Korean market opens up for Irish horses and ponies
Irish ponies may be soon be destined for the green pastures of South Korea as part of a bid to encourage children in the country into equestrianism, writes Siobhán English.
A new export market may be emerging as sourcing good quality riding ponies was very much the topic of conversation in recent days when a delegation of equestrian experts from South Korea visited Ireland to meet with key members of the Irish equestrian industry with a view to promoting the sport in their home country.
Currently Korea is one of only a handful of countries whose Government has signed into law a 'Horse Industry Promotion Act' in hopes of boosting rural economy.
The country has a market economy that ranks 13th in the world and a population of approximately 80 million. However, equestrian sport is low in terms of popularity and just 30,000 horses and ponies are registered between the thoroughbred and leisure industries.
There are just three racecourses across Korea and a total of 400 horse-riding facilities.
It is believed that there are still just 40,000 people engaged in horse riding from a population of 80 million. Statistics show that this is a marked improvement on previous years, proving that as Korea's economy expands, interest in the horse industry continues to grow.
Dressage and show jumping are the most popular of all equestrian sports, with some 60 competitions held annually throughout the country. There is a limited interest in eventing, however the country has been represented in all three disciplines at Olympic level down through the years.
Since the law was passed in 2011, industry experts have looked at other countries in Europe and also the USA as a means for sourcing good-quality riding horses.