Dublin's horse tradition could be wiped out, Finglas man claims
Despite the sharp decline in the number of horses wandering on Dublin's streets, the demand for ownership remains strong. Over the past few months, Dubliners have moved hundreds of horses to rural locations to prevent them ending up in the pound.
The enforced exodus, however, is causing hardship in many deprived communities where horses provide young people with a healthy alternative to more antisocial pursuits, says Ms Angela Boylan, chairwoman of the Quarryvale Horse and Pony Club.
"We are having to pay £10 per horse per week to keep them on land down the country," she said. "That money could be put into local facilities instead if we were given some land here. The kids could see them more often. At the moment they can only see them at weekends. It's tough on the kids. They deserve their own space."
She says most of the horses from her area have been moved to rented farmland in counties Kildare, Carlow and Wicklow. "There's not a horse left in north Clondalkin. Because of the cost of getting them out of the pound, they've all been moved outside of the controlled area."
The cost of retrieving a horse from the pound can run into hundreds of pounds, between transport, microchipping and veterinary fees, as well as a charge of £36 per day while the horse remains impounded.
"The word has got around that if you leave a horse wandering around, you could be forking out up to £300 rather than a few quid. That's a huge disincentive," says Mr Maurice McDonough, Fingal County Council's environment administrative officer. "The provision allowing us to dispose of the horse after three breaches of the regulations also discourages people from leaving horses out."
Mr Colm Kiernan, chairman of the Finglas Horse and Pony Project, admits the clampdown has helped to eradicate much mistreatment of animals. "Gone are the days when people used to be able to buy a horse in Smithfield and tie it in a field or let it run around wild, and that's a good thing. But what's happening now is the whole horse tradition in Dublin is being wiped out."
He was the first person to receive a licence from Fingal County Council but, like many, could do so only by housing his horses outside the control area. "I have horses in Meath at the moment. Others are keeping them as far away as Portlaoise, Carlow and Kildare."
He says it is unfair that horse owners in other parts of the State do not have to face such strict regulations. "Only if you've the misfortune of living in Dublin, it seems, can you not keep a horse."
He adds that the pursuit of horse ownership could have a hugely positive influence in an area like Finglas, which has already produced one young professional jockey, Robert Winston, who recently moved to a racing stable in Britain. "It could be a great thing in the future. Even if it keeps 20 or 30 people out of Mountjoy, it would be well worth supporting."