Interview with Simon Coveney


Positive and practical initiatives were on the agenda at the annual general meeting of the Traditional Irish Horse Association, held in the Hodson Bay Hotel, Athlone where chairman Hugh Leonard called on sport horse breeders to unite.

Noting that six ‘jamboree meetings’ had been held to resolve problems in the horse sector, since an inaugural forum held in 1760 by the Royal Dublin Society, he believed that factions within organisations had led to degrees of self-destruction in the past.

Leonard suggested that the greatest tribute to pay the late Michael Osbourne was to support his concept of an umbrella body for the sport horse world - Horse Sport Ireland. “The alternative is another 250 years of bickering and mismanagement” he cautioned.

He also noted how the association had grown from a handful of traditional breeding fans sitting around a kitchen table two years ago to just under 500 substantiated members, as accounted for during treasurer Jim Cooke’s presentation.

With the association run on a shoestring budget of just over €10,000, Cooke predicted that the recent successful stallion auction, organised by Kevin Noone and membership fees, would boost a modest end-of-year balance of €655. “If we get the funds in, there is no limit to what we can do” he predicted and confirmed that “not one penny is paid out in committee member expenses, such as phonecalls or mileage”.

Thought-provoking correspondence from producers Martin Walsh, Tom Jones and Jenni Lamminen was also read out. They Lowhill Horses producers appealed for respect between warmblood and traditional breeders saying: “We respect what warmblood supporters are trying to do with top continental sires. Warmblood supporters have to recognise that the traditional Irish horse is still flying the flag on the world stage.

‘There is no other nation in the world that would disown Flexible or call him a freak, just because he is a traditional Irish-bred horse at the very top of the sport. We should build mutual respect between the two groups”.

Kilkenny breeder Seamus Davis also echoed the Lowhill Horses team’s concern that traditional bloodlines were being lost, particularly in the south-east, where he felt they were particularly scarce. Highlighting the lonely gap between breeding and selling the desired traditional-bred at the ridden stage, he said: “A lot of our breeders are breeders only, not producers. So they can be forced to sell at a loss [as foals] but traditional-breds will make money in three to four years time”.

On the marketing front, Chris Ryan commented on how businesses earmarked 30% of their budget for marketing. “Not even 10% of HSI and the Irish Horse Board’s €5 million budget goes on marketing and promotion” he remarked, before suggesting a small levy on registrations and sales, similar to the thoroughbred industry, for sporthorse marketing.

In the absence of a major promotional campaign, he felt that the traditional horse often did its own promotion by its results, including five out the six top Irish-bred eventers in the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses rankings being traditional-bred.

Ryan also acknowledged the input of IFA horse chairman James Murphy. “He is passionate about the traditional-bred and the co-operation between the IFA and TIHA is mutually beneficial”.

The inaugural Hunter Show & Go event, hosted at Ryan’s Scarteen base, was praised by Horse Board member David McCann. “It was a huge success and the whole hunting community is talking about the quality of horses that came out of that sale” he said.

When the horse welfare topic was brought up by several speakers, McCann suggested that the local District Veterinary Office should be the first port of call in suspected welfare cases. A further practical suggestion from the Kells veterinary surgeon was to develop the concept of the much-vaunted discussion groups.

Training the next generation was another important topic and methods of tapping into decades of knowledge through a mentoring scheme were discussed. Mary McCann also felt that the basics of good horse care were sometime overlooked, citing examples of cross-tied horses, wearing ill-fitting tack and boots, left standing around in stabling areas before ridden work.

Plans were already underway for the Festival of Traditional Breeding in August and secretary Joan Bateman said, that as a result of the recent successful thinktank in Kilkenny, the Limerick Lady final would now be open to Irish Draught and thoroughbred fillies.

The National Council was unanimously re elected.


TIHA Thinktank

Kevin Noone, Joan Bateman (TIHA) with Prof. Pat Wall (Chairperson, Horse Sport Ireland) at the TIHA Think-Tank in Kilkenny

Kevin Noone, Joan Bateman (TIHA) with Prof. Pat Wall (Chairperson, Horse Sport Ireland) at the TIHA Think-Tank in Kilkenny

