HSI banking on receiving €1m annually in EU aid

Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) is banking on receiving €1m annually in EU aid to fund discussion groups for sport horse breeders.

The discussion group strategy will be modelled on similar schemes in the dairy, beef, and sheep sectors and will see each horse breeder given a payment of around €750 to attend meetings and complete defined tasks. Some money will be used to pay facilitators to organise the discussion groups.

It comes as €600,000 was allocated to HSI in this week’s budget for the marketing and promotion of the sport horse industry. It is likely to be based on Irish Thoroughbred Marketing, with the possibility the aid could also go to boosting competition prizemoney.

HSI chairman Pat Wall welcomed the funding, which will be channelled through the Department of Agriculture under Simon Coveney, who has been instrumental in helping HSI, Teagasc and the RDS formulate a strategic plan for the sector.

Mr Wall said: “This is an important first step. Over the last few months, the minister has fully engaged with the sport horse sector and those involved will be pleased to see this allocation for marketing. When this is added to the EU funds for a network of equine discussion groups, which the minister has committed to, we are moving in the right direction,” he said.

“This money is to help with marketing the different categories of horses — being able to provide a horse for all level of rider is something that differentiates us from our competitors, but we need a mechanism to contact our producers with the high net-worth individuals internationally, from pleasure riders to competitive amateurs, both adults and children.”

HSI is the governing body for equestrian sport on the island of Ireland, yet it receives nothing from the Northern Ireland administration. Mr Wall also encouraged the Northern Ireland agriculture minister Michelle O’Neill to take a lead in backing the industry south of the border.

“The sport horse sector is a genuine 32-county activity and I hope Minister Michelle O’Neill will follow Minister Coveney’s lead,” he said.

The €600,000 allocation brings the total Dept of Agriculture funding for HSI next year to €1.8m, which is exclusive of money allocated under the National Development Plan, plus Irish Sports Council funding, which is expected to remain unchanged.

Meanwhile, next week, a HSI delegation, led by director of finance Mark Bolger, travels to Beijing for the China Horse Fair. Enterprise Ireland is organising an Irish stand, promoting the Irish equine industry; with six Irish companies and three state agencies (including Enterprise Ireland) participating.

The following week, Mr Coveney is leading a trade mission to China and Mr Bolger will remain to link up with the minister.

lThe Irish sport horse studbook has maintained its place at the top of the World Breeding Federation eventing rankings for another year.

The Irish studbook claimed top spot every year since the inception of the rankings in 1994 until 2010 and 2011, when it slipped to second and third, respectively, before regaining top spot the following year and last year. It’s worth stressing that that’s an incredible 19 years out of 21.

The six best Irish horses that put Ireland at the top of the rankings are — sires in brackets — Kilronan (Ghareeb) in 9th place; 17th-placed 2014 Badminton winner Paulank Brockagh (Touchdown), 21st-placed Ballynoe Castle RM (Ramiro B), 22nd-placed Bay My Hero (Cult Hero), winner of this year’s Rolex Kentucky; 23rd-placed Improvise (Master Imp) and, in 42nd place, Electric Cruise (Cruising).

Unfortunately, the Irish sport horse studbook for show jumping has not moved from 12th place, the leading Irish-bred horse being the OBOS Quality-sired Castlefield Eclipse in 25th-place.

The Dutch warmblood association KWPN has claimed first place in show jumping and dressage.

* Emerald International Equestrian Centre in Co Kildare this week announced a number of international shows for next year. A two-star will run on March 24-29, while a three-star show will take place on June 2-7. The Co Kildare venue will also run a second two-star international on November 10-15.

The centre was previously called Jessbrook and was owned by criminal John Gilligan before it was seized by CAB and sold to James Buckley and refurbished. It is set to run its first major event since Mr Buckley took up ownership — the Irish Masters Show — on Nov 14-16, boasting a prize fund of €55,000.

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