Monday 17 June 2019

Blarney Castle to host equestrian extravaganza

The Irish Draught Horse Society’s 31st National Show will take place at Blarney Castle on Saturday
The Irish Draught Horse Society’s 31st National Show will take place at Blarney Castle on Saturday

Bill Browne

The stately grounds of Blarney Castle will this Saturday play host to one of the most popular events on the Irish equestrian calendar. 

The world famous castle will be the backdrop for the Irish Draught Horse Society's 31st National Show, the first time that the venue has hosted a major equestrian event since 2002, when Blarney Castle hosted the 2nd International Horse Trials. 

Renowned for its strength, intelligence and gentle temperament, the Irish Draught Horse was developed to be a working horse on Irish farms, with references to the breed dating as far back as the 18th century. 

The small size of Irish holdings at the time meant that it was not financially viable for farmers to own more than one horse, so the breed was developed to be, quite literally, the work-horse of the farm, capable of pulling heavy weights, riding, hunting and driving. 

They can also be crossed with thoroughbreds and warmbloods, producing Irish sport horses (also known as Irish Draught Sport Horses), which have been used at international eventing, dressage and showjumping events. 

Their strength, combined with their even temperament and unflappable nature, has seen them used in the An Garda Siochana mounted unit as the breed is readily able to cope with violent or confrontational situations. 

However, with farms becoming increasingly mechanised during the 20th century, the popularity of the breed waned and in the mid 1970's there were only around 400 of them in Ireland. 

In 1976, fearful that they might be dying out, Cork vet Mary Joyce Quinlan founded the Irish Draught Horse Society in order to preserve the breed. 

While still classified as an endangered species, around 600 foals are registered in Ireland each year, thanks in no small measure to the society's championing of the breed. Saturday's showcase event will offer horse lovers and the general public a chance to view the horses on show, with the Premium Mare Class for pure-bred Irish Draughts, sponsored by Horse Sport Ireland, carrying a total of €2,500 and the top 20 mares awarded €150 each. 

The Mare of the Future category will have a prize fund of €1,000.  In addition, the event will also feature ridden and young handler classes and related categories. 

For more information about the Society and Saturday's event visit the Irish Draught Horse Society Facebook page.