THE 2024 Young Breeder National Championships took place on Saturday, March 23rd, at Kildalton Agricultural College, Piltown, Co. Kilkenny. The event was hosted by Teagasc and Horse Sport Ireland, supported by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine under ‘National Breeding Services’.

Wendy Conlon, Teagasc Equine specialist, said: “An enthusiastic, dedicated and focused group of 14-26 year olds demonstrated their skills as horse handlers, their knowledge in assessment of conformation and athleticism traits of horses; while also completing a theory test on equine health and welfare; nutrition; stable management and the sport. It was a tight contest with placings hard won. We are all very much looking forward to working with the group who have been invited to contest for the eight team places to represent the Irish Sport Horse Studbook at the World Championships in Denmark in July.”

Sonja Egan PhD, Head of Breeding Innovation and Development at Horse Sport Ireland, added: “The young breeders’ programme is an extremely important initiative for young people interested in the breeding and production of sport horses. During industry consultation last year, it was consistently regarded as a highly valued programme to the industry. I wish to congratulate and commend all who participated over the weekend. There was a brilliant atmosphere of camaraderie coupled with super performances across the board. I know from observing and speaking to Wendy and the panel of judges that there is a lot of talent in this young group and we are really excited about this year’s World Championships!

The competition acts as the first step in the qualification process for team participants to represent the Irish Sport Horse Studbook at the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses International Young Breeders World Championship taking place at Stutteri Ask, Denmark in July,. The title of World Champion is held by Ireland following the most recent World Championships in Holland 2022.

Prizes were provided to those who scored best overall when the disciplines of theory, conformation and athleticism assessment, and in hand were combined and also for each individual discipline within both age categories.

Eimear Coleman, senior overall winner, said; “with this being my first time to compete at National Championships and also being my last as I will be over the eligible age on the next running, I am absolutely thrilled with the win. I really enjoyed the whole event from start to finish. There was such a positive atmosphere throughout the day, and so much guidance and support from organisers, and officials, but also from other participants during the in hand phase. I am so appreciative of the training, which I am finding really beneficial in applying the knowledge to my own Connemara pony breeding enterprise at home. I look forward very much to the next stages of selection, visiting the farms and discussing more horses.”

Sarah Kavanagh, senior overall winner, was “thrilled to win, especially having been chosen as a wild card to join the selection process for the World Championship team in 2022, while not making the team on that occasion. We are buying, producing and selling at home and the training has been so beneficial to us in that we are growing in confidence in assessing what we are buying ourselves. The feedback from the trainers is fantastic and being able to discuss with them and compare what we see. I am really looking forward to the next stages, learning more, and maybe even making the team if things go well. It is also great to do it with my brother Ben, who got the nod too.”

Additional to those placed above, the following seniors are invited to advance to World Championship team selection: Maria Cairns, Robert Deegan, Colin Doyle, Michelle Dunne, Conor Fitzpatrick, Ciara Hanley, Luke McAvinue and Katie Peate. Additional juniors invited include Caoimhe Healy, Ben Kavanagh, Lydia McGrath, Hazel McInerney, Emer O’Donnell, Katie O’Donnell, and Ella Tighe.

The event is a team effort with too many to mention involved and the input of all is greatly appreciated. Worth mentioning, is the valued contribution of graduates of the young breeder programme Sarah Darker, Amy Finn, Nicole Groyer, Conor Higgins, and Jenny Kerr, giving back to the programme having previously benefitted themselves. A huge thanks to Kildalton College and all of the Teagasc and Horse Sport Ireland staff who contributed to the smooth running of the event.