HORSE Sport Ireland’s new e-Passport registration system “won’t blow up”, the organisation’s CEO Denis Duggan assured concerned breeders at a public meeting in Co Laois on Wednesday.

The new system, set to go live in mid-June, will replace what Duggan described as an “archaic” IT system and will automate the process of checking over 70 pieces of information in the equine registration process.

Duggan faced rigorous questioning and criticism from a small but vocal crowd of around 25 people, who attended the Registered Stallion Owners’ Society meeting in the Manor Hotel, Abbeyleix.

Speaking from the floor, Duggan told attendees that the new system, based on a newer SNP DNA analysis and a new IT system, will eliminate passport delays caused by missing information on the current paper-based system.

Duggan said the new system is undergoing rigorous testing, although it has not yet processed a passport from end to end. When asked what would happen if the new system failed, he added that the old IT system “is not being shut off, it will still be there but it’s not ideal, it doesn’t have a lot of functionality”.


The meeting heard numerous complaints from the floor and the top table, consisting of John Cusack, Walter Kent and Kevin Croke of the stallion society.

Kent pointed out that some breeders are still waiting for passports since last year, and breeders are left waiting “all day” for HSI staff to answer the phone.

“Breeders are not being listened to,” Kent said, adding that the issues “will have to be straightened out or the industry will fall down”.

Stallion owner Nick Cousins of Tullabeg Stud in Co Wexford said breeders, who had sold foals last year, were “left high and dry” without passports. He described his own experience of sending a batch of foal applications by registered post, but receiving some of the passports back five months after others.

Another breeder told the meeting how her daughter had lost the sale of a foal because of the passport delay.

Speaking from the floor, Denis Duggan said he wanted to dispel some of the “myths and misinformation” surrounding HSI issues and detailed the current position on foal passports.

Of over 6,100 Irish Sporthorse Studbook (ISH) applications submitted in 2023, less than 500 remain to be processed. Of these, “200 will be issued this week”, while the remaining 300 have “DNA issues” to be resolved, he said.

He admitted that there had been a “substantial issue” with DNA samples in July 2023, when the sampling process for the new SNP DNA testing began with Weatherbys.

Visual inspections in the quality control check showed that many samples had not enough hairs or dirty samples, which caused “significant delays”.

Duggan was vigorously challenged on this by Walter Kent, who pointed out that Charolais and Limousin societies did not report problems with DNA samples also sent to Weatherbys.

On a case of missing paperwork, which was subsequently found by HSI staff, Duggan conceded that this was “frustrating and unacceptable” and fell below the standards expected of the organisation.

He pledged that the new system would see passports processed in less than 40 days, including 19 days for DNA testing. When questioned about who would be accountable if the new systems does not work, he answered: “I’m CEO and I’m accountable to the board for it”.

Price hike

The steep increase in foal registration fees, rising to €159.90 incl VAT (€184.50 if after August) for a named foal with pedigree recorded, was another point of contention at the Laois meeting.

When asked if registration fees could be reduced, Duggan replied “Not a hope”.

“Regrettably, there should have been price increases before now, which would have been less painful,” he said, adding that HSI needs to run its service at break-even. He added that HSI will not lose money this year.

Duggan also confirmed that farmer breeders, who claim payments in schemes such as ACRES for Irish Draught, Kerry Bog Pony or Connemaras as rare breeds, risk losing their payments if the animals are not registered in their respective studbooks.

By way of example, he confirmed that an Irish Draught foal with an Irish Draught sire and dam, if registered with Leisure Horse Ireland, will not be recognised as an Irish Draught foal for Department of Agriculture schemes.

“These are Department of Agriculture criteria,” he confirmed, and not set out by HSI.