfort and safety.  A few other athletic friends, to hang out with for company and a little spirited competition?

Former Racing Champions

How about regular shipments of mares, being brought in for one purpose and one purpose only?  Feeling studly?

Did you hear about that new shipment of mares?

Welcome to the Irish National Stud Farm, home of racing champions. 30 miles from Dublin and less than a mile from Kildare, it’s a hidden gem.


Colonel Willam Hall-Walker established the farm in 1900 as a private stud business.  Odds are he could afford it;  he was a wealthy Scotsman from a famous brewery family. To this day speculating in breeding racehorses is a pastime for the rich, stud fees from a champion can cost as much as a car, or even a house depending on the champion.  As for the science, bloodlines are important, but from the perspective of Hall-Walker horoscopes were important too.

William Hall-Walker

In 1915 the colonel departed to England and gave the stud farm to the British Government.  This may have contributed to his being raised to the title of Baron Wavertree, a barony that expired with Lord William.  The British ran the farm as the British National Stud, then in 1943 after the new Irish government formed the Brits passed the property on to Ireland,  when it became the Irish National Stud.

Double fences to discourage jumping.  And, of course, this is what the lane looked like before I dropped the Scottish piper in.

The farm isn’t strictly for stallions.  It also serves as a retirement home for former racing champions.  Many of these champions are actually geldings.

Yes, gentlemen, gelding means what you think it means.  You can uncross your legs now.

Naturally, the gelded horses play no role in stud services.  In fact, most male racehorses are gelded.  It makes them easier to handle, and allows them to be pastured together.  This leaves only the rare few as stallions – they’re the ones who have all the fun when the mares come around.  And fun they have, they can have as many as 100-200 “coverings” during the five-month breeding season.  These are not quiet romantic interludes.  Everything is staged and filmed.  This is not to create horsey porn for blue color horses, it’s proof of purchase.  Remember that stud fee costing as much as a house bit?  The mares will hang around for the duration, the farm provides services from stud to foal.

The stud farm’s top stallion is named Invincible Spirit.  His stud fee is over 100,000 Euros, but his progeny have had considerable success on the racetrack.

But what does any of this have to do with a Japanese garden?


Colonel Hall-Walker, apart from being a rich, conservative politician, also had an interest in the arts. Coincident with this was a fascination with all things Japanese that had started in Europe around 1850, culminating in the ‘Japan British Exhibition’ of 1910 in London.  Hall-Walker met Tassa (Saburo) Eida, who had been involved in laying out the gardens for the Exhibition, and in 1906 commissioned him to do something similar on his own estate.


Tassa, along with his son Minoru laid out the gardens, and over four years they, along with 40 other laborers built them.



Adjacent to the Japanese gardens is St. Fiachra’s garden.  St. Fiachra lived in the early seventh century and is known for his charitable work, and as the patron saint of gardens.




After Hall-Walker turned the property over to the British Government, the gardens became somewhat neglected.  It wasn’t until the Irish took over in 1946 that things started to turn around.




So there you have it.  We’ve gone from horse racing to a Japanese garden.  When we arrived at the stud farms, I did not know it was also a place of pristine landscapes and manicured gardens.  For the horses, it’s a high-end retirement villa, with benefits. For those of us just passing through, it’s a pastoral respite, with an unexpected twist of Japanese culture.

27 thoughts on “Horse Racing in a Japanese Garden

  1. The Japanese gardens are stunning, but there’s something about a horse in a green pasture that just epitomizes beauty to me. Have you ever been to Kentucky to any of the stud/retirement farms? The green is similar, and the animals are so elegant. Your photos (and the horse whispering caption – loved that!) are great. What a different activity in Ireland – one I would have enjoyed greatly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve never been to Kentucky, period. I’ve seen movies, does that count?
      I generally try to limit myself to 10 shots on a post. As I figured it was just a stud farm, I would have never guessed I’d be blowing my limit out of the water on this post.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not sure how they know when the mares are “in the mood”, I imagine its a seasonal thing. From what I understand, it’s not a gentle process – rather frightening for the handlers in fact. I doubt that they let the mares say, “I have a headache” when they see Invincible Spirit.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Japanese gardens seem to have spread across the globe. I never thought I’d see a Japanese themed garden in Ireland! Your photography is the highlight of this post. Those stallions look gorgeous and the green just pops out the screen. Thanks for the virtual tour! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I suppose those gardens aren’t that common. We’re lucky in that we have one of the better ones in the US here in Portland, and I understand the one at the Irish stud farms is one of the better ones in Europe.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmm. I wonder if other folks had the same issue, I couldn’t help but notice this post had less response than the average post. And as to Japanese Gardens, yes. I’m glad we have a good one here in Portland.


      1. J.D. Riso

        I think a lot of others are having the same issue. I certainly have noticed that certain posts get a lot less of the usual visitors. That why I check the blogs I follow manually every once in a while. I want to let you know that I’m taking an extended break so I won’t be liking/commenting during this time. I will catch up with all of your posts when I return in a few weeks or so.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: King of Scotland – Plying Through Life

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