New passport move recognises traditional Irish-bred horses (The Irish Field)

The clear identification of traditionally-bred Irish horses in passports and a number of showcase events were announced by the Traditional Irish Horse Association (TIHA) on Tuesday. In what could be regarded as a landmark achievement by the reformed association, Irish-bred horses with three recorded generations of thoroughbred, Irish Draught and/or Connemara lines will now be identified as ISH - Traditional in three locations in their passports.

“Commonsense has prevailed” declared TIHA chairman Hugh Leonard at the press conference held in the Dunraven Arms Hotel, suitably located in the heritage village of Adare. He also expressed his gratitude to Horse Sport Ireland officials, Jim Beecher, Damien McDonald and Alison Corbally for their co-operation.

Horse Sport Ireland chairman Pat Wall also welcomed the new identification move describing it as a “no-brainer” and remarked that breeders should have mutual respect for each other regardless of whether they were using European genetics or traditional Irish bloodlines. He also emphasised the importance of the leisure horse market adding that each Irish-bred sold abroad was an ambassador.

John Watson said: “Being Irish-bred is the best start in life any horse can get” before sounding a word of caution that the  equine ‘class of 2001” which had delivered good results at the London Olympics would not be replicated for several years with the use of thoroughbred sires since dipping to 12% according to the latest covering figures for 2011. He predicted it would take another decade to return to similar numbers of traditional-bred types, due to the increased use of continental sires.

“Tonight we are celebrating a very timely landmark by the custodians of the Irish horse”  added Watson.

HSI chief executive officer Damien McDonald acknowledged the campaign by the TIHA committee. “You brought your argument to every corner of the country including the Irish Horse Board AGM in Gorey” he commented.

Describing the low numbers of thoroughbred-sired foals in 2011 as an “imbalance in the system” he predicted that the next foal statistics would show an increase in coverings by thoroughbred sires, which he said was due in part to the work of the TIHA.

Chris Ryan announced the new Festival of Traditional Irish Breeding which will be hosted at Limerick Show on August 25th, which will include the association’s iconic Limerick Lady final, a stallion parade and new potential sport horse classes for three and four-year-old traditional-breds.

Other events in the pipeline include a Hunter Show & Go initiative in October and a repeat of their successful traditionally-bred segment at the Goresbridge foal sales which saw a doubling of prices for foals entered in this last year.

William Micklem, the final speaker, also unveiled plans to link up with the University of Limerick where he and Chris Ryan had already addressed the equine studies programme. “We will not make one step forward unless we have the training” he emphasised about the association’s other aim of educating breeders and producers.

Afterwards Hugh Leonard repeated his view that Horse Sport Ireland was open to reasonable requests and also paid tribute to his late neighbour, Shane McEntee TD, who he said had been extremely helpful to the association.

(Originally published in The Irish Field, 11th May 2013)

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