Anyone looking to make the most of this industry would do well to look no further than the example of David Porter-Mackrell. Head stallion man at Newsells Park Stud in Hertfordshire, where he has Nathaniel, Without Parole and A’Ali under his watch, Porter-Mackrell was the headline act of the 2024 Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards where he was named Employee of the Year having earlier won the Stud Staff Award category.

Porter-Mackrell decided from an early stage in his career that working with stallions was his calling and having honed his craft at Whitsbury Manor and then Banstead Manor Studs, joined Newsells Park Stud in its infancy just as it was establishing a foothold in the stallion market with Mount Nelson. For its part, Porter-Mackrell is Newsells Park’s second winner of the Stud Staff Award following Elodie Swann in 2021.


“I’ve been overwhelmed,” he says. “You don’t expect these things. It was amazing on the night just to win the stud staff category, and then to win Employee of the Year was incredible.”

Porter-Mackrell’s lengthy tenure at Newsells Park has ensured a stability on both sides of the coin. The smooth running of the covering shed is an integral part to a busy operation and an experienced pair of hands at the helm is naturally crucial. Porter-Mackrell evidently enjoys his work and takes pride in the relationships developed with various inmates over the years – Nathaniel, for example, is currently serving his 12th season at the stud. Yet he certainly doesn’t take any of it for granted, being quick to point out that his career has helped ensure a stable way of life and upbringing for his family.

“It’s a job that allows for a good family life,” says Porter-Mackrell, who is father to Joseph, 18, Elliot, 16, Phoebe, 15, and Amber, 10. “Although you can do long hours at a time, living on site means that you’re still able to see the children a lot while they grow up. And the stud is very good at understanding your family commitments.”

Like many in this industry, Porter-Mackrell was drawn to horses from an early age, in his case when coming into contact with ponies at school. From there, hard work and a desire to learn more about the animal helped drive various openings to ultimately where he is today.

Everything people say about horses being therapeutic is true

“I was quite unwell as a kid,” he recalls. “I actually spent a year in Great Ormond Street Hospital. After that I went to boarding school. I wasn’t really in a great place for obvious reasons. But this school had horses and I was encouraged to go down to the yard, and I immediately fell in love with them. Everything people say about horses being therapeutic is absolutely true and they helped me at a time when I needed it. There was a pony that I looked after – I’d go in before lessons to see her in the mornings and then again in the evenings.

“I got to the stage of thinking of what to do after school and our careers advisor said to me ‘what about the stud industry?’. The course at the National Stud was my aim but I needed experience first. There was a small stud farm next to the school and they had a stallion. I fell in love with him – that was the beginning of looking at working with stallions for a career.

“I did the NVQ course at the National Stud but the aim was always to work with stallions, and it was a case of grafting away and then hoping to find yourself in the right place for the right opportunity. The National Stud course is very helpful because it gives you a foot in the door and from there I went to Heatherwold Stud and then on to Wingfield Stud in Epsom. It was there that I met my wife Miranda.

“We were looking to go somewhere where we could work together and a job came up at Mark Johnston’s spelling yard in Ripon. I went there as a yardman and that was a great experience in itself seeing the other side of it. You had colts on box rest, which presented its own challenges. It was quite an education.”

It was a job at the Harper family’s Whitsbury Manor Stud, however, that provided Porter-Mackrell with an opening towards working with stallions.

“We had been looking to return back down south and a job came up at Whitsbury,” he says. “It was my big break. On my first day, Charlie Oakshott [then stud manager] was giving us the healthy and safety introduction and when he got to the stallion side of it, thankfully I put my hand up and said that if an opportunity was to ever come up, then that’s what I would like to do. As it happened, the guy who was assisting with the stallions stepped down and so there was an opportunity.

“It’s magic down there. They had horses like Cadeaux Genereux, Mister Baileys, Compton Place and Magic Ring at the time. The general level of staff was outstanding and there was a really good crowd of older experienced people to learn from. I was lucky to work under Mick Keegan while he was stallion foreman. I spent about seven years as assistant to Mick, who was a great mentor, and when he retired, they gave me the chance to do the stallions in my own right. That was a massive opportunity and it went well. But then a job came up at Banstead Manor Stud, and I just thought what a great opportunity it would be to work with those kind of horses and also with the guys in their yards.”

Porter-Mackrell’s move to Banstead Manor brought him into contact with the likes of Oasis Dream, Dansili, Zamindar, Rail Link and Observatory, thereby putting the touches on an education to set him up as a head man when the time came.

This is my 16th season at Newsells

“This is my 16th season at Newsells,” he says proudly. “I joined right from the beginning when they purchased Mount Nelson. I wasn’t looking as such for another position but I always had my ear to the ground. And I thought to myself ‘how often do you get these chances to be involved from the start with something like this?’ By that time I was married, we had two young children and I looked at Newsells and thought what a great place to bring up a young family.”

The Newsells Park roster tends to be select – its current group of three is the largest its been numerically – and turnover is low. Mount Nelson spent eight seasons at the stud before heading to Boardsmill Stud in Ireland while its second recruit Equiano stood from 2011 to 2020 prior to his switch to the Irish National Stud. Its current flagship horse Nathaniel, the sire of Enable and Desert Crown among a host of excellent performers, turned 16 this year.

“When Newsells are looking to stand a horse, they only want one they truly believe in,” says Porter-Mackrell. “It’s hard in a competitive market to find the right horse but once they stand one, they’re committed to making him successful.”

Porter-Mackrell won’t be drawn into picking favourites but as he points out each horse is an individual and despite its select nature, the Newsells Park roster offers three very different stallions.

“They’re all special in their own way,” he says. “And the longer you have them, the closer you obviously become. They all have their own funny little ways. A’Ali is a typical sprinter but he just wants to eat and sleep and the great thing is when you ask him to do something, he’s 100% committed. Without Parole is obviously a miler and Nathaniel is middle-distance.”

There is no getting away from the fact that the retention of stud staff is an issue in this industry, something that various institutions – the National Stud among them – remain determined to address. The long hours, quite often with bad weather thrown in, are not for everyone, but it’s a way of life more than anything else – and in Porter-Mackrell’s case, a good way of life that has enabled him to fulfil his ambitions.

“If you don’t mind working hard and you have a genuine care for the horses, then honestly the world is your oyster in this business,” he says. “There are some great people out there who will take the time to teach you. It can give you a great life, not many industries offer you that, and there are some great opportunities. But you have to put the work in, keep going and keep the horses at the heart of what you’re doing. If you do that and keep the horses’ interests at heart, you’ll come up with the right answers.”