Home In previous issues The ‘Land of the Horse’: High- achieving Irish Sport Horses

The ‘Land of the Horse’: High- achieving Irish Sport Horses

BBS McGregor (ISH) ridden by Jack Ryan presented with rug and rosette by Alison Corbally, Director of Breeding and Programmes for Horse Sport Ireland

By Antonette Doran / HSI
Photography: Laurence Dunne/Jumpinaction, Nadia Rea

Ireland is known internationally as the ‘Land of the horse’, and we are all aware of the unprecedented record of Irish Sport Horses being ranked first for 22 out of 25 years in the WBFSH world eventing rankings, but records we’ve set in showjumping at the WBCYH in Lanaken in recent years have left other nations admiring the young horse production classes available in Ireland.

Castlefield Vegas, the 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding by Cassino (SWWB) out of Clarkes Quiet Optimistic (ISH) by Lux Z (HANN) bred by John Clarke, was owned by Martin Egan and Ger O’Neill until January 2021. Castlefield Vegas was first ridden by Ger O’Neill who celebrated numerous wins such as the CSI3* Nations’ Cup in Drammen in 2019, and CSI3* Nations’ Cup win in Denmark. The combination were also league winners of the seven-year-old ISH SJ Series, and the highest placed seven-year-old in the RDS international class in 2017. In 2018 Jason Foley won gold in the Longines FEI European Youth Championships in Fontainebleau, France. The winning combination were crowned European Under 18 (Junior) Show Jumping Champions while also taking team bronze at the same event. In 2020 Jason repeated the success of Ger being a member of the winning Nations’ Cup team in CSI3* Drammen.

l-r: Ger O’Neill (owner) Castlefield Vegas (ISH) ridden by Jason Foley
pictured with Keith Manning and Martin Egan (owner)

Matin Egan said; “I bought Vegas as a three-year-old in Goresbridge. I really like a Lux dam line and I thought Vegas looked promising. I broke him as a four-year-old, and we took our time producing him to allow him to develop. We started competing him in a few training shows as a five- and six-year-old, and took it to the next level in 2017 when we began to jump in the Irish Sport Horse Studbook Series. We were delighted when he won the league that year and then progressed to being the highest placed seven-year-old in the RDS. When you have a horse competing in these classes successfully it shows that the horse has real potential and a positive future in the sport. The ISH classes instil confidence in both horse and rider and prepare them for the bigger competitive classes ahead. The ISH studbook series really brought him up to speed to compete in the RDS international class that year. I am extremely grateful to this horse, he introduced me firstly to the best competitions in Ireland and then the biggest shows abroad. He has been my horse of a lifetime. Both Ger O’Neill and Jason Foley have been excellent partners with this horse and given that Bertram [Allen] and Vegas won their first few competitions in Wellington, I have no doubt they will have every success together in the future.”
Ger O’Neill explained; “All our Irish Sport Horses in Castlefield Stables are produced slowly through the Studbook Series. The venues offered are the best in the country with the best course builders. These competitions allow every opportunity for young horses to be educated in the best available arenas. We have had many horses go through the ISH SJ Series over the years and we are delighted to have had such success at both national and international levels with Castlefield Vegas, Columbcille Gypsy, and Killossery Kaiden, to mention a few. I believe that these classes build a great foundation for our horses and give them the confidence and ability to progress to international competitions. As riders we are grateful that the breeding department of Horse Sport Ireland continuously seek our feedback and implement the useful suggestions we make to further develop these classes over the years, while always being mindful of appropriate young horse production. We will continue to produce our horses through these classes for years to come.”
Jason Foley concluded by saying; “I have been blessed to compete on Castlefield horses through the Studbook Series and the RDS qualifiers, which in turn secured my place on the five-year-old WBCYH team in Lanaken in 2019 where I won a gold medal riding Rockwell RC. Without these classes our horses would not be sufficiently educated for big days like the finals in Lanaken. We would not even be in the running for these placings... To read the complete article you need to be a subscriber