Breeding Initiatives

Horse Sport Ireland Launch National Warmblood Fragile Foal Testing Scheme

Horse Sport Ireland are delighted to announce the launch the first of several nationwide equine health screening tests in 2020. The first health screening scheme is for Warmblood Fragile Foal Syndrome (WFFS) testing, it is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) and supported by the HSI board.

WFFS is genetic condition, typically found in Warmblood horses, which effects the foals’ connective tissue. The condition is characterised by fragile skin and mucous membranes causing painful skin blistering; hyperflexible joints, floppy ears, excess fluid in the foetus, potential abortion and premature birth. There is currently no treatment or cure for the syndrome, thus, effected foals rarely survive and are euthanised after birth, if born alive.

Currently, there is no clear understanding of the prevalence of the gene in Ireland. However, HSI has tested Stallions as part of their inspection process for the past two years and some other studbooks and stud owners have begun testing their own stock and detailing stallion carrier status to their clients and on the horses records. Much of the renewed focus on WFFS is due to widespread coverage of a case in Texas in 2018. The incidence of WFFS carrier status in the global warmblood/sport horse population is estimated at 9-11%. However, research has suggested that the percentage of carriers is likely to be higher due to the lack of widespread testing schemes. Further to this, it is relatively unknown if and how much this genetic mutation effects other breeds; a small percentage of carriers have been identified in non-sport horse populations.

To improve understanding of the condition and incidence in equine populations, several studbooks and breed societies, such as the KWPN and Westfalen studbooks, require genetic testing and disclosure of a horses’ WFFS status. HSI began compulsory WFFS testing of all stallions undergoing HSI studbook inspection two year ago.

Currently the only way to prevent the breeding of WFFS effected or carrier foals, is to test the proposed mating pair (sire and dam) prior to covering and determine the carrier status of both equines (see figure).

⦁ The condition may occur when both the dam and the sire of the foal are WFFS carriers. The foal has a 25% chance of being born normal; a 25% chance of being born with the fatal condition and a 50% chance of being a carrier of WFFS.
⦁ If only one parent is a carrier, the foal has a 50% change of becoming a carrier pf the condition to.
⦁ If both parents are normal, i.e. do not carry the condition, there is a 0% chance of the foal being either a carrier or effected by the fatal condition.

Alison Corbally, HSI Director of Breeding & Programmes said:

“This is the first of a number of national health testing schemes to be implemented by Horse Sport Ireland this year. An improved awareness of the level of genetic carriers will allow Irish breeders to minimise the risk of breeding a fatally infected foal and the associated economic impacts. Given that is not feasible to test all breeding equines at this time and in order to utilise these testing regimes to benefit all Irish breeders, HSI are now offering free WFFS testing for 2020 foals of interested breeders/owners. This scheme is open to all DAFM approved studbooks. We hope as many breeders as possible avail of the scheme.”


The result of these tests may also help Irish breeders to discern their mares WFFS status. Such that, if mares are bred to a stallion with a known negative WFFS carrier status and the foal returns a positive WFFS results, the gene has been inherited from the mare.

There are no health implications for carrier horses, the risk of contracting the fatal WFFS condition occurs only when both the dam and sire breeding pair are carriers of WFFS. However, nationwide testing would, in the first instance, improve our understanding of the incidence of WFFS carrier status in Irish equine populations. It is important to gather this information on WFFS incidence to support Irish breeders in preventing further transmission of carrier status to foals and potential breeding equines in Ireland. More importantly, the results of this testing scheme can be used to empower breeder decision making by avoiding the mating of two carrier animals. This will effectively eliminate the risk of breeding a fatally effected foal.

Applications to the scheme should be made directly online at Horse Sport Ireland. Please CLICK HERE to apply online or scan the QR code below.

Thoroughbred Percentage Scheme 2020 – Online Application

Horse Sport Ireland launched the thoroughbred percentage (TB%) scheme to incentivise the breeding of sport horse foals with greater than 70% thoroughbred blood.  Analysis of foal registration between 2015-2019 demonstrated that only 5% of foals produced in Ireland are more than 75% Thoroughbred (TB) 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 recently, he too was looking for horses with 80% blood, outlining that they are increasingly difficult to source in Europe.

One of the Breeders who utilised the scheme last year was Mary Rothwell, from Tinahely, Co. Wicklow.  Mary told us that ‘This was my first year doing this scheme and we had three mares for it. I think it’s an excellent incentive for the breeders and breeding in Ireland. Over the years Ireland’s bloodlines have become diluted with the increased use of popular foreign stallions while we have lost some of our own Irish horse traits and characteristic. This scheme also helps the traditional breeder aiming for the event market, which is a longer road when going to the sales versus the produce from warmblood stallions which can usually command good prices as foals.”

