• 14 June 2014, 23:34

AT a meeting organised by the Irish Sport Horse Industry Strategy Committee at CAFRE in Enniskillen this week, Michelle O’Neill, the Northern Ireland Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, filled the role taken by Minister Simon Coveney at meetings in the South.

About 100 were present at Enniskillen, with most disciplines represented at the meeting, including show jumping, eventing and showing, together with a sizeable group of breeders from both Northern Ireland and the border counties.

The Minister welcomed Northern Ireland being involved in the strategy meetings, and talked about the role of the horse in bringing people from all stratas of society together, and said it was the source of much interaction between people from all over Northern Ireland and with the Republic.

She emphasised that it was an all island industry and welcomed being involved.

The Minister talked of an all island approach to marketing Ireland as the “land of the horse” and stressed the rural development potential in terms of equestrian tourism.

She spoke of marketing Ireland as the go-to destination for “horses for all level of riders” and said this should be done on an all island basis.

Digital marketing was discussed, but it was also noted that one of the strengths of Ireland was our people and their enthusiasm. This was considered a point of differentiation from the other horse selling nations that we should not lose – Ireland of the welcomes and the experience people have when they travel here.

There was a call for discussion groups for breeders to share best practice in the areas of quality control, genetics, young horse preparation, husbandry and allied topics.

The meeting heard that breeding policies should reflect the needs of the market and of the different disciplines, and it was thought that due consideration should be given to the  performance of the individual, the extended family and the progeny and soundness of the animal.

It was also thought that breeding should be tailored to conserve valuable genetic lines and there should be no indiscriminate breeding.

A considerable amount of time at the meeting was given to education, particularly taking into account the needs of young breeders, young producers and young riders who were our rising stars.

International students were also encouraged to visit, particularly for Enniskillen, and an example of this was that the Minister had been on a mission to China and Chinese visitors recently came to CAFRE.

It was also recommended that education should be given in the area of young horses to ensure they realised their full genetic potential.

Pictured at Enniskillen, from  left, are Tony McCusker. Chair of ECNI Northern Ireland's Minister Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development Michelle O'Neill, and Horse Sport Ireland chairman Pat Wall.

Pictured at Enniskillen, from left, are Tony McCusker. Chair of ECNI,
Northern Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development Michelle O’Neill, and Horse Sport Ireland chairman
Pat Wall.