Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Irish horse: What are the sport horse types?

Most of us can conjure up an image of the Irish horse -- an animal of good bone, athletic, noble, honest, and of course, a jumper. There are a lot of terms thrown around -- Irish hunter, Irish draught, Irish sport horse, Irish thoroughbred, you name it. Interestingly, Ireland's Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has approved a new registry, the Warmblood Studbook of Ireland -- so now there's an Irish warmblood. But that's another story.

Horses of sport from Ireland

The Irish Draught horse. This horse was origially used in farming, but transformed and adapted through breeding program changes to be a riding horse and competition horse. The name Irish Draught is a bit of a misnomer, because the modern Irish Draught is a far cry from its heavy, feathered ancestors. Their claim to fame is jumping, and their movement is smooth and free, without exaggeration, and not heavy nor ponderous.

Irish Draught sport horse. This is "a classification used by the Irish Draught Horse Societies of Canada and North America for horses of combined Irish Draught and other blood, usually but not necessarily Thoroughbred." (from the Irish draught horse society FAQ)

Irish Sport Horse. At one time, crosses between Irish Draught/Thoroughbred crosses were called half-breds or Irish hunters. When the term "sport horse" came into common use in the mid-1980's, the terms were replaced by Irish Sport Horse. Currently, Irish Sport Horse is also used for any horses that are registered on the Irish Horse Register , the government-maintained registry in Ireland. These horses do not necessarily have any Irish Draught or Thoroughbred blood, though most do.

Irish warmblood. This is a brand-spankin' new registry. Read about it at http://www.irish-warmblood.com/

What I love about Irish horses -- from what I've read and seen -- is the emphasis on function over extravagance and good character. While they're bred primarily for jumping, some of them look like they could be used in dressage. Anyone know of any Irish horses making their mark in the dressage ring?


Irish Draught Horse: A horse for all seasons

Irish Draught Horse Society of North America

Irish Draught: The argument for conservation

Irish Draught Horse Society

Irish Draught resource guide

New warmblood horse studbook for Ireland from Horsetalk.co.nz

Row looms over launch of warmblood register

What is an Irish sport horse exactly? from UK's Horse and Hound

Irish sport horse coop from Farmer's Journal

The Irish Draught Horse: A History
by Mary McGrath, Joan C. Griffith Collins Press

Irish sport horse association of America


  1. I have had the pleasure of riding many Irish horses when I lived and worked in Ireland at an eventing yard.

    They were the most talented, and beautiful horses I have ever sat on.

  2. I enjoy your blog and have great respect for Irish horses. No muss, no fuss horses.
    I am distressed by a news item on yesterday's BBC broadcast that has horse rescue as the only growth industry in Ireland.
    Many horses are being abandoned due to the economic downturn. There are horses foraging for food in sparse conditions. The difference between horses and dogs is that down and out horses are sold for human consumption in Belgium and France and shipping conditions are atrociously inhumane.
    You have a lot of followers and maybe someone can get some awareness going through other news contacts or something. I will try to find out more myself.


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