FOSTERING and strengthening links between Maryland, USA and Ireland was an inherent aim of a week-long visit from the Maryland Horse Industry Board and it certainly achieved that in spades.

The American visitors conducted an exhaustive whirlwind tour encompassing thoroughbred and sport horse stud farms and yards which included visits to Karlswood, Cooley Farm, Ballylinch Stud, Joseph O’Brien’s racing yard, Punchestown racecourse, Tattersalls Derby Sale, the RDS, Coolmore, the Irish National Stud and finishing at the Curragh where the group enjoyed last Saturday’s Irish Derby.

The Maryland Horse Industry Board worked very closely throughout their trip with the Traditional Irish Horse Association’s Chris Ryan and Frances Horgan who put an enormous effort into making the trip a success. A display of thoroughbred and TIHA sport horses hosted at Punchestown was thoroughly enjoyed by the American visitors.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (Rep) was the guest of honour at a reception hosted by the board at Dublin’s Fitzwilliam Hotel last Thursday, before signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the RACE Academy at the Irish National Stud on Saturday.

Home to over 100,000 horses of 40 breeds, 800 licensed stables, the equine industry is a major contributor to Maryland’s economy of over $2.1 billion p.a. Synonymous with top events such as the Preakness Stakes, the Maryland Hunt Cup, the Washington International Horse Show and the Five-Star Fair Hill International, Maryland has a rich and proud equine tradition. Maryland is regarded as America’s horse capital with more horses per square mile (10.5) than any other State, including Kentucky.

Executive Director of the Maryland Horse Industry Board, Ross Peddicord, said the board was ‘delighted to provide the chance for Irish equine businesses to explore opportunities for further partnerships and trade with Maryland Five-Star and Maryland Horse Industry Board’.

William Micklem making a presentation to Steve Connolly, with CEO of Horse Sport Ireland Denis Duggan, (left) and Anne Litz of the Maryland Horse Industry Board and Chris Ryan of the TIHA, (right) \

Anne Litz, Field Marketing Specialist of the Maryland Horse Industry Board, explained that their trade visit’s mission was essentially to see what Ireland does best when it comes to equine and tourism events. “Maryland is looking to expand globally. We now have the Five-Star Fair Hill and the Washington Horse Show, we want to bring everyone to Maryland for these pinnacle events, we are welcoming everyone to Maryland,” said Litz. The key bloodlines of the thoroughbred also has deep roots in Maryland through Northern Dancer and Sagamore Farm so the State has a unique horse experience to offer visitors and trade alike.

William Micklem, commented: “An event like this visit from the Maryland Horse Industry Board is so important when it comes to strengthening links between our two countries. Horse riding is all about teamwork and the horse business is all about team work so fostering these links is so very important. We in Ireland have always had a very special relationship with the USA and there is no reason why it cannot grow. We have so many things that they don’t have. We have the open spaces, the right environment to bring up young horses. The American style of riding is a free style and it suits our horses and our culture in Ireland. It’s a win-win situation.

“There is so many different types of horses in our industry, there really is a horse for everyone. What other sport can say they can offer that? I’m involved with Festina Lente, there is a horse out there for all, a horse for life. All of us can have our lives enhanced by our association with horses. Dublin Horse Show has the best of everything, from a little child on a pony right up to the Aga Khan, that what makes our sport so special,’’ he added.

Ballyneety Rocketman (ISH)(TIH) and Sam Watson with Anne Litz, Cricket Goodall, Mike Hopkins, Chris Ryan, Jim and Christie Steele and Steve Connolly of the Maryland Horse Industry Board at Punchestown \

CEO of Horse Sport Ireland, Denis Duggan, welcomed the Maryland Horse Industry Board’s visit to Ireland and underlined the importance of fostering close trade links overseas. “The USA is a very important market for us as are our other key markets overseas. For example, the value of export sales of horses is worth over €380m to us across all sectors, TB and sport horse. Fostering these links between Ireland and the USA is incredibly important. We can learn from them and they can learn for us. This year alone, the Department of Agriculture, through Horse Sport Ireland, will put over €2 million into the Irish sport horse industry and another €550,000 for breeders through the shows around the country and the Maryland group here today were very taken with those type of incentives.’’

TIHA’s Chris Ryan, who has judged at Fair Hill for several years and was on commentary duties at the inaugural five-star last year, outlined the case for both sides of the Irish industry – thoroughbred and sport horse sectors – to work more closely together. “To see the State’s funding that is in Maryland where both industries – TB and sport horse – work together in a joint approach – it’s something we can hopefully learn from here. Everyone in the thoroughbred and sport horse sectors are after all dependent on the same animal, the horse, and our perceived obstacles are the same, we really need to do more together here. I have no doubt that Fair Hill is going to get bigger and bigger. We could learn from what the Americans are doing and their approach. We are better together,” concluded Chris Ryan.

Cruising Encore and Edward Doyle in action at the TIHA display at Punchestown as part of the visit of the Maryland Horse Industry Board \