Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Sunday 4 December 2016

Proving your mare's worth

Take the chance to get stock in order for an HSI inspection

Published 29/03/2011 | 05:00

Costing €35 per mare, with a discount for premier-quality broodmares and mares competing over 1.30m, the inspection result includes a complete linear profile, which details each mare's strengths and weaknesses, and this is vital for choosing the best stallion
Costing €35 per mare, with a discount for premier-quality broodmares and mares competing over 1.30m, the inspection result includes a complete linear profile, which details each mare's strengths and weaknesses, and this is vital for choosing the best stallion
Costing €35 per mare, with a discount for premier-quality broodmares and mares competing over 1.30m, the inspection result includes a complete linear profile, which details each mare's strengths and weaknesses, and this is vital for choosing the best stallion
Costing €35 per mare, with a discount for premier-quality broodmares and mares competing over 1.30m, the inspection result includes a complete linear profile, which details each mare's strengths and weaknesses, and this is vital for choosing the best stallion

The latest round of Horse Sport Ireland's mare inspections begins next week in Co Cork and will continue nationwide over the next five weeks.

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More than 200 mares have already been booked in for inspection and Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) director of breeding Alison Corbally is encouraging breeders to seize the opportunity of having their mare inspected this year.

Costing €35 per mare, with a discount rate for premier-quality broodmares and mares competing over 1.30m, the inspection result includes a complete linear profile, which details each mare's strengths and weaknesses.

"For the owners of three- and four-year-old mares, the information gained is invaluable," says Ms Corbally.

"The breeder gets all the information he or she needs to choose a stallion that will complement the mare and produce quality offspring."

Given the time of year, the bulk of mares submitted for this round of inspections is likely to be made up of young mares not yet in foal and older competition mares.

"It is up to the breeder to decide whether to travel a mare heavy in foal, but I would say there is no rush to get a mare inspected this spring because there will be another round of inspections in the autumn," says Ms Corbally.

"I would be careful with a mare in her last trimester and particularly with one four to six weeks from foaling."

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HSI is keen to encourage owners of former competition mares to bring their animals along to the inspections too.

"Breeders should not be afraid to bring older mares as long as they are sound and fit enough for the inspection procedure," says Ms Corbally.

Obviously, a mare who has competed is likely to have wear and tear compared to an unbroken three-year-old filly but the system will not discriminate against a mare who has performed.

So what can mare owners expect on inspection day and what preparation can be made between now and the inspection to ensure that your mare is shown off to the best of her ability?

The process for eligible mares, who must be aged three years or older, begins with a clinical veterinary inspection on arrival, which will include the taking of blood samples.

Following the veterinary inspection, the mare will be assessed for conformation and movement using a linear scoring system. An overall score for conformation and movement is calculated for Sport Horse mares, while Irish Draught mares are also given a score for type.

Her movement is assessed both in-hand, with the mare being led by her owner, and also loose in the arena, where she will be directed by a team of experienced handlers supplied by Teagasc.

Mares that meet the requirements at the Irish Sport Horse Studbook inspections will be upgraded to the status of 'Select' within the studbook and are eligible to receive Star Ratings, ranging from one to five stars, based on their own performance and their progeny's performance.

Successful Irish Draught mares will be awarded 'Class 1' status and are also eligible to receive additional merits (Gold, Silver and Bronze).

In addition to the veterinary, conformation and movement categories, owners can also opt to have their mare's athleticism assessed by means of a loose-jumping exercise.

In this assessment, the mare will be loose-jumped over a series of three fences, the last of which will be 1m high.

Athleticism

'Select' mares that achieve a minimum score of 80 or above (out of 100) for their overall athleticism will be awarded a One-Star Merit, while 'Class 1' Irish Draught mares that achieve a minimum score of 70 or above will be awarded a Bronze Merit.

Following the inspection, mare owners are sent a complete linear profile detailing their mare's strengths and weaknesses, and a summary of the scores attributed and any additional merits awarded to their mare by the inspection panel.

The spring inspections will also feature an allotted time frame each day when the chairperson of the inspection panel will be available to speak to individual mare owners regarding their mare's assessment. There will also be rosettes awarded to each well turned-out mare that is presented for inspection.

With the inspections taking place over the next six weeks, what can breeders do to prepare for the inspections?

The answer comes under three headings: preparatory grooming and feeding; handling training; and turnout on the day.

Teagasc equine specialist Norman Storey outlines some of the key areas to work on.

"Firstly, the mare needs to be in good condition, with a body condition score around three, in order to be seen at her best," he says. "It can help to improve the coat after the winter to put a blanket on but is not essential."

Feet trimming should be scheduled in advance of the inspection date and front shoes put on if necessary. However, care is needed that trimming is not done too close to inspections because the mare could end up 'footy', which could cause problems at the veterinary inspection.

The mare needs to be fit enough to show herself off at her best during the movement in-hand and loose in the arena. This is particularly important if the mare will be jumping for the athleticism test.

However, the fitness requirement is not confined to the mare only -- handlers need to be fit too, according to Mr Storey.

"The handler needs to be fit enough to run 100 yards at the speed that will show off your mare to her best," he says. Mares need to be trained to lead properly, walking or trotting by the handler's shoulder with purpose and willingness. This will only be achieved through practice at home and will therefore require help.

"Get someone to push the mare on from behind so she gets into the swing of leading well," advises Mr Storey. Make sure the mare is turned away from you (handler on the outside of the turn) at the end of a line and use your left hand raised, if necessary, to turn her.

For the conformation assessment, the mare must stand quietly for around 5-10 minutes in the open stance.

Open stance means that the limbs closest to the judges should be square under the horse and those on the other side of the horse to the judges should be closed or further under the horse -- allowing all four limbs to be seen by the judges and with the horse standing balanced over his limbs. Training mares to adopt the open stance position should be done for about 10 minutes every day and could be part of the daily routine at home, advises Mr Storey. Some time spent practising loose schooling and loose jumping at home will mean the mare is more relaxed at the inspections.

Turn out on the day is show standard for the mare, which implies a plaited or neatly pulled mane and tail, oiled hooves, a simple cavesson bridle with snaffle bit and a clean, well groomed body. Turn out is also important for the handler- neat and tidy clothes, sturdy shoes and a pair of gloves being a good start.

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