By Antonette Doran/HSI
In Ireland we established the Irish Sport Horse Studbook Series in 2001 to provide a platform for owner’s breeder’s and riders to produce and showcase the best of Irish Sport Horse young horses. The aim of the series is to provide a training and competition platform for breeders to produce young horses, thereby adding value to them, here in Ireland.
We have taken a look back over the last 10 years of the series, to study the most successful breeders and owners over this period. We’ve also taken a look at the horse’s who’ve gone on to be successful at the highest international level.
The studbook series runs over eight, two-day show-jumping competitions in different venues starting in April and culminating in July. The classes are age and height appropriate for five-, six-, and seven-year-olds who registered in the Irish Sport Horse studbook.
Horses who jump double clear on day one advance to day two and compete for up to €1,040 in prize money. The structure of the competition allows young horses to gain valuable experience over progressively challenging and competitive tracks by course designers such as Tom Holden, John Doyle and Eduardo Petrovic. The series also provides the studbook with an opportunity to carry our research projects on the traits and progress of studbook animals. Five-year-old horses do not jump against clock until the final at the last venue, and even the six-years-olds are not required to jump against the clock until the last few legs of the series, the emphasis is much more centred on jumping and rideability for the young horses.
The pulse of the series remains with participating breeders: Each year following the young horse championships in Lanaken, Belgium, HSI meets with breeder and rider stakeholders who have participated in the league. Breeders and riders provide HSI with vital feedback regarding course design, materials, host venues, and the SJI articles under which the studbook series is run. The feedback derived from the breeder-rider focus group, alongside advice from chef d’equipe Comdt. John Ledingham, provides the grounding for series changes that are implemented the following season.
Based on breeder feedback from 2018, the 2019 series saw the introduction of an open water jump and two-phase aspect in the first four legs of the competition. Additionally the series affords young Irish riders the opportunity to produce young horses at good shows where we provide videos and interviews of the winning rounds to showcase the best in Irish breeding and improve the profile of the breeders, riders and producers – this further enhances our wish to increase the number of Irish sport Horses produced in Ireland, ridden by Irish riders and going on to win at international level. Recent successful horses who have graduated through the studbook series include: Castlefield Vegas, bred by John Clarke and owned by Martin Egan, won the 2018 European junior showjumping championship gold medal and has since been successful on the Irish Nations’ Cup Team. AHG Whiterock Cruise Down won the 2015 six-year-old class at the Royal Dublin Show, and more recently 2019 European junior showjumping championship gold. He was bred by Anne Gannon owned by Francis Derwin and now ridden by Kate Derwin.
The series has now been established for almost 18 years, giving us the opportunity to examine the most successful breeders and owners over the series. This report details the trends and success of Irish Sports horses and their breeders over the 2008 – 2018 period.
The five-year-old class is the most popular, maintaining almost 50% of all competition horses engaged in the series. This demonstrates the marketable value of a participating five-year-old – many of these horses are sold before they can engage in the next age group. Approximately 15% of horses compete in the series as five- and six-year-olds, again reiterating that their success in this level of competition is a market driver, while almost 14% of horses compete in the series as five-, six-, and seven-year-olds. (Figure 1).
Marion Hughes of Hughes Horse Stud (HHS), Co. Kilkenny, tops the leaderboard for the total number of horses (33) entered since the inauguration of the series (Figure 1). She is followed by the late Ita Brennan (21 horses), of Co. Kilkenny, whose notable horses include MHS Going Global ridden by Greg Broderick who competed in the studbook series as a seven-year-old. Broderick has also been the top rider/producer for Dr. Noel Cawley of Co. Kildare, who has jointly entered 21 horses over the series duration. Rincarina is one of Dr. Cawleys prolific broodmares who competed in the studbook series as a seven-year-old. More recently, her filly foal (Carina) won the 2019 foal championship for the top showjumping-type filly.
Lady Georgina Forbes of Co. Longford claims fourth place with her impressive Castleforbes line, including Olympic and major international competition horses.
Judy Murphy of Co. Louth is fifth (14). Murphy’s Javas sport horses have been successful both in Ireland and abroad, many competing on the American circuit up to four-star CSI.
Justin Burke is tied with Murphy for fifth and has also bred 14 horses engaged in the series over the 10-year period. Burke won second place at the 2018 HSI international breeder prizes for Luibanta BH, the second highest-ranked Irish-Bred showjumper.
The breeders who have achieved the greatest number of clear rounds over the 10 year period mirrors the top-three trend (Figure 3). Marion Hughes maintains a clear lead of 17 more clear rounds at 99 in total, again followed by the late Ita Brennan (82) and Dr. Noel Cawley (79). Linda Courtney Cadam is takes fourth place (45) and has enjoyed success in the series with Ben’s Star Verdi who has since been sold to Germany. Thomas O’Brien in Fifth (42) who saw multiple success with Paciro in the 2018 series and Ronnie Kelly in sixth (40) who’s horse Talks Cheap won a silver medal at the 2015 Young Horse Championships in Lanaken.
The Minister for Defence Co. Dublin owns the greatest number of horses entered in the series at 24, closely followed by Deirdre Bourns of Co. Galway and Linda Coutrney Cadam of Co. Longford who each own 21. Marion Hughes of Co. Kilkenny has owned 20 of her total entries, Lady Georgina Forbes has owned 17, and Cooley Farm in Wicklow have owned 15 horses entered in the series over the last 10 years.
Deirdre Bourns of Co. Galway is the leading owner claiming a massive 186 double clear rounds with horses such as Beech Hill Lucia, CHS Inception and Electric Feel over the 2008-2018 period. Linda Courtney Cadam has 88 including horses such as LLC Kateenko. The Bravo Hughes Kilkenny group have completed 67 double clears, Minister for Defence has achieved 46, Gabrail Slattery (37) and Marion Hughes (35).
Irish Sport Horse Studbook Series Graduates
The table below details Irish Sport Horse Studbook graduates who have gone on to achieve international success at CSI 4* and 5* level. Many others have been successful with at other CSI and amateur levels. This illustrated the suitability of the ISH as a top competition prospect but also an equally in-demand amateur sport horse capable of satisfying all levels of the equine market.