Dáil Éireann - Volume 247 - 03 June, 1970

Horse Industry Bill, 1970: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Mr. T. O'Donnell: This Bill is a logical consequence of the report of the survey team which examined the horse breeding industry. The team was set up by the Minister's predecessor in 1965 and subsequently a report was issued in 1966. It is an interesting document. Looking at the proposed legislation and having read the Minister's speech it appears that this Bill is generally in line with the recommendations of the survey team. In the short time during which I spoke last Wednesday, before reporting progress, I was referring to what I regarded as the most important aspect of the Bill. Having looked over it again and thought about it I am absolutely convinced that the key to the success of this [350] Bill lies in the composition of the board which the Minister will establish under its provisions.

The Minister mentioned that there were many interests to be consulted and that it would be his aim as far as possible to give representation to as wide a spectrum of interests as possible. The Minister has selected 11 as being the most workable number to constitute the board. I do not know how he arrived at that number but the number of members is not as important as their qualifications. I sincerely hope that the Minister will be completely objective in appointing members to this board. Bad precedents have been set by the Fianna Fáil Government in their approach to the appointment of members of various State-sponsored boards. It has been said on many occasions on this side of the House—and it cannot be denied —that it appears that the political record of the appointee is the most important consideration. In many cases State boards have been packed with people who were known and active supporters of Fianna Fáil.

Looking at the report of the survey team and particularly at the long list of bodies and individuals submitting views to that team I realise the difficulty with which the Minister is confronted when he comes to select the 11 people to comprise the new board. In view of the fact that the aim of the new legislation is to assist the small breeder who is traditionally the small or medium sized farmer, I believe that farming organisations, particularly the National Farmers' Association, should be consulted and, in fact, there are good grounds for advocating that they be given actual representation on this board.

I do not intend my remarks with regard to the board to be in any way malicious but I want to warn the Minister that the setting up of this board will be watched very carefully and the Minister will have to be prepared to meet considerable criticism if he is not totally objective and does not endeavour to the best of his ability to appoint the best possible people.

The Bill has three main objectives. [351] In addition to the establishment of a board of persons it makes provision for the licensing of riding establishments and the setting up of a national training centre. There are other miscellaneous matters contained in the Bill.

The traditional source of hunters and show jumpers has dried up in recent years mainly due to the mechanisation of farms. In the past, particularly in the south of Ireland, in addition to dual purpose cows many farmers kept dual purpose horses, that is to say, horses that were equally adaptable to the saddle and the straddle. Many farmers kept the type of horse that they could hunt in winter and use for farm work in summer. I recall in my young days on a farm driving a pair of horses pulling a mowing machine and riding one of them to the local hunt in the wintertime. With mechanisation of farms, horses have become very scarce. The need for working horses on the land has been greatly reduced. It is a rare thing now to see farm machinery being pulled by horses. Horse breeding will have to be operated as an additional sideline and some incentive will be necessary. In the last couple of years I have noticed that a few farmers—not very many—have been going in for this type of business as a sideline. In other words, they keep a brood mare solely for the purpose of breeding hunters. This is particularly the case in the hunting areas and especially in my constituency where there is a great tradition of horse breeding. Near my home there is the famous pack, the Scarteen Hounds, and there are other packs in Limerick which is a great hunting area.

If people are to be encouraged to breed hunters and show jumpers, it will have to be as an additional line of production and must be made attractive.

I am particularly interested in the implications of this Bill for tourism. I have had some experience of tourism promotion. I have been abroad and in Britain on a number of occasions on tourism promotion missions. I am well aware that there is a market for [352] hunters. There are increasing numbers of tourists coming to this country who are interested in having a day's hunting. I have been reliably informed by travel agents and persons engaged in the tourist industry here that the market would be greater if there were more horses available. There are two or three farmers in my constituency who have five or six hunters that they hire to tourists and others on a daily basis. I am also aware of the fact that inquiries from travel agents and others abroad have had to be turned down because there were not sufficient horses available.

