“What is it about hunting?” Alastair MacLeod of Patey Hats asked me in a Scottish accent as we sat on the plump sofas of the Grand Salon in the Royal Dublin Society last week, sipping tea and balancing plates of scones on our laps. “Some of the people who buy Pateys hunt every day. What makes it so addictive?”
Go to E-Covertside to read more…
In 1673, Sir William Temple traveled round a grassy green Ireland of fields and forests that would still be recognisable today. There was hunting on the hills, horse racing on the strand, and farming done by native working horses, the embodiment of patience. Beside himself with excitement, Sir William wrote home to King Charles II, “Horses in Ireland are a drug”.
He wasn’t the only one talking to his monarch about Irish horses. In the 17th-century Irish horses – and in particular the Irish Hobby Horse, an ancestor of the modern Irish Sport Horse – were imported by most of the crown heads of Europe, becoming foundation bloodstock for many European breeds. Even the modern Thoroughbred is most closely related to the Irish Draught and Connemara Pony (foundation breeds for the Irish Sport Horse), according to DNA testing.
These precious bloodlines are now under threat. I spent the day at the Traditionally Bred Irish Horse Society’s Sale at the historic Scarteen House to find out more… and published the tale in Eventing Nation.
It’s easy to forget how lucky we are to have the Dublin Horse Show, and what a unique and historic event it is. It took me about a week to recover from all the late nights at the show this year! Then I published my impressions in Horsetalk.
The hubbub of exciting debate at the recent Irish Sport Horse Strategy meetings around how best to improve the Irish Sport Horse industry inspired me to look to our competitors on the continent, to examine their best practices. The resulting three-part series, “Global Trade”, 3 May 2014; “Training for the Top”, 10 May 2014; “Going Dutch”, 17 May 2014, were published in The Irish Field (please note there is a paywall).
Here is an excerpt from part one, “Global Trade”, about best breeding practices on the continent:
“Although we may wish to learn from the continent, it’s important to remember that in some ways native Irish horses are superior to foreign horses – they are easier to keep, and easier to keep sound, for example. They learn quickly; they’re clever and have a “fifth leg”, as eventers say. We’ve already lost some of that, and we don’t want to lose any more. When a breeder at one strategy meeting said mare approvals are a waste of time and ‘you can take any mare from up in the hills and breed a good horse’, he wasn’t talking rubbish. He was talking about another era, when Ireland was full of great horses, before Ireland ‘sold her seed potatoes’. There are still superb Irish horses, and it’s important we don’t overlook their strengths in our eagerness to borrow what’s useful from the continent. We need to innovate – to blend the best practices and horses from elsewhere with the best of our own native expertise and stock.”