Use and characteristics of the Irish Sport Horse
The Irish Sport Horse was created from crosses of the Irish Draught Horse and Thoroughbreds. Also sometimes known as the Irish Hunter and the Irish Draught Sports Horse, when equestrians buy an Irish Sport Horse they know these powerful warmbloods have nearly two centuries of selective breeding behind them. The Irish Sport Horse developed after WWII from earlier crosses of Irish Draught and Thoroughbred, with the addition of some Trakehner, Hanoverian and Selle Français lines in the 1990s. Irish Sport Horses stand 15 hands (60 inches/152 cm) to 17 hands (68 inches/173 cm) high.
Origin and history of breeding Irish Sport Horses
The Irish Draught Horse, which is the foundation of the Sport Horse breed, was always more of a utility type than a true draught horse. Strong enough to work on a farm yet attractive enough to ride on the social round, draw a carriage and go hunting, the Irish Draught was a powerful, clean-legged breed with a handsome head. They were also good jumpers across country, facing up to the demanding banks and ditches of the Irish countryside effectively. Thoroughbreds played a part in the creation of the Irish Draught from the beginning. In the middle of the nineteenth century, a line of Ulster horses known as the Harkaway Horses, descendants of a Thoroughbred stallion called King of Trumps and Irish Draught mares, were famous. The Irish Draught was in risk of decline after the famine of 1847, and subsequently Clydesdales and Shires were brought in both to work the land and to cross breed with the Irish Draughts. In the early years of the twentieth century, the Irish Draught Horse had developed into a distinctive hunter-type that was also an invaluable cavalry and artillery horse. The Book for Horses of the Irish Draught Type was established in 1917, and the breed gained its own society in 1976. Irish Draught cross Thoroughbred horses were known as some of the finest hunters in the world throughout the twentieth century. It was important that the Irish Draught type retained its qualities and was not absorbed into other breeds, since it is the ID cross with the Thoroughbred that creates the excellence of the Irish Sport Horse.
Irish Sport Horses in equestrianism
Leading Irish Sport Horses that have competed successfully at international level include US eventer David O’Connor’s gelding Custom Made, winner of Badminton and member of the gold medal winning team at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Special Envoy, ridden by Rodrigo Pessoa, was a highly successful show jumper, winning many international Grand Prix events. He was also a member of the gold medal winning team at the 1995 Pan American Games. The grey Shear L' Eau was highly successful with eventer Leslie Law, winning Bramham in 1999, being twice in the top three at Badminton, and taking team gold at the European Championships.