IRELAND (by Susan Finnerty) Nine years after Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) introduced their continental-style stallion inspections, the consensus was that this year’s inspections yielded the best overall standard to date. And while Irish breeders have started the slow, painstaking steps of rebuilding their performance bloodlines by tapping into leading European pedigrees, there were a number of homebred success stories too.

At a time when, courtesy of ‘online shopping’, the world’s best stallions are readily accessible to Irish mares owners, there was also a sense that stallion owners are increasingly realistic about the calibre of stallion prospects required for the inspection system and the amount of future business owners can expect to attract.

For example, just 29 stallions were entered for the 2018 Irish inspections, held once again at Cavan Equestrian Centre (March 21-22). This was the lowest number of entries; consisting of sport horses (14), Irish Draught (nine), thoroughbred (five) and pony (one) hopefuls, since the current format began in 2010. Seventy-two stallions were presented in that first year, consisting of 43 Irish Draught stallions (19% approval rate); 25 sport horses (4%), three Thoroughbreds, (66%) and one pony (100%).

Numbers then peaked the following year (2011) when 102 stallion candidates were presented at an expanded four-day inspection. Since then, the numbers have steadily dropped to this year’s entr y list of 19 Irish Sport Horse studbook hope- fuls, nine Irish Draught Stud- book candidates and one pony stallion.

The first day at Cavan saw the widest range of breed types put for ward and the first ap- proval at the 2018 selections was the latest addition to the fledgling Irish Sport Pony studbook. This was Valerie Gateau’s Blaengwen Kato Star (Synod Master Man - Blaengwen Nocturne x Fronarth Glyndwr), bred by N.S. Jones.

Another successful candidate from the first batch on Wednesday morning was the David Cullen and Boleybawn Horses’ Ronan Rothwell- owned SHS Soco Blue (Zirocco Blue VDL [SF] - Be- lazza [Holst] x Clear way [Holst]), bred by Steffen Meerboth. This Dutch-bred three-year-old met the criteria for Stage 1, the first step in HSI’s approval system.

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