HSI looks to China as market for Irish horses

THE market for Irish horses in China is full of potential, Horse Sport Ireland chief executive Damian McDonald said yesterday, but he acknowledged a number of obstacles needed to be overcome.

McDonald was part of the delegation led by Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney that visited China in the past week and he noted the growing popularity of equestrian activities among the rising affluent class in the communist state.

“If the growth in equestrian sport in China continues, there is potential for the export of Irish horses, as well as expertise,” said McDonald yesterday. “It was the HSI’s first official trip to China. I will compile a report and consider carefully what the next step will be. It was a huge advantage to be part of a trade mission led by Minister Coveney, as it opened doors that could otherwise have been closed.”

Among the issues raised by McDonald with the secretary general of the Chinese Equestrian Federation, Cheung Qing, was the provision of a training/coaching programme, as well as an exchange programme where Chinese riders would come to Ireland to avail of our expertise.

While McDonald acknowledged there were a number of barriers to be overcome if the export market is to be tapped — notably the issue of quarantine — he was confident these would be addressed.

Currently, horses exported to China must be quarantined in the Netherlands for 30 days, followed by a further 45 days in quarantine in the capital Beijing.

Another challenge is that, at present, there is no direct flight from Ireland to China, necessitating the chartering of a plane.

“The quarantine makes it complicated, particularly regarding the question of what stage payment is made for a horse, but I know that Minister Coveney and the Department of Agriculture are working very hard on overcoming the issue and it would be great to get a positive result as soon as possible.”

Delegations representingChinese agriculture and exports travel to Ireland in May and June and it is hoped that a new quarantine arrangement can be agreed then.

* Four faults with Abbervail van het Dingeshof in the opening round of the Rolex World Cup finals in the Netherlands last night left Denis Lynch in 21st place going into tonight’s second round. His compatriot Dermott Lennon failed to ignite, posting 12 faults with Hallmark Elite in ’s-Hertogenbosch.

The top two-thirds of competitors after tonight’s jump-off class go forward to Sunday’s two-round final.

* THE following is the Irish squad to contest the first Top League nations cup in La Baule, France, on May 11: Jessica Kurten, Denis Lynch, Cian O’Connor, Shane Sweetnam, and Niall Talbot.

Manager Robert Splaine also announced that the following team will travel to the second-division nations cup contest in Lummen, Belgium, on May 4: Shane Breen, Alexander Butler, Edward Doyle and Dermott Lennon.

* CHEF d’equipe Tom Slattery had high praise for the quartet that gave Ireland’s its third successive victory in the French pony nations cup in Fontainebleau last Saturday. Clare’s Tom Foley provided a double clear with Crown Jewel, as Ireland finished on a total of just four faults to deny a resurgent British team by a single fault. Paraic Kenny (Grey Ross) and Matt Garrigan (Dr Spot) each had single errors in their openers, followed by clears, while Cork’s Molly O’Shea (More Clover) jumped zero/four.

Foley, who also featured with Kenny on the victorious teams in 2010 and 2011 — followed with a fourth place in the grand prix.

“This was a fantastic result, seeing as there were 11 nations competing,” said Slattery. “All the riders pulled their weight and excelled under pressure in the second round. It’s also very satisfying to see leading rider awards at the show going to two Irish lads, Tom Foley for the CSIOP and Darragh Ryan for the CSIP.”

* The Cork/Kerry Branch of the Irish Draught Horse Breeders Association is holding an information and training afternoon on April 29 at Ballybrack Equestrian Centre, Glenville, Watergrasshill, Co Cork.

Topics to be covered include farriery, veterinary care and equine nutrition with John Hyde, grooming and show preparation, advice on the new Irish Horse Board inspection procedures and linear scoring, while Kevin Croke will give a talk on the sport of endurance riding and the new Horse Sport Ireland anti-doping programme. There will also be an Irish draught versatility demo, as well as a carriage driving display.

Admission is free and the event is not restricted to IDHBA members. Enquiries: 086-1681675.

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Join us for a special evening of Cheltenham chat on Friday March 12 at 6.30pm with racing legend and Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh, Irish Examiner racing correspondent Tommy Lyons, and former champion jockey and tv presenter Mick Fitzgerald, author of Better than Sex.

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