“IT was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.” Charles Dickens’ quote could well sum up a great and, on occasions, fraught year in the breeding world.
The year started well with good news in Hippomundo’s prizemoney-based final rankings of 2021 as the Irish Sport Horse studbook retained its number one place in the eventing rankings and finished a creditable 10th place in the show jumping equivalent.
Cavan breeder Peter Brady (fourth) was the highest-placed Irish breeder for his Off The Record and this US team horse went on to have another standout year.
The Judy Murphy-bred Javas Miss Jordan (€223,775. Luidam) was the top-earning Irish-bred and the late Ita Brennan’s group of Mill House Stud-breds earned a collective €338,984, headed by MHS Calais (Cavalier Royale), another with a landmark season ahead of him.
Monaco (€854,654), On Cue (€101,168) and TSF Dalera (€125,340) were the top earners throughout 2021 in show jumping, eventing and dressage, while the leading Hippomundo sires in these sports were Chacco-Blue, Cabri d’Elle and Easy Game.
In January, applications opened for Horse Sport Ireland’s 2022 stallion inspections in the same month as HSI’s Director of Breeding and Programmes Alison Corbally left the organisation after 15 years.
By mid-June, Dr Sonja Egan, a member of the HSI team since 2019, was appointed as the new Head of Breeding, Innovation and Development at HSI, having held the position on an interim basis since January.
Peter and Noeline Brady with USA event rider Will Coleman who rode their home-bred Off The Record to a team silver medal at the FEI World Championships in Pratoni
The world-class show jumping stallion Diamant De Semilly (Le Tot de Semilly) died aged 31 in February in his own field where the French-bred was enjoying an idyllic retirement. Two more stallion losses later in the year were Kylemore Stud’s 2008 Croker Cup champion Watermill Swatch and Derryronane Stud’s double gold merit Irish Draught, Moylough Bouncer.
Luibanta BH (Luidam), bred by Justin Burke, retired to the breeding paddocks that month after a successful partnership with Amanda Derbyshire (GBR) which included selection for the British team at the 2018 World Equestrian Games.
Another Irish-bred stalwart to retire this year was the John Hagen-bred and Kentucky specialist Cooley Master Class (Ramiro B).
As the Russian invasion of the Ukraine intensified in March, Cornet Obolensky and Comme Il Faut, two of the world’s top show jumping stallions, were evacuated safely to Germany from their previous base near Kyiv.
HSI stallion inspections took place at Cavan Equestrian Centre for two days when 43 stallions, including 20 sport horse, 22 Irish Draught and one pony stallion. There were no thoroughbred stallion candidates put forward again this year.
A well-organised Irish Draught Horse Breeders Association stallion parade took place at Mullingar Equestrian Centre and came in for well-deserved praise for its organisation. Aimed at traditionally bred stallions, the event has found its own niche in the stallion parade calendar alongside the customary Cavan’s Stallion Expo, the Connemara Pony Breeders Society Spring Festival and the long-standing Easter parade at Claremorris Equestrian Centre.
At the first post-lockdown Irish Horse Board AGM, also held in Mullingar in late March, new chairman Tiernan Gill described the disappointing turnout of a dozen from 4,000 members as “dismal”. He also flagged the intention of the Horse Board to bid for the upcoming studbook tender process, a decision that would drag out until the autumn.
Throughout 2022, the Breeders’ 10 series featured breeders of every denomination from sport horses, to Irish Draughts, Connemaras and ponies, from grassroots to Olympics and World championship level, where they all shared their views and experiences.
Breeders of this year’s successful Irish-bred stallions at the HSI inspections ran throughout the springtime.
Two common denominators from the series was the need to protect prefixes and a perceived lack of breeder recognition.
As the outdoor season kicked off, many of the outstanding results by Irish Sport Horses, Irish-bred ponies and multi-talented Connemaras formed the 2022 highlights.
During the summer, a series of breeding articles about Irish-breds at previous world championships and Ireland’s medal-winning ponies, both sports-bred and Connemaras, was a prelude to the championship season.
Pacino Amiro (Pacino), bred in Co. Donegal by Simon Scott, was on the Irish show jumping team that clinched a place for the Paris Olympics at the ECCO FEI World Championships in Herning in August.
Two Irish-breds - James Kann Cruz (Kannan) and Kilkenny (Cardento) - were part of the victorious home team that won the Nations Cup at Dublin and the Connolly and Brennan families had a well-earned place in the spotlight that Aga Khan Friday. James Kann Cruz shone even brighter as the season went on, most recently finishing third in the Rolex Grand Prix at Geneva in world-class company.
Over Lux (Lux Z), bred by Padraic Egan and Harry Allen won a bronze individual medal at the European Young Riders championship, a result that also increased Cruising’s dam-sire strike rate.
In September, Off The Record finished best of the US silver medal winning team and Irish-breds competing at the FEI World Equestrian Games eventing championships, held in Pratoni del Vivaro.
