A 10-year “roadmap” to help to secure the future of the Irish sport horse industry was launched in Dublin last week (3 March).
A wide range of issues, including enhancing quality through more focused breeding, improving marketing and sales capacity across the industry and increasing participation in the sector are in the report, entitled “Reaching new heights: report of Irish sport horse industry strategy committee”. There are 35 key recommendations.
Simon Coveney, minister for agriculture, food and the marine, “commended” Horse Sport Ireland, Teagasc (the Irish agriculture and food development authority) and the Royal Dublin Society for “combining their expertise to produce the comprehensive report”.
The breeding industry in Ireland hit a crisis point during the recession, with overbreeding resulting in the value of horses plummeting. In 2009, the number of calls reporting abandoned or compromised horses increased by 150% (news, 14 January 2010).
In 2013 Horse Sport Ireland reported that the quality of foals was improving, and that it had seen a significant drop in the number of foals being registered.
Mr Coveney said he had been “conscious of the absence of a coherent vision and plan for the sport horse sector”.
“We have all the natural advantages for horse breeding and production in this country: a natural affinity for the horse, an abundance of horsemanship and world-class riders,” he added.
“I believe that the report provides the framework to harness our resources in order to achieve our goals.”
Horse Sport Ireland chairman, Pat Wall, said that the report was an “important milestone” for the sector.
The minister has also given a commitment to provide funding of up to €2m (£1.4m) for a network of breeder discussion groups to determine best practice.
“The absence of such a local/regional system in the equine sector has limited the opportunities for many breeders to improve their knowledge and skills to meet market demands,” Mr Wall added.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 12 March 2015