She continued “It is a really worthwhile scheme introduced by Horse Sport Ireland because it encourages breeders to inject thoroughbred blood back into our lines and also the progeny from this scheme are predominantly aimed at the eventing discipline where we have been so well recognised in the world rankings for years. I definitely intend to use this scheme in the future and look forward to it being reintroduced in 2020.’

Horse sport Ireland are providing a grant of €300 to the first 200 breeders that register a foal with more than 70% Thoroughbred blood in 2020. Payment will be made in 2021, to the breeders of qualifying foals, on registration of the foal with a DAFM studbook by 30th October 2021.

To check the schemes terms and eligibility criteria please read this Information Leaflet.  Please click here to apply online.

Mary Rothwell with Millennium Cruise (ISH) by Cruising (ISH) out of Greenhall Cailin Deas (ISH) by Mister Lord (USA) Picture by Susan Finnerty

If the scheme is oversubscribed, mares that have a significant performance record (meet HSI 2* or above criteria) or mares that have produced performance progeny will take priority in the scheme. Breeders can check their foals TB% using the IHR online hypothetical mating platform. Please click here to go to the IHR online log in page. Once you’ve logged in you can then type in the stallion/mare’s name in the horse search box and her details including TB% are detailed (see below).

Horse Sport Ireland would like to remind and encourage breeders to continue to apply for our existing breeding schemes and Registration services which remain open and unaffected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Mary Rothwell with Greenhall Wishing Well (ISH) by Crosstown Dancer (RID) out of Greenhall Miss Cruise (ISH) by Cruising (ISH) Picture by Susan Finnerty

Horse Sport Ireland continues Embryo Transfer Scheme for 2020

Horse Sport Ireland is happy to announce the continuation of the Embryo Transfer Scheme for 2020, following its success over the previous three years. This scheme, which is being funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), aims to increase genetic improvement by maximising the genetic potential of Ireland’s top-class performance mares.

The scheme is open to mares that are three years or older, are registered/endorsed in a DAFM approved studbook and meet the performance or progeny performance requirements (see application form for details). The embryo transfer must take place at a designated clinic after the 1st March 2020 and an application must be submitted before the 28th August 2020. A payment of €600 per embryo will be payable to the owner upon submission of a veterinary declaration confirming that the recipient has been scanned in foal and a receipt from the clinic. Ponies are also eligible to receive funding under the scheme but must also meet the performance criteria and be registered in a WBFSH/DAFM Approved Pony Studbook.

A specific Traditional Irish Horse (TIH) category was introduced in 2019 and is offered again this year. The scheme for the TIH is open to mares that are 3 years or older, are registered in a DAFM approved studbook and recorded as a Traditional Irish Horse. The stallion must also be a Traditional Irish Horse or Thoroughbred and Approved either a WBFSH or DAFM Studbook.

We spoke to Pat Kehoe, breeder of ABC Quantum Cruise (ISH) and ABC Private Jet (ISH) who has availed of the initiative since its inception and he told us why he applied.

“I have been availing of Horse Sport Ireland Embryo Transfer Scheme for the last 3 years. I think it is an excellent initiative by Horse Sport Ireland’s breeding department. I honestly don’t think I would do embryo transfers without this fund being available. Embryo transfer can be quite expensive, and this definitely makes life a little bit easier for breeders.  I am lucky enough to have a couple of good mares that qualify for this scheme, but it also encourages and educates breeders on the type of mare and performance history necessary that we should be trying to breed from using modern technology.”

Harry Charles on ABC Quantum Cruise (ISH), GCT London 2019, photo:.Stefano Grasso

PLEASE NOTE: Applicants must comply with Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and the Marine legislation for equine foal passport registrations to be eligible to participate in future Embryo Transfer Schemes. All foals must be registered within 12 months of birth where proof will be required.

Mare owners can apply for funding for up to four embryos under the scheme in 2020. Semen used for the embryo transfers must be from stallions which are Approved in either a WBFSH or DAFM horse /pony studbook.

This initiative has been developed in line with recommendation R.1.2 from Reaching New Heights which advocates the increased usage of AI and ET in order to accelerate the dissemination of superior genes. The scheme will benefit the owners of performance mares, or mares that have already produced top class performance horses, through the support of the Embryo Transfer process. Many of these mares may not otherwise be available to contribute to the breeding of sport horses in Ireland as their owners may wish for them to remain in competition or they may be incapable of carrying a foal to term. We are very grateful to the Department of Agriculture for their support with this initiative.

For an online application form for mare owners wishing to participate in the scheme please CLICK HERE for further information on terms and eligibility criteria please CLICK HERE.

For further information on the Embryo Transfer Scheme please contact Lorraine Mc Mahon on 045 854517. Email