I have gone into the economics of this business. The keeping of hunters for hire can be lucrative if properly carried out and provided the horses are kept in top-class condition and that proper liaison is maintained between the person keeping the hunters for hire and the local tourist interest.

Pony trekking is a tourist activity which is growing in popularity. I know of two cases, one in the Galtee area and one in the Newport area of the Shannonside region where private individuals provide facilities for pony trekking. One young man in Newport, between the borders of Limerick and Tipperary, is developing a very successful business in the hiring of ponies for this purpose.

The Bill, therefore, has implications for the tourist industry. I sincerely hope that when the board is established and the legislation comes to be implemented there will be a considerable increase in the number of persons who keep brood mares for the purpose of producing hunters and show jumpers.

Deputy Cosgrave and others referred to the fact that hunting depends on the goodwill of the farmers over whose lands the hunt takes place. As one who is very familiar with hunting I want to say that members of hunts, and particularly visitors and tourists participating in hunts, should not lose sight of the fact that hunting can take place only with the permission and co-operation of the farmer. I hope the board will keep this in mind. The farmer's property and his rights should be respected.

[353] I have seen hunts coming in the month of February or January into a farm on which there was a large herd of dairy cows in calf and they galloped right through that herd of cows. Hunts can do considerable destruction on reseeded pastures, and so on. If there is mutual goodwill and respect for the farmer's rights, hunting will continue.

In regard to the provision for the licensing of riding establishments, I want to say that there are a few riding establishments in the Limerick region and there are others in Clare. A good deal of development has taken place in the Shannonside region, mainly from a tourist point of view. I sincerely hope that the Minister will not attempt to implement the licensing arrangements for these establishments too quickly or too drastically. I accept the need for certain basic standards and so forth but those already in existence should be given a chance to bring their establishments within the scope of whatever rules and regulations will be laid down by the Minister under the Bill.

The third major objective of the Bill is the establishment of a national training centre for the training of show jumpers and so forth. This is a welcome development and it is necessary if Ireland is to maintain her name in the international show jumping scene and carry on the great tradition of former Army teams and riders who had considerable success abroad. When Deputy O'Donovan was speaking here on Wednesday he mentioned Limerick Lace, one of the most famous Army jumping horses, and other horses who won trophies all over the world. He mentioned Commandant Finlay but he omitted to mention two riders who were closely associated with that great era in Army jumping. One was Major Jed O'Dwyer and the other Captain Cyril Harty. We in Limerick are proud to claim them as Limerick men.

The situation now has undergone drastic changes. With the change over to mechanisation in the army and to motorised squadrons and so on, keeping an Army show jumping team operational is becoming virtually impossible. The logical thing seems to be to have mixed Army and civilian [354] teams. The decision to have teams comprised of Army officers and civilians was not very well received in certain quarters. There may have been a certain amount of sentiment involved because it is a wonderful spectacle to see a number of Army teams parading in the arena and to see them participating in the various events.

We have to be realistic and face facts. In future our aim must be to produce the best international show jumping teams we possibly can. Every effort must be made to ensure that the horses and their riders receive the best possible training we can afford. The proposal in this Bill to set up a national training centre appears to me, at any rate, to be a good one. I am very hopeful, indeed, that it will lead to considerable progress and that we can look forward to having Irish jumping teams competing successfully at international events.

When we come to Committee Stage there may be certain clauses in the Bill which will require amendment or discussion in greater depth. I welcome the decision to implement the recommendations of the survey team. I sincerely hope that the implementation of this legislation and the setting up of the new Bord na gCapall, as I presume it will be called, will have the effect of putting the horse-breeding industry on a sound foundation.

Mr. J. Lenehan: I certainly welcome this Bill because, coming from an area where the horse was very common at one time—but with the way things are going now it appears that he will be as extinct as the Red Indian in Manhattan—I should certainly like something to be done to improve the horse-breeding industry. On the other hand, I do not think it is necessary to keen like a banshee. The horse can be kept in circulation. Today the horse must be one of the most valuable animals in the world.

