Call for more funds to exploit industry around horse sports

Investment in show jumping, breeding and dressage may yield €400m a year, group says

Horse sports (which do not include racing) and the breeding industry linked to them employ 14,057 people and contribute €816 million a year to the economy. Photograph:  Cody Glenn/Sportsfile via Getty

Horse sports (which do not include racing) and the breeding industry linked to them employ 14,057 people and contribute €816 million a year to the economy. Photograph: Cody Glenn/Sportsfile via Getty

 

An organisation that supports sports such as show jumping and eventing is seeking Government aid to help it generate €400 million a year for the Republic and create thousands of jobs.

A report by economist Jim Power says that sports such as show jumping, eventing and dressage and the breeding industry linked to them employ 14,057 people and contribute €816 million a year to the economy.

However, the research, commissioned by the Sport Horse Alliance Group, argues that, with focused Government spending, these activities could add a further €400 million to the economy and create 4,000 more jobs.

Mr Power’s report, Untapped Potential: Unlocking the Economic Potential of the Irish Sport Horse Industry, calls for the Government to spend €30 million on regional equestrian centres over the next five years, €3 million a year in prize money, €5 million for breeding supports, €2 million for education and €1.3 million for marketing.

The sector received just €4 million from the State last year, while horseracing received €64 million through the Horse and Greyhound Fund, the mechanism originally used to channel betting tax to both types of racing.

“The absence of structured and directed funding has been the biggest single impediment to the sector growing to its full potential and needs to be urgently addressed if the sector is to emulate the successes of the thoroughbred industry at home and abroad,” Mr Power concludes.

Brexit challenge

His report also identifies Brexit as a key challenge facing the sport horse industry here. At present over 60 per cent of sport horses sold at public auctions here go to Britain.

The economist warns that large numbers of riders and talented workers from the industry are leaving the Republic because the sport horse sector cannot support jobs or create opportunities.

Barry O’Connor, chairman of the Sport Horse Alliance Group, said that the report highlighted the industry’s untapped potential and the steps that Government can take to aid the sector.

“We will be engaging with the Government to seek the necessary commitments and supports to allow our industry grow and reach its full potential,” Mr O’Connor added.

He argued that growth for the sector would benefit every county in the Republic. “As a sector we grow jobs, build on our international success and create a sector which is recognised as world-class for riders, trainers and breeders,” he said.

Mr Power predicted that if the Republic continued to export young riders and trainers, it would leave the nation without enough expertise to produce quality horses. “We have grade-one people but the facilities don’t match,” he said. “Ireland has world-class horsemanship but structurally we are failing to properly exploit this resource for our national benefit.”