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Leona Hughes

09-September-16

Leona Hughes

ITBA Next Generation Apprentices 2016/17 Interview by Lissa Oliver

As Leona Hughes look forward to an exciting year ahead as the new ITBA Next Generation Apprentices, we caught up with her to pose a few questions.

What sparked your interest in horses and a career in racing?

Leona:

My family always had broodmares and racehorses, so it was something I was always interested in. I wanted to do the Maynooth Equine Business degree, but didn’t get in the first year, so I did a PLC course instead and worked at Morristown Lattin Stud and Rathasker Stud. I got into Maynooth in the second year, so the PLC course was well worth it and got me into two top yards, and I’ve never been out of work.

What are you most hoping to gain from the apprenticeship?

Leona:

Likewise, I just want to act like a sponge and soak up everything I can and have an influence in the company I’m at, to help in their business.

What do you see as the biggest challenges?

Leona:

My biggest fear is failure. We’re very conscious of being ambassadors for the ITBA and we don’t want to let them down.

What has been your biggest setback to date, that may have put you off altogether?

Leona:

We had some very good horses, but when the recession hit we had to cut back to the point we hardly had anything in the yard, but my dad, Emmanuel Hughes, was a great inspiration to me and we’re now building back up again. If ever I’m doubting myself, he gives me the hunger to keep going.

And your most treasured moment?

Leona:

I hadn’t been working with Guy O’Callaghan at Grangemore Stud for very long and we sold a Pivotal filly for quite a bit of money. I remember watching the bidding going up and up and the excitement was intense, everyone was on such a buzz. I was made to feel part of the team.

Horse people and classrooms don’t always mix, how have you found a happy balance?

Leona:

I found the Equine Business Degree very good, even though only two hours out of the 12-hour week was devoted to equine and I wondered what I was doing there! My teacher Niamh O’Sullivan was very supportive and it’s standing me in very good stead.

How much of a help has the ITBA Next Generation been?

Leona:

The speakers at the seminars always do their best to answer your questions and the networking is great. Already Darren Flynn and Sean Flannery have been very supportive.

Any top tips for the interview stages of the Apprenticeship?

Leona:

Take care over your appearance. The presentation is a challenge, but there’s no right way or wrong way, just go with your gut feeling.

Do you remember getting the phone call from Kerry Ryan to say you had got the apprenticeship?

Leona:

Kerry said, “we’d like to thank you so much…” and I nearly started crying, I was convinced it was bad news. My mum was so proud of me.

What are your long-term aims for the future?

Leona:

I’d like to work in administration and have my own band of broodmares at home as well. We both want to feel we’re serving a purpose and putting something into the industry.

You’re in full-time employment, how hard a decision is it to say goodbye?

Leona:

I’m so grateful to Maurice Burns at Rathasker Stud, Gay and Guy O’Callaghan at Morristown Lattin Stud, and Niamh O’Sullivan at Maynooth. The people we’ve been working for have got us to where we are today and we don’t want to let them down.

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