Positivity traits evident at TIHA AGM

THE wide range of activities undertaken by the Traditional Irish Horse Association (TIHA), which aims to preserve and promote traditional Irish bloodlines, was reviewed by its chairman Kevin Noone at its recent annual general meeting.

He thanked TIHA Council members for their voluntary work, event hosts and owners for supporting classes, where traditional-bred prizes were on offer during 2022.

These included Dressage Ireland’s Dressage In The City; the AIRC Festival; Showing Show of the Year at Mullingar; Laois IDHBA Branch Show, Wexford Equestrian Centre, Clarecastle Show, Limerick Show, ISA finals at Mountbellew; IDHBA National Show and the TIHA performance championship, hosted at Mullingar.

Four TIH events were also held at Dublin Horse Show, including its annual breeding demonstration, breeders awards and the new TIH working hunter class. The TIHA’s international involvement included participating in the Canadian Irish Draught AGM and hosting the state of Maryland Equine team.

The TIH Mare breeding scheme is intended to run again next year. Noone stressed the importance of building the ISH (TIH) herd numbers in tandem with widening the genetic diversity pool.

He also introduced the TIHA Stud Voucher Scheme for 2023, open to members and non-members, thanking the 30 stallion owners who have committed to a five-year timeframe of offering a stud nomination voucher. Proceeds are then ploughed back into TIHA activities.

Noone also thanked Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) and The Irish Field for their continued support and coverage, adding the association is constantly seeking sponsorship, new ideas and volunteers.

TIHA treasurer Jim Cooke presented their independently-audited accounts for 2021, when the majority of funds raised was through membership fees. He stated that Council members receive zero financial compensation for their work, all done on a voluntary basis.

When questioned as to what grants are received by the TIHA, Cooke replied that the HSI’s grant in 2021 was €925. Increased amounts were received in 2022 when their events resumed after Covid restrictions and will be reflected in next year’s report.

He emphasised that the TIHA is a non-profit association, that relies on membership subscriptions and sponsorship and is not to be confused with HSI, which also receive State funding. Newly appointed secretary Louise Leonard, daughter of TIHA president Hugh Leonard, also present at the Portlaoise AGM, then delivered her report before the meeting opened to questions from the floor.

When asked if the TIHA would continue hosting a stand at Dublin Horse Show, the chairman replied that it had proven expensive and it was felt funds were better utilised at grassroots level. A suggestion was made about a ‘Horse Village’ concept, where various Irish native breeds could share space and Brian Mangan said he would suggest this idea at the next RDS Equestrian Committee meeting.

Another query regarded the percentage of foals registered as ISH (TIH). Noone said it was difficult to obtain up-to-date accurate figures from the HSI system and the TIHA would continue to collaborate with HSI to achieve this essential data.


In a recorded video interview with William Micklem, Dr Emmeline Hill stressed that the TIH has unique attributes, including performance and that it is critically important to dilute the homogenisation of the gene pool through diversity breeding. She added that a horse’s DNA can be clearly mapped into a percentage breakdown of its origin and believes that the environment and conditions for horse rearing and development plays a crucial role of influence.

Another key point made by the geneticist was that the traditional horse has a gene known to be involved in temperament, learning and memory, very similar to a gene associated with temperament and tractability found in thoroughbreds. She believed that genetic markers can be developed to test for positive or negative behavioural traits and that genetic analysis can also benefit soundness.

Sam Watson delivered a presentation on ‘The Evaluation Of Young Horses’, maintaining that four and five-year-old horses should be asked the right questions. The ability to be elastic and flexible at this early age is a crucial foundation stone for future performance.

He felt event horse types are trending more towards a European horse and this affected eventing’s winning formula of jumping and endurance being less influential. Dressage scores have dramatically reduced and this is a downward trajectory. His suggestions on how the TIH can stay current include asking the horse the right questions at the right age; be leaders, not followers and to “breed what you love and love what you breed.”

“With the participation, positivity and goodwill that was at the AGM, the TIH can only become stronger into the future,” said Kevin Noone.