Plotting our way back to the top of eventing pile

Breeding taskforce set up by Eventing Ireland unveils report on how Ireland can regain its title as the number one studbook in the world

Caitriona Murphy

The Irish Sport Horse studbook was last year overtaken in the eventing rankings of the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses (WBFSH) for the first time in 15 years when the Hanoverian Studbook knocked us off our pedestal as the number one producer of event horses.

While the Irish Sport Horse has always been renowned for its 'fifth leg' and workman- ike attitude, other European studbooks have upped their game and refined their breeding policies to compete with us as event horse breeders.

Inspired by a desire to maintain Ireland's leading position as a producer of top-class horses for this most demanding of sports, Eventing Ireland commissioned a 10-strong team of experts to produce a report on how to return Ireland to the top of the WBFSH rankings.

The breeding taskforce, under the chairmanship of John Reid, has made a number of recommendations.

"Ireland once had the reputation for producing the best showjumpers in the world, but sadly that is no longer a reality," said Eventing Ireland chairman John Wright at the recent report launch.

"Our eventers continue to hold their heads high, however, treasured for their toughness, courage and durability as well as their incredible skill -- and Ireland wants to keep it that way," he said.

The importance of using the right broodmare, with the emphasis on performance and pedigree, and the selection of the right stallion are both examined in the 32-page document which includes an analysis, undertaken by William Micklem, of the influence of thoroughbred bloodlines.

The report points out that while the old system for stallion inspections failed to talent-spot potential stars, and many of the stallions standing have failed to sire top-class competition horses on a regular basis, Eventing Ireland has a structure for producing young horses through competition which is, at present, as good if not better than nearly all of our competitors.

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The report emphasises the need to recognise and reward success, and the need for new incentives for breeders.

It also encourages the development of educational opportunities, and recommends the improvement of the database of statistical information along with access to that information.

It proposes the establishment of a research project to identify successful eventing mare families, and a study of the percentage of thoroughbred blood in suitable sport-horse stallions.

"The whole point of the exercise is to encourage co-operation between the many groups, individuals and organisations involved in the creation of our stock of Irish event horses. Only through 'joined-up-thinking' by all the disparate groups can we expect to maintain our position as world leaders," insisted Mr Wright.

"It is acknowledged that many Irish breeders and producers of performance horses traditionally have considered the eventer as just an average horse which has failed, or is likely to fail, on the track or in the showjumping arena," said Mr Wright.

"It is vital that this perception is changed and the eventing horse embraced, by breeders, producers, owners, and all concerned with the industry, as a bespoke animal strategically bred for its discipline."

The report is broken down into four key objectives, as follows:

Objective 1

To identify and develop a breeding programme which would ultimately allow Irish horses to win medals and championships internationally.


  • 1.1 Encourage a grading system, based on performance, for successful mare families which can be easily identified on a pedigree sheet/page.
  • 1.2 Encourage an identification system for thoroughbred mares with track winnings entering the sport horse stud book.
  • 1.3 Encourage the performance testing of thoroughbred stallions entering the Sport Horse studbook.
  • 1.4 Identify good showjumping mares (suitable for producing eventers) and their direct families.
  • 1.5 Encourage initiatives for competitions for event stallions.

Objective 2

To encourage the production of a horse which is competitively hardy and talented, and is saleable worldwide.

  • Recommendations: There is much debate about the production and training of young event horses (and their riders) in Ireland and this is an issue which needs to be addressed. The Task Force felt this was outside the remit of the Reid report but Eventing Ireland should continue to lobby Horse Sport Ireland on this issue, with emphasis on the development of an integrated coaching strategy.

Objective 3

To help breeders to be profitable and to recognise and reward their breeding success.


  • 3.1 Develop a system of initiatives and rewards for the breeders of top event horses, with emphasis on mares.
  • 3.2 Encourage the promotion of the event horse as a specialised equine athlete.
  • 3.3 Develop stronger links between breeders and the sport of eventing, taking advantage of available funding.

Objective 4

To improve the database of statistical information and access to it.


  • 4.1 Encourage a major research project into existing bloodlines and successful eventing/performance mare families.
  • 4.2 Stallions within the Irish Horse Register to have the percentage of TB blood analysed and published as part of the stallion book.
  • 4.3 Improve the breeding database within Eventing Ireland.
  • 4.4 Provide league tables of sires of six- and seven-year-old eventers.
  • 4.5 Prepare a breeding newsletter with statistical information.

The Eventing Ireland Taskforce included owners, breeders, riders, vets producers and dealers: Diane Harron Eakin, Georgia Stubington, Claire Ryan, Heather Wright, Caroline Bjoerk, William Micklem, George Russell, Tristan Kingston, Hugh Suffern and Eventing Ireland vice president John Reid.

The full report is available on the Eventing Ireland website,

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