The horse business isn’t an easy one. For those who make Thoroughbreds their life’s work, it can be all-consuming, and subject to the whims of nature and chance. For John Henry Mulholland and his mother Martha Jane, that’s all part of what makes it so special.
“You have to love it, because it’s going to consume you,” says John Henry. “It’s going to give you some great moments. It’s also going to break your heart.”
John Henry and Martha Jane breed, raise and sell Thoroughbreds from their home base of Mulholland Springs Farm in Lexington. In their years in the business, they’ve shared long days, longer nights, and their share of tough times and triumphs—sometimes in the same day.
Martha Jane remembers staying up with a foal that had been stillborn, working in tandem with her team to resuscitate it. “I can still remember the thrill when that horse took its first breath. We willed it to live: ‘You are gonna breathe, baby.’”
It’s that dedication and refusal to give up that have driven the Mulhollands to the top of the Thoroughbred industry. John Henry and Martha Jane work as a team, from staying up with new foals to working in tandem at sales.
“You’re together 360 days out of the year,” says John Henry. “You’ve got to find a way to like each other, to love each other.”
“It works really well if you all get along and respect each other and each other’s ability,” says Martha Jane.
Their relationship is one that works, leading success for the family and the farm. Mulholland Springs can boast farm-bred Maximus Mischief, winner of the Remsen S. (G2) in December, Florida Derby-placed Bodexpress and Grade 1 winner Malibu Mint, as well as Graded Stakes winners Investalot, Shadow Miss, Bay Barrister, and Naughty Notions who raced in Mulholland silks.
For all their horses, Mulholland Springs success starts at the foundation: the land. Having lived in Oklahoma, Martha Jane knows firsthand what a difference good soil makes.
“Farmers have always known that if you didn’t take care of the land, it wouldn’t take care of you. After the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma, you knew you had to take care of the land.”
Mulholland Springs’ incredible soil was part of the reason Martha Jane and her husband, the late John Robert Mulholland, chose the farm. Martha Jane credits much of their success to it. She and her son take their responsibility to the land seriously and consider themselves stewards of it.
“The land will produce the calcium and minerals that the horses need,” Martha Jane says. “It’s an incredible resource. So we take care of the land, the land takes care of our horses, and horses provide an awesome life for us.”
The Mulhollands bought their farm when John Henry was 16, and he returned to join the family business after college. The horse industry was its own kind of education, teaching John the realities of the business as well as lessons about life.
“This business will definitely teach you patience,” he says. “You’re going to learn the ups and downs of life. You’re going to learn hard work. You’re going to learn determination. You’re going to learn the phrase ‘Maybe next year.’”
But for John Henry and Martha Jane—and their fellow horsemen and horsewomen—they wouldn’t have it any other way. The hard work and the hard moments make every celebration, every win, every healthy foal that much more worth it.
“If you don't love it and you don't truly enjoy the wonderful moments, then it's going to just tear you apart. So you have to love it,” says John Henry. “As a family, we get to experience that together. That's a wonderful feeling.”