We all know the endless virtue of the Sport Horse, but of much more importance is the LEISURE HORSE. How I was introduced to this concept bears recounting as it illustrates how arrogance is often attributed to the ignorant!
I was at Cavan for an international jumping show with 2 International Horses and a good Novice (now called "GLASGOW" jumping for USA Teams). I got into conversation with a Swiss Dealer who was staying in the same hotel. He, it transpired, was in Ireland buying horses. I had not bought an Irish horse for 20 years preferring to go to Holland. I admonished this dealer, saying his Irish trip would not provide the athletic specimens to be found nearer his home.
I was about to be educated as to the unique attributes of the horses of Ireland, particularly the Irish Draught. (This is all the more shameful as I am IRISH!) He said he would buy 10 horses for £5000 each, take them back to Switzerland where he had a waiting list for all 10 to be sold for £10,000. He enthused that Irish Draught Horses had a very forgiving nature, they put up with the inadequacies of very novice riders who were barely in one part of the saddle long enough to give any aids and still managed to carry them around a course of jumps.
Furthermore when confused by a multitude of conflicting instructions they did not bolt, frightening the “BE JESUS” out of their hapless riders. (This phrase has no German or French equivalent, but seemed to carry the same impact for his continental customers as he pronounced it with great relish!)
I had also wondered why Rich Fellows, the American international rider, was there with a troop of uninspired riders who were trying an endless supply of horses. They were also searching for LEISURE HORSES, not international performers of the future.
I formulated the title LEISURE HORSE to describe these horses, the market for which must exceed that for Sport Horses several hundred times over and yet they have not received the acclaim they deserve. I took the concept back to my committee of the Scottish Sport Horse suggesting we have two categories of Sports Horse, i.e. Competition and Leisure. No one had any enthusiasm for my suggestion, as they were only attracted to breeding future Olympic Champions.
The IRISH DRAUGHT HORSE SOCIETY is uniquely placed to corner the market in Leisure Horses. You represent the only Breed in the World that can genuinely claim to be a true Leisure Horse, having the asset of being a dual purpose Breed. People have been searching for the Leisure Horse for years, but you already have it.
The Irish Draught Horse is sane and easy to train, with an endless supply of patience. Their calm nature makes them safe enough for even the most nervous of riders. You seem to spend so much energy promoting the part bred as a Sport Horse, when everybody already knows the attributes of these horses. You should concentrate on promoting the virtues of the Pure Bred Irish Draught. Stop trying to force them into being something they are not, and rejoice in what they are. Every year many colts are born who are gelded at 6 months or thereabouts. These geldings are like gold dust and should be treated as such and the first step would be to grade them as LEISURE HORSES.
This could be organised to take place at your colt inspections. Charge a nominal fee and have these geldings, (and even non-breeding mares), ridden before your inspection panel with the addition of a respected ridden judge. They could do a small test and then they could be awarded Bronze, Silver and Gold accordingly. The emphasis must be on TEMPERAMENT and WILLINGNESS TO WORK, rather than good looks. These “tests” would be fun and informative for the owners, and would have the result of “proving” the stallions and the mares. They could be given the corresponding rosettes, and have their passports endorsed. They should then be encouraged to come back in future years to be upgraded. Think of the revenue. Think of the goodwill, and think of the opportunities for selling these horses.
You could have an annexe to your Register, purely for Leisure Horses and these could be pure or part bred.
Your Inspections would then become a spectator event, as you would attract buyers as well as interested Members. This would give you more fund raising opportunities and a chance for some real P.R.
The Irish Draught Horse Society (GB) could organise some non-competitive events, trail rides, long distance rides, treasure hunts etc, to raise the profile of this fabulous animal which would also raise funds for a worthwhile Breed Society to preserve part of our heritage.
If your Council takes up this challenge I have many thoughts on how you could develop this idea.
Chairman, Scottish Sport Horse.
John Mansfield is the Chairman of the Scottish Sport Horse Breeders. He attended the Artificial Insemination Course in November 2002, where he met two Members of the IDHS(GB). After an excellent dinner and more than a few glasses of red wine, the following article was composed. The Members thought that it was inspired and John was persuaded to put the whole thing in writing.
So, what do you think?