Full steam ahead in the Hunter

It’s a scene of peaceful tranquility as a crisp fog blankets the Segenhoe Valley in the NSW Upper Hunter on a cold July morning.

Winter is the quiet heart of the year at Arrowfield Stud, but in a few weeks’ time the farm will once again be a hive of activity.

Established by John Messara in 1985, and 100 per cent Australian-owned by the Messara family, the 2500 acres of Arrowfield are home to nine stallions, currently headed by four-time Champion Sire Snitzel, and more than 300 broodmares with a remarkable record of racetrack and sale ring success that rivals the best in the world.

In the 2021/22 season alone, Arrowfield has celebrated a dozen graduate stakes winners including Group 1 winners Hitotsu, Profondo, Stronger and Yearning.

It was also a memorable season in the sales ring. Arrowfield’s $30.5 million total at the 2022 Inglis Easter Yearling Sale is an all-time record, and includes seven lots sold for $1 million or more on behalf of the stud and its clients.

These industry leading results are achieved by a dedicated team working together to breed and sell large numbers of quality thoroughbred horses. The scale of the operation becomes clear as the first foals arrive from early August, the stallions begin covering mares on 1 September and the first sale yearlings begin their preparation in October.

Stallions / Breeding Barn

From 1 September the stallion team will rise at 5am to prepare for the first covering session of the day. During the day the team is kept busy mixing feed, cleaning the barn and stables, and organising stallions and mares for up to 30 matings a day.

Foaling Unit

The foaling unit ensures the safe delivery of each foal born at Arrowfield and provides aftercare for mares and foals. The day commences with handover from the night watch team and an inspection of the new arrivals, followed by checks of mares due to foal, as well as the older foals.

The foaling unit provides aftercare for all Arrowfield’s mares and foals. (PHOTO: Joan Faras)

Yearling Sales Centre

Each season approximately 200 yearlings are prepared for sale at live auctions held from January to June in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia, and for online sale. Each day yearlings are fed, handled, exercised, washed and groomed, with on-farm parades for buyers scheduled for the final weeks leading into each sale.

Adam Shankley, winner of the 2022 Horsemanship Award, with an Arrowfield yearling. (PHOTO: Joan Faras)

Yes, it’s busy and sometimes demanding, but there’s a lot of fun, excitement and satisfaction to be had as well, as Arrowfield horseman Adam Shankley explains. “John, Paul and Alice [Messara] look after you really well and I think that shines through and allows us to do a great job. The way the place is managed it’s a fun place to work. We take our job seriously but have fun along the way. It’s not just hard work. There are a lot of exciting times, whether it’s watching the first foals of a new stallion get born or being in the covering shed and seeing so many unbelievable fillies and race mares come to the barn that you’ve seen on the track. It can be super fun and an exciting place to work which makes getting up and going there every day enjoyable.”

Yearlings are fed, handled, exercised, washed and groomed every day. (PHOTO: Joan Faras)

Adam, winner of the Horsemanship Award at the 2022 Australian Stud and Stable Staff Awards, also recognises the importance of supporting and encouraging newcomers: “It’s part of our role as older people to help young people coming through and show them what we know and help educate them. People ask me why I still go to the yearling sales, and I do it because I love being around the horses and the atmosphere. It can be very, very rewarding.”

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