In a day and age when the horse could be a tremendous asset to a great many people for some extraordinary reason these people are failing to breed horses. Probably one of the reasons is that they are pretty well off without having to invest in horses. I often [355] wonder if these people realise that, while calves and lambs and other animals like that are inclined to die pretty rapidly, the horse has a tremendous survival capacity and that if they bred horses, they would be much better off than they now are by breeding sheep and cattle and other animals.

Deputy O'Donnell said that the horse must be a great asset to tourism. In the south of Ireland a great many farmers have a horse and caravan. They advertise them. They have quite a good time themselves with the colleens they bring out in the caravans with them, if I am not mistaken. They are a tremendous attraction and it is a reflection on us in the west of Ireland that we have not gone into this business because it could be big business and very big business. Foreigners like to see these caravans with the horses jogging along the roads. In the west the roads are much better than many seem to think. For some reason in the west of Ireland the horse has been going over the top.

If this Bill does anything to improve the situation in the horse-breeding industry it will be worthwhile. I welcome the Bill and I know that any Deputy from Mayo will welcome it. There are other animals to be considered as well. You would not see a mule or a jennet today if you travelled all over Europe. The donkey has practically disappeared and nothing is being done about that. There are many asses knocking around but I do not know about donkeys. We are losing sight of reality in a great many ways. I know that introducing the ass into this Bill is slightly out of order but he is not so much different from the horse if you take the cross off his back. Nothing is being done in connection with these matters.

We have given all kinds of subsidies, and so forth, for cows and pigs but we have lost sight of the animals from which a great many of our people could really reap a fortune. I do not know how far this Bill will go along the road towards redeeming that loss but I fear it is not going far enough. It will at least mean a turning-point, however, and we shall probably be able [356] to bring back the horse and, with it, a few animals of its calibre.

For every horse in west Mayo 20 years ago, I doubt if there are four today. It is a pity. The horse, the mule and the donkey are valuable animals and they are disappearing just as fast as the horse.

I congratulate the Minister on his introduction of this Bill which is the first measure he has brought to this House in his new role of Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. I trust that, in a few years, we shall be able to come back here and tell him that he did the right thing. Horses are disappearing in the west of Ireland and we wish to see them restored there.

Mr. Kavanagh: I come from a part of the country that is separated from the horse industry in Kildare by a range of mountains and, up to now, I have never had very much to do with horses. There is a great opportunity in the tourist field for the horse industry. The Minister could have included in his speech the number of horses being used in this country every year for the drawing of caravans which is very popular, particularly with British tourists. In my county, a well-known tourist county, horse-drawn caravanning is becoming increasingly popular. I would urge some form of registration of caravan centres so that the horses and the people who use the caravans will be known to the authorities. It is obvious in some instances that the people who hire a caravan know little or nothing about horses and how to treat them. It is desirable that people hiring out horse-drawn caravans would be responsible to a board such as this for the proper care and treatment of horses that draw the caravans. Undoubtedly, this is a great tourist attraction but it should not be abused by anybody for short-term gain. It is essential, too, that the horse is the right horse for the job. Sometimes it would seem that the number of people in the caravan is too high. In a very hilly county, there is some cruelty attached to making one horse draw, perhaps, six adults and a van up a steep hill.

Apart from owners, trainers and breeders of horses, I would hope that [357] jockeys and stable people, and so on, would have a representative on this board to put forward their point of view. These people are vital in our horse industry—vital to its continuance and expansion. Their views are important. While some jockeys are quite famous and wealthy there are others who make just an ordinary living out of the horse racing industry and who need a body such as this to look after and strengthen their interest in that industry. I was speaking recently to a prominent jockey who was good enough to lend his services to a charity walk in my area. As we were walking along together, I asked him about the industry. He said that the most worrying thing to jockeys is the fact that little heed is taken of their pleas for amenities and safety facilities on certain racecourses. This body should cater for the safety of people such as jockeys and should ensure that horses are adequately looked after. At the racecourse in Clonmel recently, several horses had to be destroyed. The matter received much publicity. One jockey lay on the course for up to 20 minutes before an ambulance could remove him. In that time, considerable damage could have been done to him which, fortunately, did not happen. There was no ambulance there ready for such an eventuality.

