Irish Independent: TIHA on a mission to promote native Irish horses to breeders

In between admiring the best of Ireland's young event horses at the RDS Discover Ireland Horse Show last week, breeders were treated to a display of traditionally-bred horses. Ranging from full Irish Draughts to 7/8ths thoroughbred horses, the display was organised by the Traditional Irish Horse Association (TIHA).

It is on a mission to promote how much native Irish breeds such as the Draught and Connemara can offer breeders, either on their own merit or when crossed with a thoroughbred.

Jim Cooke of the TIHA said the showcase, which also included a Connemara x thoroughbred, was a great advertisement for how traditional breedes could contribute to the breeding of all levels of sport horse, ranging from leisure animals to high level competition stars.

Next week, the TIHA is shifting its focus from Dublin to Limerick, where, as part of the two-day Limerick Show, it will host a 'Festival of Traditional Irish Breeding'.

The prestigious Limerick Lady competition, aimed at selecting the best two-year-old Irish-bred filly, will take place on Sunday, August 25. All the fillies competing will have qualified through local shows to earn their spot. The top prize on offer is €500 and the TIHA perpetual challenge trophy, with €100 going to the breeder of the champion.


Entries for the Limerick Matron class, for mares aged three and up with foals at foot or in foal, will close this Thursday, August 15. This class will be sponsored by renowned racehorse trainer Jim Bolger.

Mr Bolger, who part-owns the Irish-bred Nation's Cup horse Ballymore Eustace with Paddy Quinlan in Co Kildare, is a fan of traditional Irish breeding and in particular jumping lines.

He competed in showjumping before he began his successful career as a trainer.

"My father used to breed from traditional-bred mares. They doubled as working horses and always seemed to be happy and healthy. I'm very happy about sponsoring the Limerick Matron and I'd like to give every encouragement to the people who breed these horses," he said at the announcement of his sponsorship.

TIHA chairman Hugh Leonard added that Mr Bolger's support of the competition showed the wide-ranging support for traditional breeding in Ireland.

Also at Limerick Show, the judges will have the option of awarding a €100 annual payment to the top ten mares for four years, upon registration of their traditionally-bred foal with Horse Sport Ireland (HSI). These new mare premiums can be claimed from the TIHA once the foal has been registered with HSI, up to December 1, 2014.

Other prizes on offer for traditionally-bred horses include the foal championship, for foals at foot out of participants qualified for the Limerick Matron Championship. It carries a total prize fund of €850 and the best overall foal will be awarded the Major Jed O'Dwyer Perpetual Challenge Trophy.

For older traditionally-bred horses, there will be two classes for three-year-old potential sport horses (in hand and loose jumped) and a four-year-old potential sport horse class where horses will be shown under saddle.

Following Limerick Show, the TIHA will begin scouring the country for the top traditionally-bred foals in Ireland. Mr Cooke says the association will be running its select foal sale in conjunction with Goresbridge again this year, but this time on a national basis.

"Selection will begin in early September, so anyone with a good quality traditional foal should keep an eye out for their local selection day," he urged breeders.

As hunting and event horses, there is little doubt that traditional Irish breeding will always come out on top and the association is planning a showcase for hunting, eventing and good all-round types.

The 'Show and Go' event, pencilled in for mid-October, will take place at Chris Ryan's Scarteen home and already has a number of buyers committed to attending.

TIHA members will have the opportunity to trial their horses over a number of banks and jumps in front of potential customers. Each horse will be filmed and the video made available to the owners of horses not sold on the day.

Mr Cooke assures me that these events are just a flavour of the work being done by the TIHA to promote traditional Irish breeding and behind the scenes, the TIHA is in negotiations with HSI to re-badge the passports of older traditionally-bred horses with a shamrock.

Caitriona Murphy, Farming Independent, 13th August 2013


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