The Traditional Irish Horse Association, Jan ’12. Click on photo to enlarge
Five re-launch meetings of TIHA are currently being held countrywide as breeders, vendors and potential buyers are finding it more and more difficult to produce or source a true Irish Traditionnal Horse. These meetings are getting great support and Connemara breeders might take some pointers from this debate. A large, enthusiastic gathering of Sport Horse breeders in Ballinasloe was recently addressed by a panel of experts in the field and much useful and informed discussion took place.
The mission statement of the Association reads as follows “To improve and promote the Breeding and Production of Irish sport Horses, highlighting Ireland’s unique heritage of versatile National Breeds, cultures and equestrian skills” Warm-European bloodlines, which are now more commonly seen here, are not part of this tradition.
The Chairman, John Watson, an International Event rider and coach described the required animal as a type and not a breed, carrying Thoroughbred, Draught and sometimes Connemara blood, and reared on good Irish soil which contributes to a robust physical condition.
In Phillip Scott’s presentation we saw this type of horse being worked –out in early training. A general- purpose horse is the one required to satisfy the large market out there. While show-jumpers have special requirements the vast majority of riders are leisure riders and want their horses to Show, to Event, to Jump and to do Dressage, to Hunt, do Riding Clubs and Cross-country, in essence to be an all-rounder. The Irish Traditional Horse must be trained and prepared for this market.
William Micklem, the highly experienced breeder and producer of international Event horses has studied the problem of the lack of availability of the traditional horse, an equine which is sound and intelligent, and has quality , gentleness and courage, a horse with ‘Brain, Brawn and Beauty’, not too large, maybe 15.2 to 16.2 hands high. He recommends more thoroughbred blood in subsequent breeding. He cautioned trainers against starting training at too early an age, as the damage caused can appear in later life and shorten the useful life of the horse. Not until about age four will the bone plates in the animal’s back – which is the last area of conformation to develop- be ready to carry a rider. Good training of young horses, he stresses, would make the biggest possible change to our industry and Ireland is short on trainers.
Temperament, soundness, trainability and gallop are the most important factors he looks at when making a purchase, says Event Rider, Sam Watson, who puts these qualities higher up the scale than movement and jump, as these latter qualities will develop with training. The all-Irish horse is a winner in his book. Loose jumping of a three-year old should be carefully managed, fence height should not be increased to achieve results as the effect can be to turn the animal off altogether.
Martin Donohue of Goresbridge Sales, spoke of the many potential European buyers who come looking for the Irish-bred and go home empty-handed. They can get German or French-breeding closer to home. In fact the Germans are now breeding the Irish Type, a role-reversal situation as here in Ireland the continental type is being widely bred.
Carol Gee is a horse producer and trader in Kilkenny and she also stressed the fact that demand from abroad for the quality Irish traditional horse exceeds supply as she just cannot find enough horses in Ireland of the type the market now requires.
Huntsman and Sport Horse producer, Chris Ryan concurred with the panel and added his own inimitable stories to illustrate his praise of the Traditional Irish Horse.
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