Horses come first at Fernrigg Farm

5 min read
Producing racehorses not sales horses might sound like sales speak, but a visit to Fernrigg Farm's draft at the Inglis Classic Yearling Sale quickly shows that for this burgeoning operation, actions speak louder than words.

Plenty of farms love to promote a "hands-on" ethos, but swing by Barn J at the Riverside Stables, take a look at Fernrigg Farm's draft and the attention to detail for each individual horse is evident in the way Rae-Louise Farmer interacts with her yearlings.

When Farmer steps into the box and a relaxed yearling starts to nuzzle at her shoulder, or she knows just where they like to be scratched on the neck, it is clear that this is a farm that goes above and beyond when it comes to tailoring a yearling's preparation.

"The big focus with our drafts is the attention to detail and knowing each horse as an individual." - Rae-Lousie Farmer

"The big focus with our drafts is the attention to detail and knowing each horse as an individual," Farmer said. "We want buyers to be able to trust us; to be able to buy a racehorse that is sound, educated and they can come back year-after-year, knowing they can trust our product."

Farmer, a former yearling manager at Widden Stud, and Coolmore Australia head veterinarian Padraig Kelly established Fernrigg Farm in mid-2017 on a 70-acre farm just outside of Denman.

The property was already a proven breeding ground of stakes winners, with Yankee Rose (All American), Acatour (Sebring), Tawteen (Stratum) and Well Sprung (Star Witness), and now Farmer and Kelly each bring unique, and complementary, skill sets to the new operation.

"Every horse is treated as an individual." - Padraig Kelly

"We are aiming for nice boutique drafts with that attention-to-detail," Kelly said. "We are using Rae-Louise's experience with yearlings all over the world, but especially here in Australia, but having that specialty veterinarian care helps as well. We are very fortunate to have an excellent crew of staff on the farm. We can pick up things early, every horse is treated as an individual. Some horses require more adaptation with their feed more than others, and the level of work each of them needs is obviously different."

The Fernrigg Sales team

Individual attention

Even the language Farmer uses when talking about her horses speaks to a special attention to detail, "this one is my favourite" she says as she steps under the neck of Lot 700, a son of Not of Single Doubt she calls a "pocket rocket."

"What I love most about him though is his personality," Farmer says. "He just loves to work, he wants to please you all the time. He just wants to keep you happy. Physically he has great bone, a big strong hindquarter that is so typical of the stallion, a big shoulder."

Lot 700 Not A Single Doubt x Shoptalk

Farmer even has some personal experience that indicates the pocket rocket could be one that gets up and going early.

"I do the feed run every day and I race the yearlings to the feed pots, which may sound a little crazy, but this horse is the only horse I can't beat to the feeder – he is so fast," she says. "I try and race them from the gate to the feeder but this is the only one I have never beaten."

"I try and race them from the gate to the feeder but this is the only one I have never beaten." - Rae-Louise Farmer

Fernrigg prepare an even mix of consigned yearlings, yearlings they have foaled themselves and pin-hooked weanlings prepared for sale.

Lot 661 by Real Impact (Jpn) is one of those pin hook projects and has done particularly well since being purchased for $30,000 out of the Aquis draft at the Magic Millions National Weanling Sale.

Lot 661 Real Impact (Jpn) x Rock Success

"He has a big hip, big shoulder, but that compact early 2-year-old type that I really look for as a yearling," Farmer says of the good-natured colt. "He has a flawless attitude, he is such a dude. He is handling the sales process so well, he has thrived."

"We love going around to the weanling sales and finding individuals, then developing them." - Rae-Louise Farmer

"We started off pin-hooking for yearling sales, we enjoy doing that," Farmer says. "We don't necessarily do it to make money, we love going around to the weanling sales and finding individuals, then developing them."

Continuing care

Farmer and Kelly don't just take great care in yearling preparation, but make sure buyers are fully informed about the characteristics of their horses.

"We want to develop into a farm that people know sells good racehorses, not just good sales horses." - Rae-Louise Farmer

"We want to be able to go to the new owner and trainer and be able to tell them something about the horse's personality; we are able to pass that information on," Farmer said.

"The horses are being educated right from the time they are yearlings and that makes them easier to break in, easier to train. We actually had so much great feedback from trainers who have bought from us. They've been telling us how easy they have been to work with, how forward they were and having no issues. We are aiming to have our horses well educated. That means they are more likely to buy again."

As of Sunday Fernrigg had sold five lots at an average of $56,000, with only one passed-in and five more lots catalogued for sale over the remainder of the Inglis Classic Sale.

"We don't send them up with a reserve that is set to make a profit, we come here trying to get them to the right stables, we want to develop into a farm that people know sells good racehorses, not just good sales horses."