Irish equestrian businesses, from horse events to riding schools, are about to receive a funding boost thanks to a new opportunity to share in €425m (£361m) from the Irish government’s rural development programme (RDP).

Until now, equestrian projects were not eligible for RDP grants, but 10 months of collaboration between Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) and the Irish government — stressing the industry’s importance to the Irish rural economy — has changed that.

Mark Bolger, of HSI, hailed the news as “one of the most significant and exciting developments” for horsesport. “We have been trying to open up grants to the horse sector for a while,” he said.

Examples of projects eligible for funding are diversification into non-agricultural activities, business, tourism and conservation and upgrading rural heritage.

“The range is extremely broad and could include the development of riding schools and training facilities to benefit the local economy, through to improving spectator facilities at major international events — anything that will encourage more people to visit the area,” added Mr Bolger.

Pat O’Connor, of Eventing Ireland, said: “It’s been a hard time for events in Ireland so this news is very welcome. We have sent the information to our organisers and it’s up to them now to take up the grants.”

And Helen Fox, chairman of the Association of Irish Riding Establishments (AIRE), said: “AIRE-approved equestrian centres will [be able to] renovate old buildings, open cafes and improve facilities.”

  • A guide to the potential funding available can be seen on the HSI website —
    www.horsesportireland.ie

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (30 December, 2010)