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  The Irish Sport Horse

       
             
   
 

Irish Sport Horse

 
   

 

The Irish Horse, also known as the Irish Hunter or Irish Sports Horse, is the result of a cross between the Irish Draught and the Thoroughbred.

The Irish Horse receives the sense and honesty of the Irish Draught and the athleticism, speed, and endurance of the Thoroughbred. It has an excellent temperament, being calm, yet lively when needed, and is very tough. Connemara blood is also found in some Irish mares.
The Irish Horse is traditionally used for all purposes, from transportation, to riding, and working the land. However, it is becoming increasingly popular as a competition riding horse. Its natural athletic ability and fantastic jumping talents means that it excels in the show jumping arena, as well as competing at the highest levels of eventing. The horse is globally renowned for being one of the best fox hunting mounts in the world.

The Irish Draught's history lies as much in battle as it does in agriculture. Written in 1 BC, the "Cuchulain Saga" describes mighty chariot horses of Irish Draught type. In the twelfth century came the arrival, in Ireland, of the Anglo-Normans with their strong war horses. Later, in the sixteenth century, trade between southern Ireland and Spain brought a strong mix of Spanish blood to the native horses. The Irish Draught has been exported in huge numbers into the armies of Europe since the Middle Ages. As recently as the first World War the Irish Draught served on the front lines in their thousands.

       
 

 

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  The hundred years from 1850 to 1950 probably did the most to shape the Irish Draught as we know it today. Agriculture in Ireland was mixed, with less demand for the heavy draft breeds popular in the rest of Europe. Instead, the Irish farmer needed a horse that could work the land but would also pull the dog cart to church at a smart trot and take the farmer fox hunting. The hunting farmer wanted a horse that would go all day and jump anything he faced.

Over a century of selection produced a very sound, sensible animal with good bone and substance, great stamina and an uncanny jumping ability. It is these qualities that, when crossed with the Thoroughbred, produced the world renowned Irish Hunter. This cross is now known as the Irish Sport Horse, and representatives are winning gold medals and grand prix all over the world.

The Irish Draught's movement is smooth and free but without exaggeration and not heavy or ponderous. They may be of any strong whole colour, including grey. White legs, above the knees or hocks are not desirable. Their bones should be good and strong. Stallions average size is approximately 15.3 hands to 16.3 hands. Mares average size is 15.1 approximately hands to 16.1 hands.

While every family of Irish Draughts has produced noteworthy show jumpers and eventers, maybe none has done this more consistently than King of Diamonds. This chestnut stallion was by Errigal out of Ruby. He ranked seventh as a sire of show jumpers in world rankings from 1990 to 1995. The international show jumpers Special Envoy, Mill Pearl and Millstreet Ruby are by King of Diamonds. Even though King of Diamonds has sadly passed away, he has left behind a number of sons who are consistently producing world class jumpers. His influence will be felt for many years to come.

The bay stallion Clover Hill by Golden Beaker was ranked sixteenth as a sire of show jumpers in world rankings from 1990 to 1995. Some of his world class progeny include Cagney, Skyview, and Flo Jo. He continues to produce jumpers today and will no doubt have an influence on sport horse breeding for many more years.

 

 
                 
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