In the days before mechanisation, horses were an essential part of farming in Ireland. For example, in 1939, it was estimated that over 350,000 horses worked on Irish farms.

Today, horses are kept for breeding or for pleasure, or usually a combination of both. There are three main sectors to the horse industry on Ireland’s farms – racing, breeding and equestrian sports.

Ireland is recognised as a leading thoroughbred racing and breeding producer in the equestrian world.

The Irish bloodstock breeding and racing industry is of major national importance in terms of employment (especially in rural areas) as well as in exports and tourism. The industry is worth hundreds of millions of euro of economic activity, sustaining jobs and a national network of racecourses, trainers, breeders and farms.

Irish horses are in demand worldwide, with exports to 40 countries. A long tradition of horsemanship is a key reason, as is the fact that our limestone soils provide ideal grazing for healthy equine bone growth. Tax incentives for stallion farms introduced in 1969 helped encourage major investment in stud operations.

The sport horse industry provided a contribution of more than €816 million to the Irish economy in 2017 and provided over 14,000 jobs in the sport horse breeding, competition and leisure sectors (Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, 2017).

Horse Racing Ireland

Horse Racing Ireland (www.goracing.ie) are responsible for the thoroughbred sector. Their mission statement is “to develop and promote Ireland as a centre of excellence for horse racing and breeding”.

Breeding horses and ponies for a range of equestrian sports is also a part of horse farming in Ireland. Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) (www.horsesportireland.ie) is the governing body for equestrian sports in Ireland.

HSI operates the Irish Horse Register, which encompasses the Irish Sport Horse Studbook and the Irish Draught Horse Studbook. There are also other studbooks operating in the non-thoroughbred sector, including the Connemara Pony Society (www.cpbs.ie) and the Kerry Bog Pony Co-op Society (www.kerrybogpony.ie), the Irish Piebald & Skewbald Association, Miniature Horse and Pony Society of Ireland and the Warmblood Studbook of Ireland.

The Dublin Horse Show (www.dublinhorseshow.com) is held in the Royal Dublin Society each August and is considered a major international equestrian event.

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