“Those 400 lawnmowers will be on your plate come spring.”
Maurice Micheau, the owner of Collistown Equestrian Centre, is referring to the 400 sheep that are grazing his fields. Their nimble feet won’t damage the ground. Their owner is happy the sheep are being fed and Maurice is happy the grass is being cut.
A furniture maker by trade, Maurice made his passion for horses his livelihood. He built the entire centre from scratch, even constructing the impressive indoor arena. It opened in 2000, and all was going well until 2008, then the recession hit and some of his plans were put on hold.
Maurice and his staff look after 20 horses every day, 11 of which are liveries – clients who pay to have their horses stabled and fed. Maurice’s livery price includes extensive quality services, which he could easily charge more for, but “It’s a personal standard,” he says.
People might balk at €115 per week for livery – you can rent a room for cheaper. However, when you factor in the cost of food and bedding, profits are low – as little as €50 per horse. Out of this, wages, insurance and electricity bills have to be paid.
Maurice and his staff look after 20 horses every day, 11 of which are liveries – clients who pay to have their horses stabled and fed.
“You’ve to think about running costs. Liveries obviously want to use the arena, however, if too many want put the lights on at night, it eats into the profit margin.”
That’s why Maurice is always exploring other business ventures.
A Polish riding lesson is beginning in the arena. There is a ready market for these lessons and so far, they are proving popular. Maurice and his team are working hard at developing the riding school.
Maurice has heard about two horses idling for four years in the field of a half-built house. Recession victims. The owner bought them for his girls when times were good but they never took any interest. Now he wants to get rid of the horses.
This is common; horses bought as pets during the Celtic Tiger and people losing interest or unable to afford the upkeep during the recession.
There are others who stuck it out despite times being tough. “People who will shoe a horse before they shoe themselves.”
We go to look at the horses and Maurice decides to take them. They’ll be given a good feed, a warm bed and, if suitable, they’ll become riding school horses.
Maurice is also developing ride-outs and competitions to bring in more money. He spends parts of the day building a cross-country jumping course, which the sheep are helping to landscape.