You are here:

  • Home>
  • News>
  • Pegasus My Story - A Breeder's story, Touchstone Farm

The Bishop & Nelligan Families - Touchstone Farm 

Touchstone Farm was established in 2007 purchasing the former Fairfields Stud in North Dandalup.

Well respected thoroughbred identity and veterinarian Brad Hampton was the driving force in getting together a group of people that hopefully could make a contribution to the thoroughbred breeding industry in the years to come.  It was a vibrant time but as the Global Financial Crisis hit the industry also hit some difficult times as did some of the founders of Touchstone Farm.

One constant in that time has been the continued involvement of the Bishop family with 3 of the 4 Bishop children having worked on the farm at some point and David himself involved in the marketing and promotional side of the business. Today the farm is under the guidance of Ben and Alayna Nelligan (Nee Bishop) and from them taking on the responsibility in 2013 it is fair to say that the farm has gone from strength to strength.

In 2014 David and Michelle Bishop took over the full operation of the business and in 2015 Ben and Alayna Nelligan bought 50% of the farm so it truly is a family affair.

Alayna cut her teeth at Heytesbury and Dawson Stud in the early 2000’s being involved in some very successful drafts and learnt from a couple of the best in the business in Christine Daws and Nigel Reid.  Couple this with her strong horse skills developed with Jenny Brockman from a young age and a very successful show riding career and all the ingredients were there for a life in the horse industry.It doesn’t hurt that a double degree in Biomedical Science and Exercise Sports Science plus a Graduate Diploma in Primary Education was achieved along the way.

Touchstone Farm is now considered one of the best preparers of yearlings in the local industry Alayna credits many people that have helped her learn her craft. "Jenny Brockman taught me so much about the handling of horses as a young girl growing up and we enjoyed great success together.  Chrissy Dawes was a perfectionist and no stone was left unturned to ensure the yearling was prepared the best it could possibly be.  Nigel Reid was the same and you knew that there great expectations on you as an individual to represent the Stud in a professional manner and to present the horses the same way.  It would be remiss of me not to mention my Mum Michelle who is second to none in her knowledge of nutrition and preparation of horses.”

It is fair to say that many stud operations are a combination of husband and wife or other family members.

Ben Nelligan has been involved in racehorse ownership since he was 18 years of age and himself and his parents,Peter and Marianne had dabbled in some breeding and sold the highest priced colt at the 2008 Magic Millions Perth sale.  The Fastnet Rock-Huka cold sold for $280000.00 and Ben laughingly said “I think I have given most of that back but I did have success with a horse I bred called Joey Jo Jo which I subsequently sold as a broodmare.  My uncle Peter Nelligan used to train quite a few horses and I used to ride trackwork for him.  At one stage I even went on a container ship to South Africa with Mike Siers to accompany some yearlings that had been sold so that was a good experience.”

A successful business person in his own right Ben took a different path in meeting the girl of his dreams. "We can laugh about it now but at the time it was a serious incident and highlights the danger that is inherent in the thoroughbred industry.  I was a shareholder in Flying Pegasus and had bred a young colt (now called Mythical Trust) who was a bit of a handful as a weanling.  Alayna had gone in to the stable and he whipped around and double barrelled her in the chest.  An ambulance was called and they radioed in for the emergency chopper and there was great concern for her well being.

Obviously I was very upset when I heard what had happened and after my initial concern for Alayna’s welfare, the rest, as they say, is history”

History has been marriage, three lovely young boys aged under 4 and a daughter Mia now 12 who has now moved to Perth from Newman and now lives with her Dad and Alayna. "Mia is mad about her horses and loves the farm life”.

They say that the only thing that stays the same is that things change and the way Touchstone Farm operates today bears no resemblance to how it used to be in years gone by.  Currently the stallion barns are empty and the huge broodmare band is no more.  The extra 100 acres across the road has been sold and the focus now is purely on a small band of quality mares some of which are located in the Hunter Valley.

“The trainers are demanding a better quality horse in Perth and we are trying to deliver what the market wants. This season we have supported some of the new WA stallions and it is important that local breeders do so but we also have some quality mares in foal to stallions like Vancouver, Foxwedge, Your Song, Deep Field and Divine Prophet over East.

This year we plan to sell some mares and re-invest in some new ones to keep bringing new blood in to our local breeding ranks.

We are also starting a program of installing reticulation and hopefully we will be building some new spelling yards in 2018 as this is an area that our demand is far outstripping supply. There is a huge demand for individualised care of the spelling racehorses to keep them in peak condition both physically and mentally ready for a return to full work.  A full Olympic sized arena is just being finished off and this will help us with the education of younger horses and also some of the older ones that need a mental freshen up.

We will never say never to standing or buying another stallion but at this stage we will focus on our mares and our yearlings for sale."

One thing that Ben and Alayna both agree upon is that Milne Feed have had a significant influence on the farm with their valued support and assistance over many years. "Michelle Meylan has provided us with excellent service over many years and her input is invaluable to us in what we are trying to achieve at our farm."

The importance of nutrition throughout the horse life cycle cannot be underestimated and it is very important to us that each horse has a nutritional program that meets its individual needs.

Couple this with our expert veterinarian Rob Davies and our farrier Linden Maney and we believe that we have all the ingredients to bring future success.

The final word should go to David Bishop who has experienced most of what the breeding industry can throw up over the past 10 years.

“I often say that the quality of our farm will be reflected by the quality of our people and not just our employees.

Part of our quality approach is ensuring that all our service providers are knowledgeable and provide a world’s best practice in what they do.

In Milne Feeds, I believe that we do have a world class provider and the constant research, through KER, to improve what they do means that we can work closely with them as part of our continuous improvement.

We look forward to many more years involvement with them."