Even better, Peter Brady, his wife Noeline and daughter Regina travelled over to watch him and Will Coleman finish on the podium in the team results.
Irish-bred ponies dominated the FEI European pony championships in Strezgom, the best result and advertising in years for both the valuable pony market and their next generation riders.
The brilliant Vanir Kamira (Camiro de Haar Z) and Piggy March won Burghley in September, while across the Atlantic, the 19-year-old Harbour Pilot (Cruising) retired after a unique record of competing in all six of the northern hemisphere five-star events.
Lanaken was another triumph for Irish-breds with two gold medals won by ABC Saving Grace and BP Goodfellas at the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses (WBFSH) young horse championships.
In early October, the decision about the four tenders advertised by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine was finally announced. Three of the studbook services contracts were awarded to Horse Sport Ireland, the fourth - marketing services - was awarded to the Irish Horse Board.
HSI then took legal action and initiated a judicial review in the High Court to overturn this decision regarding the IHB result.
October also saw the close of the WBFSH calendar year and the welcome news that the Irish Sport Horse studbook had reclaimed its number one place in eventing and retained a creditable 10th place in show jumping.
This year’s HSI foal champions at Cavan were Sharon Walsh’s eventing pony Pineview Setanta (Sander); Karen Fox’s show jumping pony Lissarulla Master Lucky (HSF Lucky Boy), Derek Jennings’ ’eventing foal Ballyfree Kan Darc (Sligo Candy Boy), Raymond O’Connor’s traditional foal Oileann Swatchend (Watermill Swatch) and John Clarke’s show jumping foal Clarkes Pose for the Camera (Cascari).
HSH Connor (Connor 48) and Dassett Arthalent (Valent), bred by Justin Burke and Catherine Abbott, won silver medals at the WBFSH young eventing horse championships in Le Lion d’Angers.
The second national equine census was announced in November and Dr Emmeline Hill’s video interview with William Micklem and Sam Watson’s presentation proved popular at the Traditional Irish Horse Association in Portlaoise. Chairman Kevin Noone outlined their activities, run on a shoestring budget and goodwill.
O.B.O.S. Quality 004 (third), Camiro de Haar Z (eighth), VDL Arkansas (10th), Womanizer (12th) and Shannondale Sarco (13th) all appeared in the WBFSH top-20 eventing sire rankings released in November. James Kann Cruz was the highest-earning show jumping offspring for his sire Kannan (9th).
Chacco-Blue was the federation’s top-ranked show jumping stallion for a sixth year in a row and the Diamant de Semilly son Diarado (eventing) and Johnson TN (dressage) were the other leading sires.
By December, commonsense prevailed and HSI announced that it was dropping its requested judicial review of the DAFM’s decision to allocate the marketing services tender to the Irish Horse Board.
HSI recorded a record year for sport horse foal registrations with 7,337 foal passports issued as part of an improved passport service.
The 2023 Breeding Grant applications opened this month. This HSI initiative offers sponsorship for various classes and competitions at next year’s shows.
December was also the month the eventing world bade farewell to the Mary Lett-bred speed merchant Over To You (Over The River) who gathered Olympic, European and WEG medals galore in his years with Jeanette Brakewell (GBR).
LANAKEN GOLD: Two out of three gold medals was this year’s tally from Lanaken, bringing the total number of Lanaken gold medals won by Irish Sport Horses over the past dozen years to nine.
BP Goodfellas, bred by Kevin Babington and GBBS Int. Ltd won the five-year-old final while another home-bred, Pat Kehoe’s ABC Saving Grace, was the six-year-old champion.
Greenhall Mullord (Dignified van’t Zorgvliet), bred by Derry Rothwell, placed eighth in the five-year-old final.
Ethen Ahearne and ABC Saving Grace on their lap of honour after winning the FEI/WBFSH World Breeding Jumping Championship for six-year-olds in Lanaken \ www.sportfotos-lafrentz.de/Stefan Lafrentz
FIVE STAR: Vanir Kamira and Capels Hollow Drift one-two at Burghley and Swallow Springs third-place at Badminton, plus 15 more top-10 places at this year’s five-star three-day events was an impressive haul and kept up the high profile built up by Irish-bred event horses.
At 17, Vanir Kamira has little left to prove and the mantle now passes to others, such as Capels Hollow Drift and another exciting youngster Greenacres Special Cavalier, bred by Kate Jackson, Jenny Glynn and Michael Callery respectively.
Vanir Kamira’s Burghley feat meant a well-deserved Gain Equine Nutrition Breeder of the Month award for Kate. Both wins are also a poignant reminder of the sad loss of Ronnie Hollinger, who had stood Camiro de Haar Z, and was rightly proud of the small but mighty mare’s successes.
THE IRISH ARE BACK: Mikey Pender and HHS Calais have steadily worked their way up the ranks. And then the pair won not one but two Longines Global Champions Tour Grand Prix classes at Valkenswaard and Riyadh, making him the youngest-ever winner (23) of two LGCT Grand Prix competitions.