There are other courses in the country which are dangerous and have not adequate facilities for accidents. The jockey to whom I was speaking considered that not enough was being done to look after the safety of jockeys and, indeed, the safety of horses, some of which are very valuable. People must enter their horses at certain race meetings and must use these courses in order to make a livelihood but they know very well that when they put their horses in for races on at least four or five racecourses in this country there is a grave danger that an accident will happen. Over the weekend we saw from the newspapers that certain fields were very small for large sums of money in the region of £700, £800 and £900, first prize. Trainers would not race horses in these races because of the type of courses that were being used. They considered them dangerous for their animals. In hard going such [358] as there is at present these courses are undoubtedly dangerous because they are small and they are sharp and if an accident occurs it can prove fatal to the horse and very injurious to the jockey.

I just want to speak on these two aspects and to bring them to the notice of the Minister. I feel he should have somebody on the board to speak for jockeys and for stable lads and people working in training establishments so that their views can be put forward where they will be listened to and where note will be taken and something can be done to improve their positions and see that the dangers which exist on racecourses throughout the country are pointed out to the people who run them and so make horse racing less dangerous and more pleasurable not only for those watching but also for those who take part in it.

Mr. Cooney: The constituency which I represent has within it every facet of the horse industry. In County Westmeath such horses as Hethersett and Vaguely Noble have been produced—classic winners on the flat; Mr. What has come out to win the Grand National and the champion hunter in Ballsbridge has come from Longford-Westmeath. We know about all the problems of the horse-breeding industry in Longford-Westmeath. We are pleased to see this Bill introduced in an effort to remedy some of the problems in this industry and to put it on a sounder footing.

I consider that the industry must be examined under two main headings— the production of horses and then the use, promotion and sale of horses. With regard to the production of horses the Bill is intended to deal mainly with non-thoroughbred horses. Non-thoroughbred horses, in effect, are hunters and the traditional Irish hunter is a cross from a thoroughbred sire out of a draught mare. It is that type of horse that has won renown for the Irish hunter. To ensure that that type of horse continues to be produced it is necessary that there should continue to be a stock of suitable draught mares, that is, pure-bred Irish draught mares. The Irish draught mare is regarded as the common working [359] horse because, unfortunately, the breed of the Irish draught has become mongrelised over the last 20 or 30 years or even longer by having too many Clydesdales and hairy-legged horses of that type at stud in this country with the result that it is quite difficult now to get the clean-limbed traditional pure-bred Irish draught.

One of the first duties of this board must be to devise a way of ensuring that the Irish draught breed, as a breed, is restored to full strength because until it is and until we know that it is and until we know that there is an adequate supply of good quality pure-bred Irish draught mares the breeding of hunters must be in danger. To get an adequate number of pure-bred draught mares will be difficult for the simple reason that the man who would normally keep a draught mare, the farmer, no longer has much interest in keeping her unless he is a man with a taste for a horse and likes to have a horse around the place and possibly has some specific work for a horse to do. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on one's point of view, mechanisation on the farm has overtaken the horse and the number of men who are prepared to keep a draught mare are getting fewer and fewer. Consequently there will have to be incentives and the only incentive that counts is money. Coupled of course with keeping the pure-bred mare, if the foundation stock or the basic stock of draught horses is to be maintained there will have to be draught stallions kept at stud. One cannot continue to keep pure-bred draught mares unless one has pure-bred draught stallions to produce them and there will have to be an incentive there as well and again it will have to be a cash incentive. The survey which is now four years old or more suggested a premium of £5 to the stallion owner on service, a further £5 on the production of a live foal and a premium of, I think, £15 or £25 to the owner of the mare on foaling. That is a good premium for a man who is interested in the horse and wants to have a horse around his place but it is not good enough to encourage somebody who has parted with a horse to [360] bring back a horse around his place. Twenty-five pounds will not do it. The board will have to look at the incentive that they will give to ensure that the pure-bred draught mare is kept because without pure-bred draught mares it will not be possible to produce the traditional Irish hunter.

