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Independent.ie

Saturday 20 January 2018

Olympic showroom for Irish sport horses

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

The Olympics will offer a shop window for the best in Irish sport horse breeding, with 16 Irish-bred animals competing in London.

Fourteen of those horses will take part in the eventing competition which finishes today, while Castlefield Eclipse and Flexible take part in the show jumping.

Five of the Irish-bred horses will represent Ireland, with three representing the USA and two representing Britain. These include High Kingdom, which will be ridden by Queen Elizabeth's granddaughter Zara Phillips.

Irish-bred horses will also compete for Canada, New Zealand, Ecuador, Jamaica, Switzerland and Sweden.

Perhaps the toughest Irish Sport Horse in history, Lenamore, is competing under the New Zealand flag at the remarkable age of 19.

Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney said the Olympics were a crucial showcase for Irish-bred horses.

The Irish Sport Horse sector is worth over €400m to the economy each year and supports 16,000 full-time jobs.

Meanwhile, the mystery breeder of one of Ireland's top equine Olympic hopefuls has finally been identified as Pat Nihill from O'Brien's Bridge, Co Clare.

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The breeding origins of Irish Sport Horse mare Castlefield Eclipse, who will represent Switzerland in show jumping under Paul Estermann, were unknown until just days before the Olympic opening ceremony.

Although the mare was registered as a daughter of the Oldenburg stallion OBOS Quality 004, there was no record of any parentage on her dam's side.

However, following weeks of research, Horse Sport Ireland officials tracked her back to Mr Nihill in O'Brien's Bridge.

It turns out her dam, Furisto Clover Hill, produced just one foal in her lifetime and has since died.

However, Mr O'Brien still has a brother and a half-sister to Furisto Clover Hill.

Horse Sport Ireland breeding director Alison Corbally said it was an incredible achievement to breed an Olympic horse.

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