Michael Creed, T.D., Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, has launched an important report authored by Alison Corbally and Professor Alan G. Fahey entitled “The Contribution of the Sport Horse Industry to the Irish Economy 2017.”
The report highlights the importance of the Sport Horse sector and the fact that it accounted for expenditure of €816 million and supported over 14,000 full time job equivalents in 2016. The Irish Sport Horse industry impacts the livelihoods of residents of every county in Ireland.
This industry, uniquely provides significant employment and expenditure throughout the whole country. This is evidenced by the fact that over 60% of breeders are located in the west and south-western counties, where significant employment is so important to the maintenance of rural communities. The breeding sector is of course the bedrock on which the production, competition and leisure sectors are based.
Breeding accounted for €271 million of all expenditure, or 33% last year. In this report, the breeding sector accounts for expenditure from the point of covering the mare until the progeny are four years of age, when the animal will enter one of the other sectors of competition, leisure or be exported.
There were 14,830 active sport horse breeders in Ireland in 2016 and 31% of them reported that they were aiming to breed a showjumper, with 29% aiming to breeder eventers followed by 16% and 13% indicating that they wished to breed leisure and show horses respectively. The use of artificial insemination has increased in the sector from 32% in 2012 to 42% last year, and there was also a small increase (3%) in the use of frozen semen imported from abroad.
Ireland has a significant track record in breeding the world’s best event horses, we have won the World Breeding Federation’s studbook rankings for 22 of the past 24 years. Once again in 2017, The Irish Sport Horse studbook has retained this significant accolade. This report highlights the importance of the competition sector which accounted €168million of expenditure. There are 10,000 registered horses competing in show jumping, eventing and dressage nationally which are produced by over 7,300 competition riders and their support staff.
In the sport of show jumping, Ireland has produced two world, young horse champions recently. Killossery Kaiden (ISH), bred by Laura and Frank Glynn and Columbcille Gipsy (ISH) bred by Eamonn Murphy who each won the gold medal in the six-year-old World championship in Lanaken, Belgium in 2016 and 2017 respectively, against over 800 of the best, young horses in the world.
The success of our young horses has driven an increase in external trade since 2012. Most sport horses are sold privately, unlike Thoroughbreds. This study estimated that 76%, of all sport horse are sold privately, which makes estimating the net export figure more difficult. However, the total value of sport horse transactions in 2016 was in the region of €106 million, of those the value of exports was 48 million last year.
The sport horse sector also provides opportunities for the whole family to participate from Pony Club and Inter-school competitions to the Riding Clubs, showing and hunting activities.
Expenditure in this leisure sector contributed over €100 million to the overall total, of which hunting and country shows were the most substantial contributors. These activities provide entertainment for participants and supporters alike, with the country shows alone attracted over 286,500 spectators last year with over 5% of those being overseas visitors. The visitors stayed in Ireland on average from 5 to 7 nights and, supported our hospitality sector during their stay.
The Sport Horse Industry, is already a significant contributor to the Irish Economy in terms of direct expenditure and employment. It is one of the main areas in the agricultural sector that has huge potential for growth into the future.
Image: (l-r) Ronan Murphy, CEO Horse Sport Ireland, Michael Creed, T.D., Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Alison Corbally, Horse Sport Ireland, and UCD Professor Alan Fahey, with the “The Contribution of the Sport Horse Industry to the Irish Economy” report at The Department of Agriculture, Kildare Street, Dublin. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile.