‘The Wheel That Keeps Turning!’ Chris Dawson - Behind the Scenes

  • Posted: Friday, 11th August 2017

For the second of our 'behind the scenes' series Chris Dawson takes us through what goes on at Nunstainton Stud (nr Sedgefield) in the very busy 'off' season.

The 'off season' here at Nunstainton is in actual fact never an 'off season'! 'Off' from pointing it may be, but as a busy farm and stud there is always plenty going on. The last thoroughbred mare was foaled down here on 30th May, a Millenary colt out of a mare who won Yorkshire points called Lewesdon Duchess. That brought the total foaled here to 47, a massive family undertaking along with our small team of staff.

Covering continued until the end of July; the two Worsall Grange-owned stallions Millenary (Left below) and Cannock Chase (right below) stood this season alongside our own Dapper. Millenary (winner of the St.Leger) is the sire of top pointers Ardea and Can Mestret while Cannock Chase is a first season sire who won the Gr.1 Canadian International at Woodbine for Michael Stoute. His book of around 50 mares was a fantastic achievement for a first season sire standing in the North of England. We're looking forward to his first foals arriving next spring.

Unfortunately our long standing servant Dapper only covered a few mares before sadly suffering an aneurism, it was such a sad week for all of us here as he was the stallion who launched our stud 15 years ago. He only covered books of over 8 twice but had a great temperament and was worth his weight in gold as the teaser as well. His pointing stock includes Miss Chatterbox, The Dapper Fox and his latest point winner Tree Sparrow. Amazingly, his stats to date under rules and in points read 31 runners, 12 winners and 6 placed horses. Hopefully we can have lots of fun with his remaining stock.

More recently we have been breaking in stores of our own and for clients. Personally I love it! I definitely have more patience with a young horse than I do with humans. It is great to have a rounding up session on our 'ranch' to get horses in and see them progress. This summer has seen us get in our first home-breds by Trans Island. He stood his final years here and we love his stock; we have two cracking fillies by him entered in the August sales. It is always a difficult decision to sell our home-breds but we can't keep them all. When we upped our broodmare numbers we chose to sell foals, then stores and run whatever remained. This strategy quite often brings about lengthy family discussions - also known as arguments! One thing that we have learned is that selling National Hunt filly foals is very difficult without top pedigrees, so we now keep our fillies to stores or run them ourselves.

(above; field full of geldings on the 'ranch'!)

I hope to train a few four year olds this season, so we have moved on a lot of last year's 'squad' to give us the room. We do have horses for owners who have them as a hobby like Sposalizio and To Begin, but we have ours primarily as a business. Dad (Chris Snr.) has always bought and sold pointers, including West End Rocker (pictured below) who ended up winning the Beecher Chase for Alan King, but times change and now the market is dictating that nice four year old point to point winners are what buyers want. For example, Steely Addition won nicely on debut for us in 2016 and sold well at the sales, he was a very nice horse and has gone back into training with Philip Hobbs. Another like him this season would be fantastic!

Away from the stud side there's my brother, 'Farmer Phil's', side of the business. We lamb 1,600 ewes which we all oversee, as a family. It actually works really well as night duties can be shared between watching for ewes lambing and mares foaling. In summer, I always get roped into sorting lambs, sometimes it makes a nice change from horses. Not only that though, if I do my bit with the sheep, I can blackmail Phil into lending me his 17 stone frame to help wrestle any feral breakers!

(above are the 710 store lambs before Thame sheep sales)

Phil has also managed to persuade me back onto the rugby field to play again for Sedgefield after 14 years out of the game! Pre-season training has just started again and it's one way of getting me fit again, along with doing the Sedgefield Park Run on a Saturday morning. I actually played when I could in the second half of last season, it's a great social club and means I have one afternoon/evening a week where I don't talk or think about horses! I will say however my racing physique didn't really lend itself greatly to the team's defensive cause, hopefully my summer weight (13st!) will help me tackle better at the start of the rugby season.

As you can see the summer is a very busy time for us, and actually it seems a lot of summer jobs here just become autumn ones. A couple of our pointers Ginginny, To Begin and Miss Macanandy will come in shortly as they are summering as well as I am. All the youngsters usually go back out after being broken in and won't come in until October. At that point the whole process begins again, and I have the lovely task of beginning to shed my summer pounds!

For further information about the horses in Chris's yard, take a look here

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