With the arrival of Covid-19 to UK shores and subsequent government lockdowns, shows have been cancelled and postponed on and off for almost a year.

When competitions ground to halt many riders were left twiddling their thumbs but not so for a family from Denhead, just a stone’s throw from St Andrews, who are looking towards keeping the future of show jumping moving forward.

Husband and wife team, Alayne and Hamish Lohoar set up Drumcarrow Livery yard in 1998 on their 150-acre farm, but it was when sons, Stephen and Angus – who both started riding around the fields from an early age – were old enough to become involved in the business that things have rapidly evolved.

A BHS-approved yard, Drumcarrow now boasts 72 stables plus a fabulous indoor arena, outdoor menage, horse walker and offers lessons and training to all levels enjoying close proximity to the world-famous St Andrews University and its annual influx of students.

The Lohoars can expect 150 or more mares to come to them through the breeding season, as well as producing horses for sale

The Lohoars can expect 150 or more mares to come to them through the breeding season, as well as producing horses for sale

The main part of their business, Lohoar Sport Horses, concentrates on horse sales and sees up to 200 horses pass through their yard every year – with an excellent reputation.

It was on a horse-shopping trip in Holland in 2003 that the boys found a super young mare called Rumalia (Silvio II/Actueel) who was to inspire their latest business venture which would ensure they kept busy through these troubled times.

Rumalia, who jumped consistently well up to 1.4m, later sustained a hock injury, so the decision was made to put her in foal.

Outsourcing AI facilities, the logistics of travelling to and from vets and AI centres whilst running a business, competition, etc was unsettling for the mares and foals and inconvenient but this combined with the increasing difficulty sourcing good, straight, quality young horses led them to talks about starting a new venture.

This is where family friend, former livery and now Stephen’s fiance, Dr Selena Ayling, stepped in. Having graduated from Edinburgh University RDSVS in 2010, she worked in a mixed practice for six years before heading off to Australia where she spent several years focussing on all aspects of equine reproduction in large Thoroughbred studs and equine hospitals.

Keeping in touch via discussions with Stephen and Angus, highlighted the lack of a vet-led equine reproductive service in Scotland and realising they had the knowledge, contacts and facilities on hand, Premier AI Services was conceived.

The modern facilities at Drumcarrow keep track of each animal through pregnancy

The modern facilities at Drumcarrow keep track of each animal through pregnancy

This side of the business has grown exponentially in the four years since inception and now boasts full facilities for visiting mares such as large, airy bespoke barns ideal for foaling down but also for youngstock which are run on longer term with access to well-maintained pasture for the summer months.

Cameras, purpose-built stocks, foaling alarms, an onsite lab and, of course, a vet on hand 24/7 means the team are well equipped to deal with any emergency immediately.

Especially important at this time are the staff and family who live on site, meaning the high standard of care and management is maintained.

Resident and visiting stallions can use the semen collection and storage services but with the shipping of semen still being classed as 'freight', frozen and chilled from almost anywhere around the world can be sourced with just a day, or two’s notice.

Rumalia is now described as the ‘family pet’ at 23 years old and is now retired, living the life of luxury having bred seven foals in total.

Her first, Castro, by Heartbreaker, competed up to 1.4m level as an eight-year-old before being sold and her daughter, the impressive Kamalia LSH, by Kannan, will be heading out to Portugal soon with Stephen to step up to 1.2m.

With Angus and Stephen both having competed to 1.3m and above, Stephen competed in the 1.5m classes in Vilamoura just before the first lockdown, and with their contacts through their horse sales business in mostly Germany, Belgium, Holland, England, Ireland and the US, they are always up to speed on any new, exciting young stallions that become available.

A few of their home-breds have already shown their talent. One such is Cojack, a son of LC Napenay out of a Concorde/Nimmerdor 1.4m mare which is now jumping Grand Prix in Florida; another Gucci LSH (Je T’aime Flamenco/Nimmerdor) was winning six-year-old classes in Vilamoura; and Jakarta LSH (Quasimodo/Silvio)was placed in the five-year-olds last year.

The outcome everyone wants – a happy and healthy foal

The outcome everyone wants – a happy and healthy foal

They currently have four home-bred six-year-olds, with Kameron LSH tipped as ‘one to watch’, being by Zirocco Blue out of a Je T’aime Flamenco mare showing all the technique and scope required and several five-years-olds, Lanson LSH, Lantaro LSH and Latina LSH just starting out having had most of 2020 off .

Having home-bred and produced horses reduces the risk of health, temperament and production problems making the whole process from start to finish so much easier and more transparent to future customers.

Also interesting is the number of other competitors taking advantage of the facilities to breed their own such as Laura Tinto, Alex Barr, George Babes, Will Hendry, Dan Ockenden, James Scullion and Kirsty Aird, who all have youngstock on the ground, as well as Patricia Lillington, with her lovely stallions, Jannan and Woodbury's Harlequin who visit frequently for collections.

Primarily, all work was show-jumping focussed, aiming to use the best stallions available world-wide but more recently other disciplines have been catered for and many different breeds including Arabs, Clydesdales, Knabstruppers, Lusitanos, Cobs and Connemaras to name a few

With competitions thin on the ground, quite a number of mare owners have been taking advantage of the disruption to take embryos from good competition mares, with Selena especially focussed on embryo transfer work in which she already has had a lost of success.

When mulit-champion mare Clydesdale mare, Colessie Jennifer, had a difficult foaling and her owners, Ronnie Black and family were advised not to put her in foal again, they decided to give embryo transfer a go, a first for the breed.

They were so full of praise for Selena that they named the resulting filly foal, by Collessie Challenger, Collessie Selena Ann.

A pioneer at protecting rare breeds, Tullis Matson was instrumental, alongside the Rare Breeds Survival Trust in encouraging Premier AI to start using embryo-transfer and AI techniques on not just the Clydesdales, but also the endangered, native Eriskay pony increasing the populations and expanding their gene pool.

At the start of 2020, it was predicted they would see around 150 mares come through their doors but with the many changes having to be made in the light of Covid-19 the numbers were slightly less but it is already looking as though 2021 will far exceed this.

Selena and Stephen welcomed their own offspring, son Harvey James at the beginning of December, 2020, which means plans are now afoot to increase the team to help assist Selena and liaise with clients.

Covid-19 has meant a restructuring of procedures including separate drop off and pick up points, of course no visitors and doing nearly all the paperwork electronically.

And, with mares coming to foal down, owners desperate to keep breeding and some new faces taking advantage of the ‘time out’ it certainly hasn't been a quiet year for this up and coming business venture.

Selena is pictured in jpg 7.