Alumni Spotlight - Orla Donworth
University of Limerick alumna, Orla Donworth, who graduated from Equine Science in 2014
Tuesday, 20 February 2024

In the next instalment of our Alumni Spotlight series, we speak to University of Limerick graduate, Orla Donworth, who studied Equine Science at the Faculty of Science and Engineering. Orla, now a Senior Digital Marketing Executive with Ireland’s leading bloodstock auctioneers, Goffs, shares how her experience in UL set her on her own career path in the equine industry at home and abroad.

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Orla Donworth. I am currently living in Naas, Co. Kildare and I am from Ballyneety, Co. Limerick. My interest in horses started from a young age, sparked by my father’s upbringing on a stud farm called Torard House Stud in Knockainey, Co. Limerick.

I have a big interest in a wide range of sports. The latest sport that I have taken up and I am really enjoying is Brazilian Ju-Jitsu. I also love photography and videography.

What drew you to studying Equine Science at UL and what year did you graduate?

The equine aspect of the course was a big draw for me and I felt that the co-operative education aspect would allow me to gain industry experience prior to graduating in 2014.

What were the highlights/favourite aspects of the course?

The trips and excursions that we went on stood out for me. Visiting the different farms and establishments provided real touch points in the industry for the students.

Can you tell us a bit about your Co-Op?

The co-op phase ran from January to September, which tied in perfectly with completing a National Stud Diploma course in the UK and a yearling preparation season at Dell Ridge Farm, in Lexington, Kentucky. This practical experience was of benefit to me when I started working full-time with horses after graduating.

Are there any professors, mentors, or broadly people in UL or your life who have played a pivotal role in your academic and personal development?

Professor Sean Arkins was a great support to me during my time in UL. More recently, Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association (ITBA) Chairperson Cathy Grassick encouraged me to Chair the ITBA Next Generation, which was a brilliant experience. Cathy’s guidance was instrumental in navigating this new opportunity and honing my leadership skills. My cousin Ken Donworth is always just a phone call away too, I usually come away from those chats feeling ready to take on the world!

What did you enjoy about UL as a student?

The friendships that I formed on the course and still have today. You meet so many people interested in horses from different backgrounds so there is something to learn from everyone.

Were you a member of any clubs and societies? If so, tell us about your experience:

I joined the Horse Racing Society which is an obvious one. Looking back, I didn’t utilise the range of clubs and societies on offer at UL nearly enough, especially given the variety of my interests now. Is it too late for me to join the Photographic Society?

Are there any campus locations that hold special significance for you?

UL’s campus holds a special charm. I still return there regularly for walks. One of my favourite spots is the Living Bridge, which connects both sides of the university over the River Shannon. Watching the river flow beneath surrounded by the serene landscape always brought a peaceful pause during a busy day of lectures. The unique design of the bridge creates a sensation of movement underfoot - a feeling that would either invigorate or exacerbate, depending on the events of the previous evening!

How did your UL course and your overall UL experience prepare you for entering the workplace upon graduating?

The modules on equine reproduction, physiology, health, and nutrition provided me with a good understanding of the science behind the hands-on work that I’ve done with horses over the years. Gaining practical thoroughbred industry experience during the course allowed me to hit the ground running once I graduated. I also graduated with a group of like-minded friends and a sound support system that has helped navigate the early stages of my career.

What career pathways can students expect from equine science?

It’s a broad science degree with options to minor in business or equitation so there are lots of different routes that students can take, but it is up-to the student to figure out what aspect they like and to bring the next stage of their career to fruition. Some graduates from my year are working in stud management roles, sport horse businesses, academic research, pharmaceutical companies etc, and there are options to engage in further education like I did.

Tell us about your own career journey so far:

Following my graduation from the BSc in Equine Science at UL, I worked hands-on in the thoroughbred industry for 6 years. I wanted to learn from the best and experience as much as I could so I worked for industry-leading stud farms in Ireland, America and Australia. This allowed me to grow my network within the industry and achieve high levels of horsemanship.

In 2021, I graduated with an MSc in Digital Marketing from TUS. Subsequently, I had the honour of receiving the prestigious ‘Digital Student Of The Year’ award at the Digital Media Awards, a nationally recognised ceremony celebrating innovation and creativity within the digital sector. That was a big thrill for me to be recognised like that, especially in a field that was still new to me.

I joined Goffs in a digital marketing role after the course in 2021. Goffs are Ireland’s leading bloodstock auctioneers with 10 locations worldwide. I’m working at Goffs as a Senior Digital Marketing Executive which ties in nicely with the industry committees that I’m currently a member of – The Women’s Irish Network For Racing and the ITBA Southern Region Committee.

What are your hopes and plans for the future?

I would like to continue to grow my network of industry contacts, develop my skills, practice my passions and build on trading horses.