'Small breeders can still compete with the big players of National Hunt racing'
The majority of National Hunt horses bred in Ireland come from the small breeder/farmer sector, who usually confine their breeding enterprises to five mares or less, Shane O'Dwyer, the chief executive of the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders' Association, told the Farming Independent this week.
The general economic situation for the sector has improved over the past few years and the ITBA were now concentrating on improving bloodlines and stabilising the demand and supply curve within the industry.
At the height of the economic boom, the number of horses being bred by stud owners rose here to a level of some 12,500 foals a year, which breeding experts believed was unsustainable.
Today numbers have come back to a more manageable level of 9,000 foals a year.
The ITBA has introduced various incentive schemes aimed at helping the small breeders to maximise their return from the breeding activities including the National Hunt Bonus Scheme for Fillies - racing in a schedule of over 90 races covering bumper, novice hurdles and chases.
Most of the bonuses last year were won by small breeders who sent their horses to trainers rather than through the sales route.
"The aim of the various ITBA schemes is to improve bloodlines breeding standards, avoid overproduction of mediocre animals and generally encourage the small breeders to train and retain their horses," Shane O'Dwyer added.
"Cheltenham this week will be all about the major players, but it has to be said that they do create a beneficial trickle-down economic effect within the sector with their purchases.