While Ireland has always produced world-calibre riders, the fact that we’re now producing horses with the class of BBS McGregor, HHS Calais, James Kann Cruz, Kilkenny, Pacino Amiro and Sea TopBlue for Jack Ryan, Mikey Pender, Shane Sweetnam, Cian O’Connor, Bertram Allen and Andrew Bourns is a clear sign that Irish-breds can match their riders’ talent.
WBFSH TITLE RECLAIMED: From third place last year, the Irish Sport Horse Studbook climbed back to the top of the WBFSH eventing studbook rankings, thanks to its top-six horses (all ranked in the top-25).
The ISH show jumping studbook held 10th place again this year with all six featuring in the top-100 individual horses too.
Top-six event horses? Off The Record (Fifth. VDL Arkansas. Breeder: Peter G. Brady); Vanir Kamira (Sixth. Camiro de Haar Z. Kate Jackson); Cooley Quicksilver (13th. Womanizer. Alan O’Brien); Ballaghmor Class (14th. Courage II. Noel Hickey); Leamore Master Plan (18th. Master Imp. Michael Byrne) and Capels Hollow Drift (23rd. Shannondale Sarco St. Ghyvan. Jenny Glynn).
In show jumping, the best six were James Kann Cruz (37th. Kannan. Patrick Connolly); HHS Calais (73rd. Cavalier Royale. Ita Brennan), BBS McGregor (81st. Cardento. Marguerite Ryan); Pacino Amiro (83rd. Pacino. Simon Scott), Sea TopBlue (Chaco-Blue. James & John Meade) and FTS Killossery Confusion (92nd. SIEC Livello. Frank & Laura Glynn).
GOLDEN PONIES: Two team gold medals in eventing and show jumping, four individual medals, plus seven Irish-breds on the Irish teams. That was the unprecedented tally of titles recorded in one golden week this summer at the FEI European pony championships.
Connemara bloodlines shone on the Irish gold eventing team with two pure-breds. Cornafest Fred (Gwennic de Goariva. Breeder: Thomas Grimes) and Ben Connors have now won back-to-back individual silver medals at the latest two championships.
The second pure-bred was Claire O’Ryan’s Carhu Melody, bred by Denis Kelleher and a fitting tribute to his sire I Love You Melody, a big loss for owner Jimmy Canavan this year.
Matthew Love’s traditionally bred Lucky For Some (by the Connemara, Dunlewey Seamus) and Josh Willamson’s Ardeo Fireman (Tinka’s Boy), bred by Sarah Love and Mrs. Gerry Ward completed the winning line-up.
Luidam appears again as the sire of both dual gold medallist James Derwin’s Rincoola Babóg and Saxton Freedam (Breeder: Lisa Smyth), the pony that brought home team gold and individual bronze for Coen Williams.
Babóg, bred by the late Harold McGahern out of yet another Cruising dam in Harold’s good mare Rincoola Abu, was amongst an additional batch of 14 stallions approved by HSI in August.
Another legacy result was MHS Glow (Dondoctro Ryal K), bred by Ita Brennan whose grandson James claimed the individual silver medal at Strezgom.
Completing the Irish golden team were Eoin Brennan’s Glor Tire Cruise (Ars Vivendi. Breeder: Marian Russell) and Paddy Reape’s French-bred Valma de Fougnard (Kantje’s Ronaldo).
2022 - yes, it was a mighty good year for Irish-breds.
What they said
“Delighted to see my name on a top [Hippomundo] breeders list and huge thanks to his rider Will Coleman for bringing Off The Record to this level. Thank you to The Irish Field for keeping us updated and no doubt you will hear more about Drumgoland breeding in the near future.” - A touch of a prophet in Peter Brady’s reaction in January to the news that he was the leading Irish event horse breeder.
“It’s just so lovely for Kevin more than anyone. The Irish were so good to him, he said his phone was lighting up from half three in the morning with people texting and then they were ringing all day. It just tells you the support the Irish have for one another. Hopefully we’ll have many more years of good news like that from Lanaken for Kevin.” - Co-breeder Cheryl Broderick said about the reaction to BP Goodfellas’ gold medal win.
“It was my first time in Lanaken, got my passport sorted on Tuesday and flew out on Wednesday morning at 6.30am. It’s some buzz being there while it was all unfolding and fair dues to Ethen [Ahearne] for getting the job done! I’m only touching the ground in spots, still buzzing! It is a great feeling to have bred a world champion and especially to still own her. A small breeder competing against the big boys. It’s my Olympics really!” - Pat Kehoe on his ‘Lanaken Olympics’ experience.
“It’s unbelievable to have bred a horse like James Kann Cruz. He just never disappoints, a once-in-a-lifetime horse. It is great to see the Irish-bred horse competing so well in both showjumping and eventing.” - Patrick Connolly after the release of the 2022 WBFSH rankings.