Farm Ireland

Monday 20 November 2017

Cash in and breed from best mares

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

With the Irish Sport Horse slipping down the world rankings for showjumping horses, Irish breeders are being urged to concentrate on breeding from mares that meet exacting criteria.

Broodmares should be objectively assessed on performance, type, blood, movement, pedigree, athleticism and temperament, delegates at the Teagasc National Equine Conference were told last week.

Edward Doyle, an international showjumper turned breeder/producer, told the 200 breeders at the conference that the key to achieving success was to ensure that the mare ticked all the boxes before breeding her.

"The mare must be a performer and be the right type," he said. "I also look for plenty of blood because you need a quality horse to go around these tracks."

Movement and athleticism are also key, he added.

"The first thing a buyer sees is how the horse moves so you need to produce animals that look good and move well."

Mr Doyle, whose home-bred Flexible has been the highest ranked Irish-bred showjumper in the world rankings for the past two years (11th in 2010 and 27th this year), has also bred top horses Flex, Flexing and Samgemgee.

"Pedigree is essential," he said. "You will get the odd freak that produces results without a pedigree but that will generally not breed through again."

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He urged breeders to use the Horse Sport Ireland mare inspections.

"You might not agree with it since all our own geese are swans," he said wryly. "But having a linear profile for your mare will certainly help you when choosing a stallion to suit her and, if you are going down the road of selling foals, two- and three-year-olds."


In terms of stallion choice, Mr Doyle said his criteria were performance, pedigree, blood, progeny performance, conformation and temperament.

"In Ireland we have plenty of big strong mares, so you need plenty of blood in the stallion to breed a quality foal," he explained.

He added that he believed the thoroughbred sire had something to offer Irish breeders.

"Personally, I prefer flat breeding because they are more compact and more suited to showjumping. The National Hunt horse is longer and made to cover ground, but the tight technical tracks in showjumping suit a flat sire better."

However, he warned that if thoroughbred sires were to be used, they would have to be successful competitors in their own right.

"I would only choose a thoroughbred that was good enough to win, and the higher up the better," he said.

Wiebe Yde van de Lageweg, owner of the VDL Stud in Holland, echoed many of Mr Doyle's points. The family-owned business extends to 300ha of land, 50 approved stallions, 90 breeding mares and approximately 400 young stock.

Since the family first stood the KWPN "Stallion of the Century 2000" Nimmerdor, VDL Stud has become one of the largest horse businesses in the world.

The stud has bred dozens of top stallions, including Emilion, Tenerife, Ahorn, Bordeaux, and VDL Edminton.

Mr van de Lageweg emphasised the importance of good dam lines in breeding sport horses.

He told the conference that the VDL policy for broodmares was to use only mares with proven dam lines and then rigorously select the mares that produced the best progeny.

The stud uses mares from certain proven dam lines, including the Sina, Loma, and Shoraya line (also known as the Holstein 474A line), which is the same line that produced one of Ireland's favourite sires, Cavalier Royale.

"The choice of stallion is dictated by what will suit each individual mare," Mr van de Lageweg told breeders at the conference.

"We select on bloodlines, type, performance and character, and choose between young stallions and proven stallions."

The offspring of each mating are then rigorously selected.

Both Horse Sport Ireland breeding director Alison Corbally, and Teagasc equine specialist Wendy Conlon highlighted the performance of the Irish Sport Horse (ISH) in showjumping.

In her review of ISH performance, Ms Conlon found that 75pc of those horses that reached 1.50m grand prix level went on to achieve international placings, while only 20pc of those horses successful in young horse leagues and born in 2002/2003 went on to secure placings at grand prix and international level.

When Ms Conlon focused on mares that were born since 1990 that produced multiple successful progeny, 75pc of those mares had a dam line that produced at least one horse with double clears at 1.30m, or the mare herself had jumped at that level.

Ms Corbally told breeders that the mare inspections and a manual search for Ireland's top ISH mares had so far revealed that 352 ISH mares were rated as three-start broodmares. These mares have achieved two double clears at 1.30m or higher, been in the top 25pc of a CCI* class or better, or produced two progeny that met the same criteria.

She said: "We believe that there could be up to 100 more mares at that level that have not been identified yet."

•Next week I will focus on the breeding of event horses, including what top eventer Oliver Townend thinks of Irish-bred horses

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