HORSE Sport Ireland is seeking an increase of €1.5 million in Budget 2024. The governing body has detailed four key investment objectives in its budget submission to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The investment objectives are an increase in funding for HSI’s National Breeding Services schemes and initiatives, including new schemes (€500,000); its Integrity Programme, including National Anti-Doping Programme for young horses (€150,000); Genetic Improvements in the Irish equine industry (€250,000) and Grant in Aid (€600,000).

The requests are based on several oversubscribed schemes, with some as high as 200% oversubscribed, such as the Premium Mare Retention Scheme, Colt Retention Scheme and Breeders Grant Scheme. The proposed increase of €500,000 for existing schemes, and new pilot schemes for 2024 will enable the organisation meet industry demand to bring the total to €3.4m in industry-based schemes.

HSI is seeking financial support for the Integrity Programme including the administration of a national Equine Anti-Doping and Controlled Medication (EADCM) programme. Funding of €500,000 is sought for anti-doping and integrity measures from 2025. However, in 2024 to support the scale-up in testing, €150,000 is required. This additional funding will support the testing, vet costs, couriers, etc for an additional 240-250 tests per annum in breeding- and production-related shows and events.

Genetic improvement

To sustain and enhance the competitiveness of the industry, HSI believe it is crucial to invest in a world-first genetic improvement programme for equine breeding. This funding of €250,000 aims to support initiatives beyond traditional selective breeding and establish a comprehensive genetic improvement framework.

The Grant-in-Aid element of National Breeding Services provides HSI with the staff costs and overhead costs associated with delivering the overall programme. The increase of €600,000 is required to support the recruitment of grant administration roles and digitisation of grant application processes.

Denis Duggan, HSI CEO, urged Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, T.D, to increase its funding to the equine sector.

“The Irish equine industry stands at a critical juncture, demanding strategic investments in genetic improvement programs to ensure its future success,” Duggan said. “By allocating an additional €1.5 million in funding for 2024 towards these initiatives, the government can effectively safeguard the sustained growth, competitiveness, and reputation of the Irish equine industry while fostering its development for years to come.”