Opinion

Letter to the editor: Small horse breeders being pushed out

I am writing to you to issue my concerns for small breeders and the never ending challenges that we face in our industry.

Yes, I do acknowledge that every industry has the big names and wealthy people at the top, however these big people (e.g. stallion owners) control our industry and [it] is a sorry sight to behold.

More and more small breeders / owners are being pushed out of the game they once loved, adored, made livelihoods from and inherited from generations.

Therefore, I would like to outline the following issues that small breeders have and hope these issues are considered in order to help the industry as a whole to be in a better place.

Foal Registration

One of the biggest problems is that Weatherbys should not be allowed to send passports to stallion owners when a foal is registered.

This has been happening for far too long and ultimately shows that all strings and power lie with the stallion owners.

Furthermore, passports must accompany the animal wherever it is resident so that the passport will be updated on any procedures or medication the animal receives.

Stallion fees

The prices that horses make at bloodstock sales, especially foals, have continued to fall each year for the last few years. Therefore, stallion fees should be reduced in order to reflect the drop in prices.

Breeders expected that stallion fees would drop considerably on the back of horrendous foal sales in November 2020. However this was not the case, stallion fees remain the same.

2020 foal sales were poor with the median dropping by 33% from the previous year, even with more quality foals in the 2020 sale.

Therefore, how can anyone make sense of paying out more for stallion fees every year, than they make when selling a foal?

Rural Ireland

Many of the small breeders come from rural Ireland. Small breeders contribute to the overall foal crops recorded each year by Weatherbys Ireland.

The trend shows that every year the foal crop sizes are getting smaller and smaller due to a number of reasons outlined above and below.

To look towards our economy, small breeders provide jobs, work experience, support local businesses and most of all contribute to the country’s success in breeding the best horses in the world here in Ireland.

Foal levy

This levy being charged on the advertised fee of a stallion is grossly unfair. Most stallions trade at 30% less than their advertised fee.

I suggest that the fairest way for the levy to be changed would be 1% levy at the point of sale. It would mean the more you make, the more you pay.

In addition, the way the levy is distributed to the beneficiaries should not be on the foal levy committee such as ITBA [Irish Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association] and ITM [Irish Thoroughbred Marketing], which I believe is very poor ethics.

Point to Point

I acknowledge that Covid-19 has caused huge disruption to all industries however with the ‘Point to Point’ cards being called off during Covid-19, this has [had a] serious impact on small breeders / owners / trainers.

Many of the horses who run in point to points are bred, owned and trained by the same person and their livelihoods are on the brick.

These people can’t afford to fork out huge monthly costs to put these horses in training so they can run on the racetrack.

They rely on buying and selling these horses at the point to point throughout the country.

I understand this issue has been discussed in government already and we must see a return to this as the point to points are where horses we see everyday run in the big meetings for the big owners are started off, with the small breeders / owners and trainers.

From Ciarán Ó’Raghallaigh, Co. Roscommon.