The draft plan — devised by the troika of HSI, Teagasc and the RDS — has been with Mr Coveney since before Christmas and is eagerly awaited, with many anticipating the Corkman will usher in an era where the sector finally secures the support it warrants.
“The strategy for the sports horse sector is still with Simon Coveney, who apparently wants to add some further ideas of his own,” said Wall yesterday. “We are lucky that he is interested in the sector, but he has a lot of competing priorities for his attention, at the moment.”
The Dept of Agriculture yesterday said it is envisaged that the strategic plan “will be launched in the first half of March”.
The department also said that proposed equine discussion groups scheme — modelled on similar schemes in the dairy, beef, and sheep sectors and included in the Rural Development Plan before the European Commission — will be administered by its Innovation Unit in Portlaoise.
The €1.4m scheme will run for three years, with payments to participants of €750 per annum. In addition the department will pay what it terms “the knowledge provider/knowledge transfer facilitator” €500 per participant, per year.
Participants will be required to attend five meetings annually, plus develop a “Farm Improvement Plan (FIP) in the initial year and update it in each of years two and three. The FIP will include a profit monitor, sustainability management plan, health plan and breeding plan.”
Meanwhile, Wall said HSI was progressing with investing the €600,000 it had received from the Government for the marketing and promotion of the sport horse industry.
However, he cautioned that disputes within the industry were counter-productive.
“We are keen to develop the marketing function to make Ireland truly ‘the land of the horse’ and the ‘go to place for a horse for all level of rider’.
“We are in a global competition and it is important that we have a united team if we are to be successful. The minor game is the Irish domestic market, but the senior game is on the international pitch.
“If we dissipate energy arguing with each other, whether it is Irish Draught factions, traditional Irish versus horses with warmblood genetics or strong personalities within the different affiliates we are destined to fail.
“There is no room for poor quality or poorly-produced animals. We won’t be able to market low-quality stock and, as each horse that leaves the country is an ambassador for the sector, we don’t want disappointed customers.”
Having already booked his place in April’s World Cup finals, Bertram Allen will be looking for another champagne performance when he saddles up this weekend for the penultimate qualifier in Bordeaux, France.
The 19-year-old star — who is up one place to 14th in the latest Longines World Rankings — is resting Molly Malone V, but has Aminko N, Romanov and Wild Thing L.
Denis Lynch (Abbervail Van Het Dingeshof, All Star 5 and Ho Go Van De Padenborre) also travels, along with Billy Twomey (Codarco, Diaghilev and Tinka’s Serenade).
Ronan McGuigan ensured Irish riders continued to make their mark at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida, winning Wednesday’s $34,000 speed class with the consistent Capall Zidane and beating his mentor Conor Swail on Ariana. Yesterday’s action was cancelled due to bad weather.
Millstreet is to stage a three-day international horse trials in August.
It will be run over the grounds of Drishane Castle, which wowed spectators and participants when unveiled for last year’s European Pony Championships.
The course, designed by Danny Dulohery of Kilguilkey House, “will be up to height, technical in places, but inviting”. The event will run on Aug 28-30.
The first fundraiser as part of the Alex Ott Appeal took place last Sunday, when over €15,000 was raised by a fun-ride and auction organised by Cork’s South Union Foxhounds.
The event attracted over 200 participants and the top lot at the auction in the Speckled Door pub near Kinsale was a day at Aidan O’Brien’s Ballydoyle stables in Co Tipperary, which went for €1,700.
Alex sustained a serious injury to his C5 vertebrae on Nov 19 last while exercising a horse close to his home in Meelin near Newmarket, Co Cork. He was airlifted to Cork University Hospital, where he remains. “He is facing a long rehabilitation and the outcome is unclear at the moment,” according to spokesperson Elizabeth Ahern, who added that “his spirits are good and he is very determined”.
Alex, whose parents are German, runs Gooseberry Hill Horses with his partner Janet Burke. They have four children, Zara, Andy, Luke, and Ella.
Next Sunday sees another fun ride in Cork in aid of the appeal. Organised by the Muskerry Hunt, it starts at Killumney, and will also feature an auction.
Destined for massive support is a ride on Feb 22, organised by Alex’s Duhallow Hunt, which starts at Castlemagner. It costs €100 per animal, with sponsorship cards also available. The feature lot of the subsequent auction is a trip for four to the yard of trainer Brian Meehan in Wiltshire. A visit to the gallops is followed by a champagne breakfast and a day at Newbury Races.
See the Alex Ott Facebook page for further details and www.mycharity.ie/charity/alexottappeal/.