As one might imagine, the good natured Draught Horse present in the bloodlines of the Irish Sport Horse make it an easy breed to work with.
This horse does well as a family horse, including for young riders, but it also excels in the show ring.
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The breed is renowned for being courageous, eager to please, and a quick learner.
Horses with a higher element of Thoroughbred blood can be on the spirited side, though, so these particular horses are usually better for more advanced equestrians.
Irish Sport Horse Conformation
Irish Sport Horses stand about 15 to 17 hands and can weigh over 600 kilograms. The model horse will be muscular, with balanced proportions and very well-defined bones.
A long neck leads to a head with a slightly convex face profile and large ears.
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This breed can be found in just about every colour, save for skewbald and piebald. Most commonly, black, grey, chestnut, brown, and roan horses are seen, but there are Irish Sport Horses with more exotic champagne, cremello, and perlino coats too.
The Irish Sport Horse in Competition
There have been many famous Irish Sport Horses at the upper echelon of competition, especially in Eventing and Jumping.
Piero D’Inzeo and his brother Raimondo, of Italy, won an Olympic Individual Jumping silver and a world championship, respectively, aboard two Irish Sport Horses, The Rock and Gowran Girl.
Twenty Olympic, FEI European Championship, and FEI World Equestrian Games™ medals have been won in Jumping competition on Irish Sport Horses, including two each by Kevin Babington and Dermott Lennon of Ireland and most recently, two by Rich Fellers of the USA aboard Flexible.
In Eventing, the Irish Sport Horse has enjoyed similar success, including an Olympic Team silver by Pippa Funnell of the UK and Supreme Rock, an Olympic Team gold by Frank Ostholt of Germany, paired with Mr. Medicott, and two Olympic Team silvers for Australia by Clayton Fredericks with Ben Along Time and Megan Jones with Irish Jester.
All four winners of the 2008 Olympic Team bronze medal from Great Britain also rode Irish Sport Horses: Mary King with Call Again Cavalier, William Fox-Pitt with Parkmore Ed, Daisy Dick with Spring Along, and Sharon Hunt with Tankers Town.
Owning an Irish Sport Horse
Irish Sport Horses aren’t typically difficult to keep, and the biggest concern for most owners is finding a mount that matches their ability, energy level, and time commitment to training.
Beginning riders should look for a more docile, slightly less excitable horse. And all potential owners of this breed should make sure they have the hours or riding staff necessary to give this horse as much exercise as it needs.
Because this breed is predominantly Thoroughbred, it may require high-energy feed, especially if training hard. Otherwise a conventional diet of hay and grass, with a bit of grain and vegetable is sufficient.
These horses are not known for any veterinary problems or congenital issues. In fact, this sturdy breed offers owners a typical lifespan of about 30 years, which gives lovers of the Irish Sport Horse many decades of advancing through the ranks and close companionship!
Words by Patricia Salem