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Equine breeders must focus their breeding plans for the future

A large crowd are attending the Teagasc National Equine Conference, “Building on the strengths of the Irish horse”, which was officially opened today by Larry Kennedy, Head of Farm Management and Rural Development in Teagasc. The conference is taking place at the Teagasc Conference Centre, Moorepark, Fermoy, Co. Cork, on Tuesday, 15 November.

Teagasc Equine Specialist Adviser, Declan Mc Ardle communicated the advantages of embracing new technologies. He demonstrated different ways of using social media tools and websites to market horses in a climate where the use of smartphone technology is advancing rapidly and internet usage is widespread. He said; “when designing a web page to market horses, we must now look at designing a page for the smartphone user also”.

Edward Doyle, a successful breeder and producer of jumping horses competing at the highest level worldwide, remarked that ‘the sport of show jumping has changed dramatically and athletic, scopey, blood horses are a must to meet the demands of today’s tracks’.

Alison Corbally updated the conference on Horse Sport Ireland’s latest breeding initiatives. While Team Ireland Show Jumping manager Robert Splaine encouraged breeders to believe in themselves saying ‘use good mares and breed to suitable stallions, and we can achieve at the top level’. Our greatest asset is the excellent calibre of rider we have here in Ireland.

Teagasc equine specialist, Norman Storey highlighted the dramatic decrease in percentage thoroughbred from 87% to 38% in the top Irish bred international horses, from pre the change in format of eventing competition (long to short format) in 2004. This, coupled with the decline in rankings at world level is a worrying trend which must be addressed. Oliver Townend, also speaking in this session at the conference, said that ‘at the moment Irish horses are still at the top in eventing, but they are becoming quite old’. He recommends refocusing attentions on the thoroughbred cross.

Another guest speaker from the Netherlands VDL stud farm, one of the largest horse businesses in the world, Wiebe Yde stressed the importance of proven dam lines in breeding showjumpers. He stated ‘select very precisely for the sport of show jumping, and be honest about how good and interesting your horses are’. Wiebe emphasised the need for continuous selection under the headings of type, movement, dam lines and family, health, development and expectations.

Teagasc equine specialist, Wendy Conlon, presented the results of a statistical overview of the performances of the ISH in show jumping. Two findings of the study were that 75% of the 1m50 grand prix horses studied progress successfully to international placings, while only 20% of those successful in young horse leagues born in 2002/2003 went on to provide placings at grand prix and international level. While isolating mares born since 1990 that have produced multiple successful horses, 75% had a dam line which produced at least one horse with double clears at 1m30 level, or the mare had performed herself. This underlines the relevance of a performance dam line when breeding showjumpers.

Equine breeding systems must be profit oriented and market driven. The audience heard from successful riders and breeders who are achieving success and profitability within their enterprises. An understanding of the demands of the sport, be it eventing, or show jumping were highlighted by all speakers as a vital component of a breeder’s attributes. Breeders must continue to bring their mares out for classification and performance testing. The mares are the basis for long term breeding progression.