Scholarship a Stepping Stone to the Business of Horses
(Courtesy of www.NZTmag.co.nz)
It's often said education is the key to success so it's no surprise Kilgravin Lodge proprietors Eion and Megan Kemp are carving a name for themselves in the local thoroughbred industry.
These days a successful hands-on horseman, Eion set out to be an equine veterinarian and spent three years at university gaining part of his qualifications before changing tack. That meant winning a scholarship to the world-renowned Marcus Oldham Equine College in Victoria, Australia, a one-year all encompassing course aligned to the thoroughbred industry.
At about the same time, Megan was training as a kindergarten teacher and the disciplines of higher education the couple have carried through to the thoroughbred workforce sees them as business and rural land owners in their mid-30s.
The Kemps founded Kilgravin Lodge six years ago after, buying the Te Poi property from former Matamata breeder and veterinarian John O’Flaherty and offer a full range of agistment services including horse breaking, pre-training and sales preparation.
"We've been out on our own for seven years now,” Kemp said. “We have 75 acres split between the agistment block (bought three years ago with the help of Megan’s parents), and the original breaking and pre-training operation."
Business has flourished with Eion and his team breaking in over 100 young thoroughbreds last season and he and Megan recently becoming majority shareholders of the farm.
Eion’s racing industry passion was fuelled by his father’s owner-trainer hobby in hometown Wanganui.
“I rode trackwork there while I was still at school,” he says, adding that he was never quite small enough to pursue a professional jockey’s career.
Later on, after completing his higher tuition, Eion rode briefly but successfully as an amateur rider, kicking home two winners a couple of seasons back including the highly-sought after Duke Of Gloucester Cup, considered the major national prize for amateurs.
Education, though, was Eion’s driving force from the time he left school and he started a Bachelor of Science degree at Massey University hoping to qualify as an equine veterinarian. However, with such a high demand for so few places, he missed the second year cut but completed his degree in three years with a double major in biochemistry and physiology.
By now determined to make his career with thoroughbreds, he won the Marcus Oldham scholarship and left that course with a high distinction certificate in Horse Business Management.
Out in the workforce, Eion upskilled his horsemanship at a couple of New Zealand’s leading thoroughbred nurseries.
"I started at Cambridge Stud, involved mainly with yearling preparations,” he recalls, “then moved across to Matamata for a job at Waikato Stud where I was working with the mares and foals during the breeding season and breaking-in and pre-training in the off-season.”
When business tycoon Eric Watson bought the property across the road from Waikato Stud, Eion worked alongside Paul Jenkins with the property’s emphasis on breaking and pre-training.
Eion had sole charge when the farm changed hands again a couple of years later, bought by Auckland printer Steve McCollum whose tenure was short-lived as well. This provided Eion and Megan the spur to start a business and find a suitable property.
Their Te Poi purchase provided an established property but Eion and Megan have added significant improvements in recent years with the safety of bloodstock in their care paramount to planning. A purpose-built barn added three years ago allows 24 under roof that mirrors the number of double-fenced day paddocks while other new features are a covered horse walker, high-walled lunging arena and fully railed sand training track.
The Kemps pride themselves on presentation, not only of the bloodstock under management, but also of the property and put in extra hours maintaining the grounds of the busy working unit.
"The place has to look good and I believe that portrays into your work," Eion proffers. "We have a very good and loyal client base and they put a lot of trust in us - they keep returning and we're very appreciative."
Leading Hong Kong gallopers Floral Pegasus and Green Birdie graduated from Kilgravin, as have Group 1 Australasian racehorses Fully Fledged and Gorky Park to name a few.
"We'll also be preparing a draft for the Ready to Run Sale and we'll start their preparations in the first or second week of August. We've got a good, reliable team of workers and they put in a lot of effort," Eion adds.
With a young family as well – the Kemps have two children, Reuben (6) and Elijah (4) – there’s little time to relax away from work but Eion and Megan wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We just like what we are doing,” Eion states. “It’s something we both find very fulfilling, something we’ve worked hard towards.”
Be sure to read the MOCOSA Magazine for more graduate success stories.