NECESSITY is said to be the mother of invention, and that’s certainly true during the Covid-19 crisis. With severe restrictions on movement hitting the sale of thorough-bred horses, Quin equestrian specialist Johnny Hassett has responded by moving his business on-line.
The Bloodstock Connection, at Ballyhannon House, specialises in producing what are called ‘breeze up’ horses. These are generally two-year-olds, who are galloped or ‘breezed’ along a track where prospective buyers can assess them before inspecting them at the sales arena. Taking the business into the virtual world was very much a “make or break” response to the coronavirus outbreak.
“We made the decision around seven weeks ago,” Mr Hassett said. “It has gone well in that we’ve sold some horses, but the really big benefit has been to raise our profile and keep our names out there. As a breeze up company, we had doubled up on horses, twice as many horses and upped the calibre significantly and the spend, which meant more staff, more feed bills, more everything, We broke it down to two options: close down and keep the horses ticking over until things solidified, maybe keeping one person on; or go for it. Of course, the whole team said, ‘Go for it!’ They’re great and I didn’t want to let them go. Option B was, we’re an on-line business. This isn’t just a farm, it’s a shop front.”
Once the decision was made, it seemed that things conspired in favour of the team at Ballyhannon. “The head lad turned out to be an ace camera man, Pat McLaughlin is playing a blinder,” said Mr Hassett. “The guys really got into turning the horses out for the photos. My friend Katie Rudd had a bit of time and she took on [the challenge of] getting us ready for Twitter and the on-line marketing. Ruth Murphy did the website, so we went at it and that’s how the blog started.”
That blog, which is posted on The Bloodstock Connection’s Twitter and YouTube accounts, involves a behind-the-scenes look at the work of the company, commentary and analysis, as well as interviews with some of the leading figures in the breeze up sector. It has been generating considerable interest on-line, as have the Ballyhannon list of 2020 breeze up horses and sales have been brisk. “We’ve gotten our money back and paid our keep,” Mr Hassett said. “We’re in business and we’re in a good position.”
Despite adapting to changing times, the team are keeping a close eye on the future. “We do need the sales events to resume and there is movement on that,” Mr Hassett said. “We will know more soon and it’s vital to get things moving again because this sector generates millions for the local and national economy.”
Under the road-map for the reopening of Ireland, outdoor equestrian support has been allowed to resume, subject to social distancing and other public health guidelines. Horse racing, behind closed doors and subject to a number of other restrictions, is set to resume on June 8.