Studbooks' bid to improve the Irish Draught breed

The recent harmonisation of the Irish Draught Studbook and the Irish Draught Horse Society of North America's studbook is to benefit the breed across the board with the introduction of the new classification system in 2016 likely to broaden the gene pool dramatically over the next decade.

Currently the inspection system for Irish Draught stallions in the States works on a pass/fail system, but, according to IDHSNA president Fleur Bryan it is a system which is flawed, so much so that in 2014, in particular, it led to a number of stallion owners crossing the border to Canada in order to get their horses classified.

It is estimated that there are just 20 classified Irish Draught stallions across America. "And many of those are completely under-utilised," she said.

The Canadian Irish Draught Studbook was harmonised with the Irish Draught Studbook in 2012. The British equivalent harmonised 12 months earlier.

"This harmonisation between the mother studbook and ours has been a very long process and is three years in the making but we are delighted it has been approved and now we can work on improving the Irish Draught as a breed across America," Ms Bryan said last week as she travelled back to Ireland with six other members of the board in order to tease out minor issues in relation to the rulebook.

"However I was bitterly disappointed to have learnt about the cancellation of the 2016 inspections here the week before we flew in. Initially we believed it would affect our plans to introduce the classification system for our inspections next autumn but, after two days of meetings, we have been assured this will now not be the case. In my opinion inspections are crucial to the Irish Draught as a breed."

"We need to look after the breed in America for a lot of reasons, one being the leisure horse industry because 99pc of our market is amateur riders. I am hopeful that the trade will now improve with stallions being properly classified."

As an owner of Irish Draught horses both here and in the US Ms Bryan is deeply concerned about the future of the industry following the decision last week of the Horse Sport Ireland breeding sub-board to cancel the annual inspections of stallions next spring.

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"I think that is was a rash decision and not thought through. It is now up to each stallion owner to put their case forward and have the decision reversed. I believe that if enough come forward they will have no choice but to rethink their strategy. My biggest question was 'what was the contingency plan?

"I cannot imagine an owner of an approved stallion being too happy with the fact that any two-year-old colt can cover a mare. It makes a joke of the system."

Two weeks ago HSI breeding sub-board chairman Jim Beecher announced that while the inspections would not be going ahead to allow time to review the current process, owners of stallions who have partially completed the current process will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

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