24/11/2018 Published in the Irish Field Newspaper
Greg Broderick and Ger O’Neill both addressed the Joint Oireachtas Agriculture Committee on the need for more State investment in the Irish sport horse industry
LEADING Irish show jumpers and breeders Greg Broderick and Ger O’Neill outlined the importance of having more State investment in the €816 million Irish sport horse sector when they appeared before the Joint Oireachtas Agriculture Committee in Leinster House on Tuesday. The riders formed part of the Sport Horse Alliance group which addressed the cross-party committee meeting.
Rio Olympian Greg Broderick, whose flagship Ballypatrick Stables in Thurles, Co Tipperary, employs 24 people, exercises 70 horses daily and breeds 40 sport horse foals a year, gave TDs and Senators an excellent insight, particularly underlining the improvement that better infrastructure and a livelier circuit with more prize money would bring to all levels of the sector.
“It is a trickle-down effect. If you have a better standard of facilities, better riders will stay here as they will be able to produce young horses better. Those horses in turn are sold for more money abroad and that trickles down the line to breeders. Show jumping is absolutely flying, it is one of the best businesses you can be involved in and people in Ireland need to know this as there is a bit of doom and gloom here – there is a bit of a disconnect between riders, farmers and breeders,” Broderick said.
“If the better riders were coming in and out to better shows here, it will raise the bar. You can see how big the horse business is outside of Ireland. There is massive potential but we need to invest in this now. We have the best land, we are great horse people but the whole thing needs a bit of a helping hand to raise the bar here,” said Broderick.
Of the 10 riders Broderick was with at the Young Riders and Junior Europeans in Athens, he is the only one left in Ireland – all of the others are based in the USA or mainland Europe.
“Facilities in Ireland are not up to scratch and it is very hard to produce horses to a top level. All our investment is in Ireland but unless things improve here, I’d see myself closing my business in the next three years and moving to Europe,” he added.
NOT EVEN SAFE
Lanaken double gold medal winner Ger O’Neill of Castlefield Sport Horses, Co Kilkenny, told the committee that it was “not even safe” to jump expensive horses on some of the surfaces here. “For the last six weeks, I’ve been based in Belgium, [they’re] really up to speed there. I have a young family here and hope not to move, I’d love to try and stay here but it’s not viable for us to do it, not at a high level. As an industry, we feel we are being laughed off, we are the poor relation. We are serious people with a great love for the horses but do not feel we are not getting much back from it at the minute,” said O’Neill.
For riders trying to gain world ranking points while based in Ireland was described as “nearly impossible”. Broderick travelled 37 horses to the Sunshine Tour to produce them and is just home with 22 horses from Vilamoura. “I would gladly have left half of them at home to be produced here but the facilities are just not good enough. We are way behind in about 95% of the centres in this country. I’m forced to go to shows in Europe,” he said.
Ger O’Neill, who also evented up to World Cup level, said: “Eventers definitely need more more prize money same as the show jumpers.”
“I spent eight days in Europe looking for more horses. And breeders there are working with riders, they don’t want to sell you their best young horses because they are keeping them and sending them to top riders. Here, we don’t have good facilities, all the good riders are leaving and producing horses to a higher standard over there.
“There is a breakdown between riders and breeders. If we had better standards, we would be producing horses to a higher standard, selling them for more money and that would trickle back to the breeders,” Broderick said.
In Vilamoura, there is three €25,000 classes a week and the prize money is boosted with funding from the Government and also the Tourism Board which recognises the resulting economic spin-off.
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