When I sat down to write this editorial 12 months ago we had just started working from home and were at the beginning of our “two week lockdown”.
At this time, I, like many others, was still full of hope that we would be able to flatten the curve and get back to a relatively normal life in time for summer shows and competition. The thought of the Olympics, the Dublin Horse Show and all of the other staple calendar events being cancelled seemed completely absurd, yet here we are, one year on and our fantastic Irish equestrian athletes are still preparing for the Olympics. This in itself deserves huge recognition, for our Team Ireland riders to stay motivated mentally and physically, all while keeping their four-legged athletes safe, sound and fit is no mean feat.
2020 had the potential to be an historic year for Irish equestrian sport. Undoubtedly it was an historic year, but unfortunately for all the wrong reasons.
As it stands, the Olympic Games are scheduled to take place from 23 July-8 August, and it would be the lift we all need to see our three equestrian teams at the Games flying the Irish flag and winning some coveted medals. They have both the man and the horse power to make such a success happen.
It is, however, encouraging to see the resilience of our fantastic riders and industry leaders, to be so innovative in their preparations and always keeping the best side out despite being faced with so much adversity shows just how strong our industry is.
Between COVID-19 and Brexit, horse sales were potentially facing into a perfect storm. Sport horse auction houses closed their doors in March and did not open them again for four months. Horse sales easily could’ve taken a devastating hit but in true Irish fashion each auction house reported an appreciable upturn in trade in 2020.
This came down to the hard work of those working behind the scenes at our Irish auction houses along with the help of online sales, videos and photos. As breeder Michael Doherty outlines in his interview on pages 48-49 of this publication: “all we have is our reputation” and without a doubt it is the honesty, integrity and good reputation of Irish breeders and traders that substantially contributed to this positive outcome.
Throughout this publication, we have featured several young up-and-coming breeders who are the shining stars and future of the Irish breeding industry. Their passion and enthusiasm as well as their desire to learn shows that the industry is in safe hands. Programmes such as the Teagasc/Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) Irish Sport Horse Young Breeders Programme, Teagasc Let’s Talk Equine webinars and the numerous knowledge transfer schemes will ensure these young breeders are equipped with the knowledge and tools they need to continuously improve Irish-bred horses.
The chaos of 2020 pushed the Irish equine industry out of its comfort zone and forced us to think outside the box in terms of training, development, sales and breeding. We need to keep this momentum up in 2021 and beyond as (hopefully) the dust settles and the struggles our industry face on a daily basis between COVID-19 and Brexit become less and less.
I would like to wish all of you a happy and healthy breeding and foaling season, we don’t know what the next year will bring but if the last 12 months taught us anything, it is that Ireland will always be the land of the horse and our industry can overcome the most unthinkable situations and come out the other side stronger than ever.