Match breeding policy to market demand for foals
To breed or not to breed, that is the question that many sport horse producers must ask themselves in these early days of 2014.
Foal numbers have dropped significantly since horse production peaked in 2008. Breeders have clearly digested the message from the post-boom market that only good horses will make a return and Irish Sport Horse foal numbers are steady at around 5,000 for the past two years.
This reduction in volume, which is being mirrored across Europe, could create an opportunity for Irish breeders (see Page 11) but it is just one step in the right direction and there are many more steps that breeders can take to improve their own lot.
In the past three years, fewer than 160 Irish Sport Horse (ISH) mares were inspected annually in the Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) inspections. Table 1 (below) shows the number and result of inspections for ISH and Irish Draught mares.
This is disappointing, given how much information could be gleaned from the process and used by the breeders to their advantage.
The mares are assessed on their pedigree, conformation and movement and mare owners receive a detailed linear profile to take home, which gives a detailed description of their mare's conformational strengths and weaknesses.
This sort of assessment, provided by an independent panel of experts, is worth far more than the inspection fee of €35 for Irish Horse Board members.