'The traditional Irish Sport Horse could be non-existent within a decade'
The future of the traditional Irish Sport Horse (ISH) is under threat from foreign bloodlines, writes Siobhán English
The traditional Irish Sport Horse faces extinction, a former US Olympian jumper and leading breeder has warned.
In recent years we have seen that more and more Irish breeders are opting to use warmblood stallions to improve their show jumpers, but records show that the eventing fraternity is now also following suit.
As a result, overseas buyers are finding it increasingly difficult to source traditional Irish-breds with 100pc Irish Draught/ thoroughbred bloodlines.
Many breeders will argue that foals by foreign sires are 'flashier' and therefore gain a quicker return at the sales, but in the process the identity of the true, traditionally bred ISH is being lost.
In a long letter on the demise of the Irish Sport Horse after an unsuccessful shopping trip to Ireland last year, former US Olympic rider and well-known event horse producer Phyllis Dawson summed it up rather accurately.
She wrote: "It appears many breeders and sales yards are choosing short- term economic gains over heritage. They are attracted to the flashy movement and jump many warmbloods show as two- and three- year-olds, rather than the prospect of waiting for the ISH to mature and reach full potential.
"As a result, the Irish breeders, instead of sending their good draughts and draught/thoroughbred mares to quality thoroughbred stallions, as in the past, are responding to the market by crossing their mares with Continental warmbloods hoping to expedite sales of their young stock.
"These Irish Draught/Warmblood crosses may show more toe-flicking flash as youngsters but they often lack the gallop, stamina and heart needed at the highest levels of eventing."