I am convinced that the Irish horse sport industry is not taken seriously – neither in the houses of our Oireachas or among our MEPs in the European Parliament.

After all, before Ireland’s last general election, only one of the seven major parties had a mention of the sport horse industry in its manifesto. I cannot remember an Irish member of the European Parliament ever making a statement about how the EU could improve the lot of Irish sport horse breeders.

Right now, our industry is going through a transformation beyond any thing that ever previously happened in the sector. A well-informed cohort of breeders and producers are upping their game and through the use of the most up-to-date methods and technologies are bidding to win back the prominence in this sector which was taken from us by the Germans, Dutch and Belgians over the past half century. But is it even recognised in the halls of power that this is happening?

Sport horse programmes

Horse Sport Ireland’s (HSI) breeding department is backing this revolution in every way that its financial resources allow. Here are just some of the schemes that are currently aimed at helping breed great horses again:

• The embryo transfer scheme.

• Mare upgrade scheme.

• Thoroughbred percentage scheme.

• X-ray screening scheme.

• Breaking and training scheme.

• Irish draught and sport horse genetic evaluations.

• Three-year-old loose jumping.

• Foal championships.

• Warmblood fragile foal scheme.

• Genetic evaluation schemes.

• Stallion and mare inspections.

These schemes are underfunded and operating at only a fraction of their true potential. So who do you call to find out how they can be helped within the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and other EU-funded grant programmes? Who is shouting for the farm family with two mares that is trying to climb the sport horse breeding ladder?

questions for our political representatives

In the run-up to the next budget, I have put together four relevant questions for the spokespersons on agriculture within the main parties, they are:

1. Does your party back the Government’s financial support of the Irish sport horse industry?

2. Should the Governments current support be increased?

3. What role do you see the sport horse industry playing in sustainable Irish agriculture post-Brexit and new CAP?

4. Can the sport horse industry encourage more women and young people to participate in agriculture?