Falling sport horse foal numbers 'an opportunity'
Falling sport horse foal numbers across Europe could create a new opportunity for Irish breeders to capitalise on the shortage of top performance horses in the near future, Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) has predicted.
Since 2009, foal registrations in all of the major sport horse breeding nations have fallen dramatically, with the number of foals in German studbooks falling from more than 26,000 in 2009 to fewer than 19,000 in 2012.
Similarly, foal registrations in the Dutch and Belgian warmblood studbooks have fallen continuously since 2009. The Irish Sport Horse studbook is also on a downward trend, with foal numbers falling from a peak of around 7,500 in 2008 to 5,010 in 2012, and early indications for 2013 are that foal numbers have steadied at around 5,000.
"If that trend (of falling foal numbers) continues, roll that on and over the next six to eight years there is going to be a shortage.
"There is going to be a shortage of top performance horses -- some would argue there already is -- but certainly if the foal numbers drop throughout Europe, there will be an opportunity for a country that can produce what the market wants," HSI breeding director Alison Corbally told the Teagasc National Equine Conference recently.
Interestingly, the breeding policy implemented by Horse Sport Ireland since 2010 is having a marked effect on breeders and how they choose stallions.
Under the HSI system, stallions can be Approved, Preliminary Approved, Not Approved 1 (NA1) or Not Approved 2 (NA2) and mare owners have been voting with their feet by choosing to use more Approved stallions on their best mares and by choosing Approved stallions with higher star ratings.