Calls for greater regulation of sulky racing on public roads

ISPCA raises concerns about races between horses harnessed to lightweight traps

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) has called for a ban on sulky racing on Irish roads .

Sulky racing is a popular past-time in the Traveller community where horses are harnessed to lightweight traps and trotted in races at official tracks.

However, many illegal races take place on public roads.

An ISPCA statement said: “Sulky racing is regulated in other countries and carried out on safe off-road tracks, which does happen in Dundalk occasionally. We would like to see sulky racing banned from the roads, and the gardaí have sufficient powers to do that under road traffic legislation.”


“Another element we want to see is licence and registration taken more seriously. If sulkies are going to be on the roads then a way must be found to have some registration,” said an ISPCA spokesman.

"In other countries sulky racing can be carried out in a more controlled environment. It only seems to be here in Ireland that we have this problem. Our main concern with sulky racing is the training of the younger horse, they are training them far too young and the horse's muscles and joints have not fully developed.

“To run them on a hard surface at that stage in their life is potentially damaging. We have had two serious accidents in Kilkenny this week where the horses had to be destroyed,” added the spokesman.

Horse ownership campaign

Members of the Traveller community last month began a drive to promote the mental health benefits of horse ownership and underline its importance within their culture. Up to 20 sulkys assembled on the Cahir bypass in Co Tipperary for the start of the Drive for Hope and Change, organised to highlight the problem of suicide among Travellers.

Martin Collins, a co-director with the Traveller rights group, Pavee Point said there is need for "greater regulation" in the area of sulky racing.

“Many Travelling organisations at a local level have been endeavouring for this for years,” he said.

He said there is no investment from the Government in “middle class” activities such as sulky racing.

"The fundamental point I want to make here is that there is a gross inequity in terms of Government policy on what sports get funded. I think it's unfair that about €64 million per year is pumped into Horse Racing Ireland and a sport Travellers are interested doesn't get a look in."