Thought-provoking seminars have been in the news recently and the latest event provided further food for thought at the Traditional Irish Horse Association’s ‘thinktank’ last Sunday. Over 40 breeders and individuals were invited to discuss both the current state and way forward for traditional breeding in morning sessions at the Newpark Hotel in Kilkenny before the groups later gathered for the main workshop.
TIHA chairman Hugh Leonard, who organised the event, said one of the seminar’s main tasks was to discover the optimum number of foals needed for the market and how to support breeders who choose traditional bloodlines in a wide-open sporthorse market.
The proactive chairman also revealed that champion racehorse trainer Jim Bolger will renew his sponsorship towards this year’s TIHA Festival.
“We have to be careful about how we talk about ourselves” advised William Micklem who, during his presentation, pointed out how Dutch newspapers had picked up on comments made at a recent seminar by Billy Twomey about young Irish horses being rushed. “Our continental rivals make hay of our problems” warned Micklem, who also noted that positive Irish news stories such as Mr Cruise Control and Master Imp topping British Eventing’s 2013 leading horse and sire rankings went unnoticed abroad.
Other brief presentations were made by TIHA committee members Chris Ryan and Kevin Noone. Scarteen master and huntsman Ryan said 75% of the horses entered in their inaugural Show and Go showcase for proven hunters were subsequently sold. Noone, who organised the association’s fund-raising stallion auction, thanked the owners for their generosity in providing nominations.
Also present was the Horse Sport Ireland chairman Pat Wall who felt that maintaining the status quo rather than pushing initiatives forward was a “bit frustrating” during the first year in his new role and that it had taken 12 months to secure a meeting with the Minister for Agriculture, Simon Coveney. Emphasising the need for the sport horse industry to present a coherent plan for Department funding, he also believed there had been too much in-fighting between Irish societies, individuals and organisations in recent times, which added to the perception in some quarters that the sport horse sector was a dysfunctional one.
Nor did he mince his words on indiscriminate breeding as he noted that 51% of horses held white passports and queried the advisability of breeding from such stock whose pedigrees were not worth recording.
The horse welfare issue was another well-visited topic with breeders advised to have a humane exit strategy for their stock, although the possibility of regulations being relaxed for factory horses with incorrect paperwork was felt to be slight.
The overall consensus afterwards was that traditional breeders were encouraged by progress made to date by the association, including the identification of traditional breeding in passports and future projects in the pipeline, such as a five-star grading scheme for traditional fillies. And there was little negative material to be seized on, for as Pat Wall remarked “We can’t promote Irish breeding by denigrating foreign horses”.

Susan Finnerty, Irish Farmer's Journal, 23rd January 2014

Irish Independent: Breeders opting for 'traditional' stamps

More than 400 breeders chose to have their foals' passports officially stamped as 'Traditional' when registered with Horse Sport Ireland in 2013 and the number is expected to grow in 2014.

The move follows a concerted campaign by the Traditional Irish Horse Association (TIHA) to have special recognition for the traditional Irish breeding and cross-breeding of Irish Draught, Thoroughbred and Connemara horses and ponies.

The TIHA was also behind several successful events showcasing traditionally bred horses, including the Festival of Traditional Irish Breeding at Limerick Show, a traditional foal sale at Goresbridge and the Hunter Show and Go at Scarteen.

The association is now calling on breeders to make any proposals on its activities for 2014 and beyond to the TIHA National Council by tomorrow, January 8.

The council is drafting a five-year plan and the AGM will take place on Sunday, February 16th in the Hudson Bay Hotel, Athlone at 2pm.

Meanwhile, the TIHA is running a stallion auction with no less than 30 stallion nominations, including Carrick Diamond Lad, Jackaroo, Emperor Augustus, Financial Reward, Spirit House and Cougar, up for grabs.

Full details are available here.

Caitriona Murphy, Irish Independent, Published 7th January 2014

TIHA Newsletter – Winter 2013

TIHA_290512_03It is that time of the year when we in the TIHA are reminding you that your membership of the Traditional Irish Horse Association of €25 is due for renewal (unless previously paid). We are happy to report that we have had a busy year and have had some success in relation to promoting and marketing the traditionally bred. We are appealing to you as an existing member to not only continue to support us, but to actively help us in growing the membership of the association.

In terms of what has been achieved to date, TIHA is proud to have progressed the following:

  •  Established a new National association – The Traditional Irish Horse Association
  • Set up a web site and face book site – providing a platform for the promotion of traditional Irish Breeding and celebrating the successes of those performing on Irish Horses
  • Established a TIHA National Locator with a view to compiling a data base of producers & breeders of traditionally bred animals
  • Successfully organised a series of regional meetings around the country
  • Awarded sashes to the highest placed traditionally bred Irish horses at Tattersalls International Eventing Championships- Highlighting their success
  • Series of meetings with HSI and the Department of Agriculture in order to secure the recognition and clear identification of traditionally bred animals in the Irish Passport
  • Press Launch in Adare, Co. Limerick to announce the successful outcome of the above negotiations and the T.I.H.A.’s Programme of Events for 2013
  • Actively involved in the election of David Mc Cann and the re-election of Pat Mc Carthy to the Breeding Sub-Board of HSI
  • Took a stand at the RDS to further promote the Irish Horse
  • Organised displays in the RDS to promote, demonstrate and explain the importance and the value to the Irish economy of the traditionally bred horse
  • A Festival of Traditional Irish Breeding at Limerick Show – introduced several new classes for young horses, for performance horses and a stallion parade - all of which were very well supported and appreciated by the breeders & owners
  • Secured a slot in the Goresbridge Horse Sales for Traditionally bred foals, the latter were pre-selected by TIHA selectors who travelled around Ireland to inspect and select the foals for the sale
  • In an attempt to promote and market the progeny of traditionally bred animals, the TIHA organised the Hunter Show & Go. This involved the inspection (in excess of 80 animals presented) and subsequent selection of 45 Quality traditionally bred hunters. These animals were given the opportunity to perform over typical Irish cross country fences, where they could be viewed with ease by potential buyers. Invitations were issued to foreign and Irish buyers by the TIHA to attend the Show & Go. Buyers were delighted to avail of this unique opportunity and turned up in large numbers to support this initiative. Thanks to HSI who backed this event and allowed the foreign buyers avail of the inward buyers programme. Accommodation was sourced locally for our foreign guests who supported the venture
  • Constant presence in the media, papers etc. throughout the year
  • Seen membership numbers continue to grow and the profile of Traditional Breeding gain increased recognition and acceptance
  • Organised a stand at Punchestown Equus Event to further promote the Traditionally Bred
  • In the process of organising an Auction of Stallion Nominations as a source of much needed funding for the Association.

