ALISON CORBALLY: Maintaining Ireland’s superpower status for event horse breeding
- 16 May 2019, 16:11
As part of Horse Sport Ireland’s new Blog, STABLE TALK, Horse Sport Ireland Director of Breeding and Programmes, Alison Corbally B.Ed, M.Eq.S., PhD gives readers an insight into Irish breeding and her role and responsibilities as Director of Breeding and Programmes.
Since the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses (WBFSH) rankings were established in 1994, the Irish Sport Horse Studbook has won the coveted Eventing Studbook rankings for an incredible 22 of the last 25 years.
The beginning of 2019 has been no exception to the success Irish Sport Horses and Irish breeders have become synonymous with, when it comes to the sport of eventing. Irish Sport Horses won the first two five-star events of 2019 – Cooley Master Class (ISH) and Oliver Townend made history in winning the first ever CCI5* title at the 2019 Land Rover Kentucky three-day event and two weeks later, at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, Vanir Kamira (ISH) and Piggy French claimed another CCI5* title.
In particular, Irish Sport Horses dominated at Badminton Horse Trials with all of the top six places and eight of the top 10 spots on the final leaderboard filled by Irish Sport Horses. It’s a unique achievement, that all of the top six horses at Badminton this year were Irish Sport Horses.
As Richard Sheane of Cooley Farms said, when commenting on Cooley Master Class’s performance in Kentucky: “I think it’s important to reflect on his breeding as he is out of a very high blood percentage dam in ‘The Swallow’ (88% TB blood) and he is by the very successful continental sire ‘Ramiro B’. I think if we can continue to breed from high Thoroughbred percentage Irish mares in this way we will continue producing these successful top-quality horses.”
INFLUENCE OF BREEDING POLICY AND INSPECTION SYSTEM
These horses would have been bred 12- 15 years ago and at that time the breeding policy was very heavily influenced by thoroughbred blood, with a contribution of continental blood. Vanir Kamira (ISH) is by Camiro De Haar Z (ZANG) out of Fair Caledonian (WNTR) by Dixi (TB) and was bred by Kathryn Jackson from Co Monaghan, while Cooley Master Class (ISH) is by Ramiro B (BWP) out of The Swallow (ISH) by Master Imp (TB) and was bred in Co Wicklow by John Hagan.
Ramiro B is currently ranked 6th in the WBFSH top eventing sires list and he has almost 34% blood, so therefore we can see that thoroughbred mares, when crossed with continental sires that have a percentage of Thoroughbred blood are producing an ideal event horse.
At the same time, there was a rigorous inspection system which has ensured that “Approved” stallions have undergone a soundness and suitability assessment. Soundness of stallions was strictly adhered to and the vast majority of breeders would have used “Approved” stallions.
The unprecedented success of the Irish Sport Horse in eventing is testament to the breeders and the breeding policy of the time and the ethos of that breeding policy continues largely to the current day, albeit, with more modern processes, whereby for stallions to meet ‘Approval’ status they must first pass a veterinary examination, followed by formal conformation and athleticism assessments.
BREAK FROM TRADITION
Traditionally, a lot of Irish breeders would aim to breed a show jumping horse and over the last few years we have seen a significant drop in the percentage of Thoroughbred blood in foals, because breeders are using considerably more continental bloodlines.
The vast majority (75%) of foals bred in Ireland over the last four years have 50% Thoroughbred blood or less. Sufficient for showjumping perhaps – but for Eventing?
At the Horse Sport Ireland eventing breeding conference at the end of 2018, the top-level event riders and trainers emphasised the need for more Thoroughbred blood. Padraig McCarthy and Chris Bartle emphasised the need for greater than 80% thoroughbred blood for the top 4* event horse. When Michael Jung was in Ireland last autumn, he too was looking for horses with 80% blood, and he claimed that they are very difficult to source in Europe. Only 5% of the foal crop bred in Ireland over the last five years had 75% Thoroughbred blood or more – it’s really low.
To address this and to ensure Ireland maintains its place at the top of the world breeding rankings, Horse Sport Ireland this year launched an initiative to support the production of foals with more that 70% Thoroughbred blood. The aim is to encourage the use of Approved Thoroughbred stallions and inspected Thoroughbred mares by providing a financial incentive to those breeders who do so.
Over the next couple of years the eventing section of the foal championship too will put more of an emphasis on Thoroughbred blood – bonus points will be available for eventing section foals with significant Thoroughbred percentage. This year already we are planning to provide bonus points in the eventing section if the foal is 60% Thoroughbred blood or more. However, because foals are already on the ground and the breeders made their decisions last year, the score provided will not be significant, but next year the scores provided for Thoroughbred percentage will increase.
The next breeding blog will provide an overview on the influencial Thoroughbred stallions available to breeders. In the meantime, don’t forget to consider the great thoroughbred mares available in this country. Those National hunt lines such as Beneficial, Presenting etc. that have produced the goods in the National Hunt sphere. Could some of these mares be the ones to produce the next Traditional bred, high Thoroughbred percentage eventing stallions in Ireland?
Horse Sport Ireland Director of Breeding and Programmes