William has been part of the international showjumping scene for many years; he is a four-time Hickstead Derby winner and has represented Team GB on numerous occasions, starting his showjumping career as an apprentice with Cyril Light of the Brendon Stud in Sussex, (where William and Donal first met) before setting up on his own. The older horses and William are based at Jordans Farm, Forest Green — 56km southwest of London.
Irishman Donal grew up in a farming family in County Wexford and has an incredible eye for a horse, a huge knowledge and great experience with breeding. He is situated in Petworth, about 30km further south from William; his yard is specifically set up to accommodate the mares, foals and young stock.
In the 1990s, Donal and William owned a few jumping horses together, one of which was a talented jumping mare called Tatum, by Irish super sire Clover Hill. Sadly, Tatum had suffered a career-ending injury — however with her great bloodlines she made a perfect broodmare. Tatum was covered by KWPN stallion Animo, owned by William’s friend, Norwegian amateur rider Morten Aasen.
The first Billy foal was a chestnut colt, which Donal named Orange. He kept this name until he arrived at William’s yard as a four-year-old and was then referred to as ‘Billy’, from which his show name was born — Billy Orange. The “Billy” prefix is used to this day and the second part of each horse’s name is taken from the foal’s dam line.
Tatum’s second foal, Autumn, was the dam of the stud’s trailblazing stallion Billy Congo, foaled in 2001. William and Billy Congo enjoyed great success together, taking top honours in many eminent Grand Prix classes around the globe; in addition they were on the winning British 2013 European Gold Medal showjumping team in Denmark.
Billy Congo retired from top-level sport in 2018 and now stands at the Kylemore Stud in Ireland. Billy Congo is renowned for being the sire of many top performers, one of whom was Hickstead Derby-winning and team GB member at the World Equestrian Games 2018, Billy Buckingham, who sadly sustained a life-ending injury earlier this year.
In 2000, Donal and William obtained the Zangersheide Holsteiner stallion, Cevin Z, who has been key to The Billy Stud’s continuing success in producing quality young-stock. Cevin Z passes on his super temperament, conformation and athleticism to his progeny and is sire to many top competition horses, including Billy Mexico now in the USA with Vani Khosla; eventer Billy the Biz, who represented team GB at the Rio Olympics in 2016 with Pippa Funnell; and Billy Diamo, William’s 2021 Olympic showjumping hope.
Over the years, the stud has developed a system that has proved very successful. Donal starts the process with the mares and foals. Overseeing the broodmares when they foal and once weaned, all the foals live in big herds in the most natural of environments. If the weather is very bad they remain in their herds in large barns.
While turned out, they are caught occasionally to be wormed etc. but in general they are left alone to enjoy simply “being horses”. Donal spends a lot of time with the foals, getting them used to being handled in groups and individually before being turned out until they are three-year-olds, when they will be introduced to a head collar again.