The Stallion Nomination Auction is up and running. Please support this fundraiser in any way you can. All details are on the website.

If you wish to make any suggestions/proposals to the TIHA National Council please feel free to do so, as we value your ideas and your input. Suggestions/proposals should be submitted to any member of the National Council or returned with your membership renewal of €25 to Mr Jim Cooke at Legan, Louisburgh, Co Mayo on or before January 8th. 2014. The National Council will be meeting in January 2014 to draft a five year plan and to discuss in detail the way forward for the TIHA.

We do realise that we have a long road ahead of us and no doubt many more fences to jump before we restore the Traditional Irish Horse to its’ rightful place , but with your help and support it can be done.

The TIHA will be holding its’ Annual General Meeting on Sunday February 16th 2014 in the Hudson Bay Hotel, Athlone at 2pm. We look forward to meeting you there.

May I take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and New Year,

Hugh Leonard, Chairman , TIHA.


Details regarding the Stallion Auction are available here.

The Traditional Irish Horse Association would like to thank the Stallion Owners for their generosity.


TIHA Hunter Show and Go

Chris Ryan gives an overview of the inaugural Hunter Show and Go taking place in Scarteen, Knocklong, Co. Limerick on Saturday 19th October. Further information available here.

3 Year Old Lunging Champion – Ballinasloe

TIHA congratulates John Cusack on his victory in the 3 Year Old Lunging at Ballinasloe Horse Fair last Sunday with Clonaslee Captain Cristo.
This traditionally bred colt is by Captain Clover x Master Imp x King of Diamonds.
He was bred by PJ Tierney, Blue Ball, Tullamore, Co Offaly.

Irish Independent: TIHA Foal Selections

The Traditional Irish Horse Association (TIHA) is hosting foal selection evenings for its October TIHA sale, which will be held in Goresbridge.

The selection evenings are open to all breeders who wish to enter, so long as their foal is traditionally bred, i.e is Irish Draught, Connemara, Thoroughbred or any combination of those three breeds with no warmblood breeding.

The top foals presented at the four regional evenings will go forward for the TIHA foal sale.

The first selection took place last night in Mullingar, while the second selection will take place this evening, September 3, at Barnadown Equestrian Centre, Co Wexford, at 6pm.

Tomorrow, the action moves to Millstreet, Co Cork, at 6pm and the final selection evening takes place at Claregalway Equestrian Centre, Co Galway, at 6pm.

Judges for all selection evenings are Hugh Leonard, TIHA chairman, Pat Fleming, Ronnie Bailey and Rosemary Connors.


Meanwhile, the TIHA Limerick Matron Championship at Limerick Show recently was won by Marie Byrne from Ballinure, Thurles, Co Tipperary, with her mare Everything Essential. The mare was by Flagmount King out of Ballinure Lady.

Second place in the Jim Bolger-sponsored class went to Nick Murphy, Caim, Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, for Inistioge Best Betty, by Ghareeb out of Sally's Prid.

Derry Rothwell from Tinahely, Co Wicklow took third spot with his mare Greenhall Diamond Lady by Colin Diamond out of Greenhall Cailin Deas.

In the TIHA Limerick Lady Championship, the winner was Tom Mooney with Clonmel Grey Lady by Golden Lariat out of Clonmel Big Beauty. Second place went to Sean Colhoun from Strabane, Co Tyrone, with Watermill Holly by Watermill Swatch out of Lady Stardust and third went to Ivor and Joyce Kearney from Tinahely for Miss Windgap by Windgap Blue out of Miss Cliff.

Ann Lambert's thoroughbred stallion Robin De La Maison, by Robin Des Champs out of Knockabeauty, took first place in the three-year-old traditionally bred potential sport horse class. The Killinick woman had the young stallion approved at the HSI stallions inspections earlier this year.

TIHA stalwart Chris Ryan from Scarteen took the top honours in the four-year-old traditionally bred potential sport horse class with SBT Red Marley, by Tasset out of Polly Park.

Caitriona Murphy, Irish Independent, Published 3rd September 2013


TIHA at the RDS

The TIHA trade stand was kept busy at the 2013 Discover Ireland Dublin Horse Show (Main Hall, F2).

TIHA also presented a "Traditional Irish Sport Horse Breeding Demonstration" in Ring Two watch the highlights in this video from