Ross Jones

Branxholme’s Boutique Barn

Despite selling one of Southland’s longest serving Standardbred Stud farms; Kina Craig in Balfour, Ross and Robyn Jones were never going to walk away from the harness racing industry.

Enthusiasm for harness racing in Southland has lead them to the decision to design and construct a purpose built boutique breeding barn with accommodation attached.

The showcase establishment has sixteen well- appointed paddocks and lanes on thirty five acres. All paddocks are deer fenced.

“It’s (deer fencing) cost us an arm and a leg. The property is purpose built whereas Balfour was just added onto from a sheep farm. This place was built from a blank page and we built it exactly how we wanted it,” said Ross.

The operation is located at Branxholme in Southland, inland from Makarewa and Ryal Bush and is adjacent to their son in-law Nathan Williamson’s training establishment.

The property was previously owned by the late Des West and has never had horses on it.

Ross says it’s time to do things on a smaller scale.

“I’ve taken on some local clients where the mares will just come in and foal. The likes of Kirk Larsen, Ben and Karen Calder – and the Thomson boys are just over the road. Diane Cournane is going to send over her mares. We’ll also serve a few and get them to come back in sixteen days to test them.”

So the numbers will be relatively small because they plan to accomodate between twenty five and thirty mares.

“I’ll feel my way for the first couple of years to see how we go with the space and the spring and summer grass growth. This is a totally new area and climate for us.”

It’s certainly a far cry from the days of operating the 500 acres at Kina Craig which was established in 1980 by Ross and his father Allen who’s now in his 95th year.

Jones says in the end, Kina Craig was looking after up to 400 mares.

“It did get a bit big near the end and it ruled your life really. We always knew that this was what we were going to do when we sold at Balfour. It was a five year plan and it’s all unfolding now.”

You can’t help but be impressed by the detailed thought that’s gone into the establishment, for example the design of the box doors and gates which allow the transfer of mares and foals to happen easily and safely. The foaling box is 6 metres square while the other two boxes are 5×4.5 metres. All are well padded.

There are five floodlit foaling paddocks adjacent to the boxes and ‘Horse House,’ (their name for the accommodation block).

A roller door into the back of the feeding bay makes for easy access for the feed delivery truck. A serving crush is also part of the stabling area.

The two paddocks closest to the house and foaling barn have special built-in covered areas attached to the fences, providing shelter for mothers and new borns from the prevailing weather.

Breeders will continue to have access to the world’s leading pacing and trotting stallions through frozen semen.

“I’ve had quite a few people wanting me to wean the foals as well. I’ve got about twenty five people already. I quite enjoy weaning the young ones so that’s exciting too.”

The only permanent mares on the property are their own mare Dolly McD and a small number of mares owned by Nathan and Katie, their daughter.

One of those mares is Kylie Ree the dam of She’s Allthe Craze and the promising Springbank Lachie.

The property is named Poppymalda Acres after Ross’s good trotting mare so there’s another prospective lodger after she finishes on the racetrack.

The couple are currently living on site in the ‘Horse House’ having sold their home in Bainfield Road. They plan to buy another property in Invercargill.

The accommodation block is well appointed with a bedroom, shower, toilet and all the mod cons.

Ross and Robyn plan to be live on site for four months of the summer from September through to January each year.

“We don’t plan to have many mares here in the winter. It’s only thirty five acres so we’d like to keep it all nice like this,” he said pointing towards the well grassed paddock free of horses.

The Jones are only breeding from Dolly McD – a 12 year old Mach Three mare. In a short breeding career she’s left Statham (6 wins), Bernie Winkle (3 NZ wins and 7 Australian wins) and the promising Toby O’Gara (1 win).

Dolly McD is a half sister to Joyfulbelle, the winner of eight races and the dam of Southland Oaks winner Jumpforjoy and three year old filly Bettor Joy.

So gone are the days when the Jones foaled up to 200 mares. This operation, on the face of it, will be more leisurely.

When you visit the property you can see they’ve utilized the learnings from thirty plus years of managing mares and foals and have designed a quality barn and surronds that will serve them well and bring them much enjoyment.

And there’s always a helping hand next door – right?