"My wife Sarah is the real grafter in the business"
Stuart Matheson Abacus Bloodstock
Anyone can head to the internet to learn about racing, but why read a vague article with ‘ten tips’ on how to win the Grand National, when you can get all the information you need and more, from the actual people who live and breathe the sport.
This week's interviewee is simply a rolodex of equestrian knowledge and I cannot lie, I did make a few trips over to our trusty friend Google to look up the odd bit of jargon.
This week I learnt all about top level breeding, right from the horse's mouth (well, not literally). I was afforded the opportunity to speak with Stuart Matheson, co-owner of Abacus Bloodstock stud in Staffordshire. Stuart spoke candidly about how he got into the business, what motivates him and all things breeding.
Abacus Bloodstock houses five of their own broodmares, together with a couple of others owned by different people. The resulting foals, are then prepared for sales and sold through Bloodstock auctions or privately.
It seems as though Stuart was always destined for a life in horse racing. Although not massively into riding as a child, it was the races that his mother took him to that really ignited Stuart's love for the sport. As with several families within the horse racing community, Stuart comes from an established line of horse lovers; ‘My grandad, whom I sadly never met, kept teams of draught horses for the farms in Bedfordshire and his family were all farmers.’ So, it seems as though the fierce love and devotion Stuart has for his animals runs through his bones, passed down through the generations.
Abacus Bloodstock, according to Stuart, ‘does not follow fashion’ in regards to breeding pedigrees, because ‘whilst people want fast horses, they also want very early performers, and sometimes that is neither good for the individual horse, or for the breed as a whole.’ When talking about what makes a top-level racehorse, Stuart declared that a ‘good mental attitude is key’, between both the trainers and the horses themselves. Obviously, these horses are trained to a high standard by top professionals, but gruelling work and restriction does not a winner make. In Stuarts eyes, ‘in an environment of kindness and affection... you tend to make better
mannered, friendly animals and trainers then find them easier to train.’ Every single one of their horses has made it to the race course and earned prize money in some regard, so in Stuart’s own words ‘we must be doing something right.’
Working with racehorses is unlike any profession, as it requires you to be a jack of many trades. Luckily, Stuart works closely with his wife and co-owner of Abacus Bloodstock, Sarah Matheson, who, with the aid of a small team, covers most of the yard work. Sarah, according to Stuart, is ‘the real grafter in the business and is an excellent horsewoman’, which gives time for Stuart to handle a lot of the financial and mating decisions. Whilst most days can be arduous and long, ‘the very best part has to be being there at the start of a new life. To witness a mare and foal bond when they first meet is quite emotional and we are so lucky to be part of it.’ And whilst these bonds are priceless, it bears stating that ‘the next best thing is seeing all your plans and hard work translate into a winner on the track.’
Making these strong emotional connections with the horses can mean that it is hard to say goodbye to them, however this does not seem to be a massive issue for Bloodstock Abacus. Even after their horses leave their stud, Stuart states that ‘we are very lucky that we are able to stay in touch with our “children”.’ Some horses even return back to them to be retired, and ‘if we do not keep them, we find excellent homes [for them] and, again, are able to stay in touch.’ Having horses come back to their care after retirement is proof enough that Stuart, Sarah and their dedicated team really do put care and consideration above everything else.
Whilst I had the opportunity to pick the brains of someone who is so well-versed in the world of horse racing, I asked Stuart what one piece of advice he would give to someone wanting to get into racehorse ownership and he said:
‘Remember, only one horse can win a race, so enjoy it no matter the result! The costs almost always outweigh the likely financial benefits, so racing has to be enjoyment first. The growth in good syndicates has allowed people to get involved at an affordable level, and to be part of a like-minded group who add to the collective experience.’
If you would like to learn more about racehorse breeding and follow the work of Abacus Bloodstock in the future, then head to www.abacus-bloodstock.co.ukor follow Stuart on Twitter @stumat.
About the author - Molly Raby
Molly Raby is a member of The Gold and Green writing team and recently graduated from Salford university. I have always had a passion for writing and that was furthered during my time at university as I studied English Language and Creative Writing. I have always been interested in journalism as a career and wrote a few pieces for the university newspaper which allowed me to find my voice.
I have been actively looking for journalistic writing opportunities, so once I came across Green and Gold Crowd Racing and realised they were in need of a journalistic content writer, I knew I couldn’t let this chance pass me by. I am extremely excited to begin working here and representing those within this amazing community to the best of my ability.