Quality up, quantity down at Ballinasloe autumn fair
New regulations greatly improved the quality of animals on offer this year say the organisers of the Galway event
The numbers of horses and ponies at the recent Ballinasloe Fair may have been down slightly overall on previous years, but the standard of animals was said to have greatly improved for 2014.
According to the fair committee, the new regulations regarding passports and the registered sale of horses and ponies is said to have made a significant difference to the quality of animals being offered for sale this year.
A spokesperson from the Department of Agriculture confirmed that there was a high compliance rate with regard to horse passports and proper documentation. They also confirmed that a number of spot checks were held on approach roads to the Fair Green, and on the Fair Green itself. These were said to have been carried out with the assistance of the Garda Síochána.
The Ballinasloe fair is one of the oldest and longest-running horse sales in Europe, and it is estimated that close to 1,000 horses and ponies gathered on the Fair Green on the two main fair days on Sunday and Monday. A considerable number were also expected back at the venue over this past weekend.
"The attendance on Monday was definitely higher than we have seen before," commented Ballinasloe Fair chairman, Adrian Ahern.
Well-known dealer Miley Cash, who has been attending Ballinasloe Fair for some 60 years, made a record purchase of 127 animals over the two days.
"It is the biggest number I have ever bought from Ballinasloe, by a long shot," the Co Kildare man said.
"But I had nine clients with me in total, with several from Belgium, Germany and France. I would not have normally bought that many, but the demand was there for them."
Cash agreed that the quality of animals had improved, and prices were fair for the right type.
"We bought 93 for one customer alone, and another 24 went to the UK."
The majority of these are sold on as riding horses and ponies, and buyers from Britain and Belgium, in particular, prefer Irish-breds for this purpose.
Overall, there was a large presence of enthusiasts from Britain, many of whom had been attending Ballinasloe for many years. This included regular visitor, Sue White, from Essex.
"Some members of the famous Whitaker show jumping family were in town, as well as some people over from Switzerland," added Adrian Ahern.
PJ Flanagan, from Co Tipperary, has supported Ballinasloe for many years and was back this year with a selection of cobs.
"I bought a few, and sold a few, but it wasn't easy," he said. "The new rules regarding the change of ownership of horses and ponies is making it difficult for us all," he added.
Ahern agreed that there were some welfare issues, but overall, the ISPCA was pleased with the condition of animals at the fair.
"They were happy with what they found," he said, "but we will be having a meeting with all parties in a few weeks to discuss any issues that arose."
One of the popular side events of the weekend on the Fair Green each year is the lunging competition, and this was well attended on Sunday afternoon.
The Ballinasloe Credit Union has been a great support to the competition and, once again, sponsored the 'Horse Of The Fair' class, won by Brendan O'Boyle's three-year-old by Je T'Aime Flamenco, who was a successful show jumper with Billy Twomey.
Jason Higgins won the pony equivalent with a three-year-old by Knockilla Goldengrove, while Jackie Lee Cullen won the 'Cob Of The Fair' title with a youngster by Boswell Mr Heartbreaker.
As in previous years, the Ballinasloe Show took place on Saturday, the opening day of the festival.
Among the highlights was the Gain Colt Foal All-Ireland Championship Final, open to foals that had qualified at venues across the country.
Kieran Fahy, from Enniscreane, Co Cork, was delighted to collect the title with his colt by the popular Wexford-based thoroughbred stallion, Robin De La Maison out of Killinick Power, by Power Blade.
Second place went to Des and Margaret Jeffares' Ballykelly Flash Dance, by Gortfree Hero, with third going to Leo Calahan's colt by Emperor Augustus.
There was also a good turnout for the Irish Draught Colt Foal Championship, which was part of the Horse Sport Ireland National Showing Championship series.
This carried a prize-fund of €1,000 and the class was won by Eddie Murphy's well-bred colt by Inisfree The Holy Grail out of a mare by Annaghdown Star.
Tom Burke's colt by Barracarberry Orbit claimed second spot ahead of Gerry Ferguson's by Harkway Linehalk.
The filly foal equivalent was won by Jim McNulty's by Cappa Casanova, ahead of Kathleen Cunney's filly by Inishfree the Holy Grail. Third spot was claimed by Sean Noone's by Silver Crest.
The other feature class on the day was the Connemara Two-Year Old Filly All Ireland Championship, won by Castleside Stud's home-bred Castleside Paris, by Castleside Carrig.
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