Irish Draughts on the comeback trail
After a challenging few years, the Irish Draught stallion sector now looks poised for recovery as demand for coverings starts to pick up
Published 23/09/2015 | 02:30
As the sport horse breeding season comes to a close, dozens of stallion owners are counting their costs and looking at the viability of standing their sire at stud again for 2016.
Irish Draught stallion owners, in particular, have overcome a tough few years, with the numbers of coverings to Irish Draught mares at one of its all-time lows in 2012.
A mere 580 pure-bred Irish Draught foals were registered the following year. These are well down from their peak of approximately 1,200 in 2008 and 2009.
In addition the number of Irish Sport Horse foals per year by Irish Draught stallions dropped from 767 in 2010 to 478 in 2013.
However, one stallion owner who believes this number is on the rise again is Donal Golan, who said he has had one of the best breeding seasons in years with his Registered Irish Draught stallion, Rebel Mountain.
"I can honest say the last time we had a full book of mares for Rebel Mountain was probably 2008, the year after he was approved. He has covered well over 80 mares this past season, but we've had plenty of lean years too when we only covered 20 and 30 mares," commented the Gorey-based breeder.
The rise in popularity in Rebel Mountain has not only come from owners of Irish Draught mares, however, but a far wider range of breeders of both ISH and thoroughbred mares.
"More and more people want horses bred for performance and Rebel Mountain produces them with incredible step and movement."
Out of the Mountain View mare, Keamore Gold, his sire Huntingfield Rebel was renowned for his wonderful temperament and it is not surprising that this has been passed down through his stallion sons which also include Rosheen Yeats.
A former champion in dressage, more recently this athletic grey has been spotted under a trap with his well-known owner, Ken Bryan.
Rebel Mountain's eldest crop of foals is now seven and this year they are proving themselves in competition and in ridden classes, hence interest in the stallion has risen once again according to his owner.
In recent weeks, two of his progeny out of RID mares appeared in the line-up in the ridden classes at the IDHBA National Show in Punchestown, with Silversand and Solo Rebel claiming first and second in the four and five-year-old division.
Silversand, out of the Clonakilty Hero mare, Walsh's Wisdom, then went on to claim reserve supreme to Ireland's Countess, by Drumhowan Gold.
Across the water, Rebel Mountain has also gained attention as a sire of young eventers, with two of Golan's home-breds, Ballinglen Eddie and Ballinglen Rebels' Dream, among those flying the flag on the UK circuit.
Another one also destined for the British competition scene is a four-year-old by Rebel Mountain who fetched €5,400 at Goresbridge earlier this year. Out of Milan Melody, by Milan, he is a full-brother to the year-older novice eventer Snowcap.
Another by the sire out of a mare by Kings Servant was sold for €6,000 at the same sales venue during the summer, while the most recent dispersal included a six-year-old sold to the UK for €7,700.
Producing horses for performance has also been the aim for many years for fellow Wexford-based stallion owner, Ann Lambert. Together with her father Jack, they have gained worldwide acclaim for their success over the years with Grange Bouncer.
Though now deceased, Grange Bouncer has left his legacy through his stallion sons Clewbay Bouncer, Moylough Bouncer, and Lambert's own Killinick Bouncer.
Now 11, Killinick Bouncer has undoubtedly picked up where his sire left off, and this year alone has won two performance championships at both the RDS and Oughterard. He also placed second in the Speed Derby at the Limerick Show.
"His sire was so adaptable and could do anything. Killinick Bouncer is exactly the same," Ann Lambert commented.
As well as excelling in performance jumping, he has also won at riding club level, and is a regular in the hunting field.
In his stud career of 16 years, Grange Bouncer covered more than 500 mares, and was renowned for producing athletic horses with fantastic temperament.
Approved as a six-year-old in 2010, Killinick Bouncer has some way to go before emulating his sire's statistics, but Lambert believes that his performance record may hopefully lead to an improvement in mare coverings in 2016.
"He covered about 30 mares this year, which is an improvement on previous years. I could take him eventing or show jumping to raise his profile but we are trying to mind him," she added. "He has such a big jump, so much so that Dad cannot hunt him anymore."
Also by Grange Bouncer, Liam Lynskey's Moylough Bouncer is one of only a handful of Irish Draught stallions that have show jumped up to 1.35 metre level, justifying his gold star merit. Placed second to stablemate Kilcottin Cross in the working hunter class at Punchestown, the 13-year-old carries the same performance traits as his half-brother Castle Crest, also a working hunter winner at Punchestown.
Both are out of the Grey Macha mare, Another June Day, whose dam June Bud produced another gold star merit sire in Holycross.
Moylough Bouncer has been show jumping locally again this year, and so too has his stallion son Darraghs Moylough Vision.
Moylough Bouncer, who covered some 30 mares this year, is also sire of the RDS winner Strictly Come Bouncing, while his other stallion son, the three-year-old DS Ballagh Bouncer received full RID approval during the Horse Sport Ireland inspections earlier this year.
"This season there was definitely an improvement in mare coverings, but the fact that Moylough Bouncer is still out and about competing can only help their popularity for 2016," said owner Liam Lynskey.