MINISTER for Defence Simon Coveney (FG) outlined to the Dáil recently that the Army Equitation School has 39 show jumpers and eventers and a budget of €450,000 for horse acquisitions had been set for 2021 at the world-renowned School.

Responding to questions from Longford-Westmeath TD Sorca Clarke (SF), Minister Coveney detailed that nine horses had been either bought or leased by the School in 2020-2021 while seven had left AES in the same period.

“In 2020 three (3) new horses were purchased and one (1) horse leased by the School. The School have purchased four (4) horses to date in 2021 and also leased one (1) additional horse.

“Five (5) horses left the Equitation School in 2020 with an additional two horses leaving the School to date in 2021. The School currently has a stock of 39 horses made up of show jumpers and eventers.

“The School’s budget allocation in 2021 for horse acquisitions was set at €450,000. While the budget has not yet been set for horse purchases in 2022, I am satisfied that the current arrangements allow the School to maintain its competitiveness at national and international events,” said Minister Coveney.

He detailed the mission of the Army Equitation School as promoting “the Irish Horse through participation in international competition at the highest level. The Army Equitation School has discharged this task with considerable distinction down through the years and, through its participation and numerous successes in equitation events at home and abroad, it has successfully promoted the qualities of the Irish Horse.”

Suitable Irish-bred horses that meet the required standard as judged by the School’s Horse Purchase Board are acquired through either purchase or lease agreement for AES.

Garda horses

Separately, Dublin Bay South TD Jim O’Callaghan (FF) asked the Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar, and the Minister for Justice and Equality, Helen McEntee, if funding has been secured in 2022 for the purchase of additional dogs for the Garda dog unit and additional horses for the Garda mounted unit.

In response, he was informed that in 2021, four dogs were purchased for the Garda Dog Unit. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, plans sanctioned in 2020 to further expand the Dog Unit were delayed. However it is hoped that the expansion will commence in 2022 with the delivery of an extra 10 canines to the North Western Region.

“I am further informed that there are no plans to expand the Garda Horse Unit. For reasons of capacity, horse purchases are only made when a horse retires,” said Minister McEntee.

Budget 2022 will provide over €2 billion to An Garda Síochána.