The report also mentions as one of the things this board should do the opening of a stud book for draught horses. When I speak of draught horses I speak of the pure-bred Irish draught because the term has been used carelessly to indicate any sort of working horse. When I use it I want to refer only to a pure-bred Irish draught. The stud book is essential if this breed is to be maintained and strengthened. The foundation mares to go into that stud book will have to be most carefully chosen and the country will have to be literally searched for them because an effort has been made in that direction at the autumn show in Ballsbridge by having a class for Irish draught mares.

The quality of the mares displayed in that class has been questionable. The mares were not Irish draught mares but half-bred mares and if that type of animal is to be put in as the nucleus for revitalising the draught breed, then a mistake has been made. There are good quality draught mares In Ireland but they will have to be searched for and possibly taken out of the comparative obscurity of some parts of County Leitrim and County Longford where such mares still exist. The owners will have to be made aware of the importance of the stock they own to the future of the horse industry.

The board will have to exercise extreme care in putting the proper type of mare into the stud book. There is a system of registration being maintained by the Department whereby it is too easy to have a draught mare registered which is not up to scratch. Appendix D of the survey report gives the number of exhibitions arranged for mares, county by county. It gives the number of mares presented and the number of nominations awarded. There are startling differences from county to county. In County Meath, [361] for example, 48 mares were presented and 44 got nominations. In Tipperary, North Riding, which is a horse county, 225 mares were presented but only 97 got nominations. There may have been a more selective judge down in that part of the country, but when a small number of mares are presented there is a temptation not to send anyone home with an aching heart, and so, to my knowledge, mares of bad conformation have got premiums. That is something that must be avoided in the future. It is essential for the draught horse that only the very top quality be let into the new stud book. When you have the draught mares you are in a position to produce the half-breds. The traditional cross is the thoroughbred horse and the draught mare and that has produced satisfactory hunters for generations back.

I do not know how stallions are purchased by the Department, which is the purchasing agent, or what standards are applied. In my county a horse would go to stud on the farm where hunter stallions are traditionally kept and to whom the draught mares and halfbred mares would be sent. Often the horse has a very fashionable blood line. What is needed for breeding hunters is a horse with a good conformation for cross country jumping. This question of the breeding of hunters is one to which the board will have to address its attention. There is no point in putting to stud a horse to produce hunters unless he himself is of a type that will beget a big animal, a strong, well-made animal. A leggy failure as a two year old will not produce anything worthwhile. The quality of the mares should be ensured by having available fair numbers of draught horses and by placing proper stallions at various locations throughout the country.

Deputy Barrett mentioned that there has been an alarming infertility among this type of stallion and I am not surprised. One factor which leads to infertility in stallions and in mares is the environment in which the stallion and the mare are kept. A direct factor in environment is the number of mares left to a stallion in the season, and particularly how the stallion is maintained out of season. It is not unusual [362] to have stallions as a sideline in a place that is not properly geared to have a stallion and to look after a stallion during the off season. Very often, too, in a country place there might be only the man of the house with the knowledge to look after the stallion and if he is busy on other farm work the stallion can be neglected. This matter of faulty environment can lead to infertility in stallions.

I hope the board will take up the recommendation of the survey team that during the off season the stallions leased by the Department should all be taken back to the National Stud and maintained and then let out again for the new season. That would be very important in ensuring that stallions are kept up to standard and that infertility will not result. There is not a lot we can do about infertile mares except organise a campaign of education in relation to hygiene and the use of veterinary services by the farmer. It is very disappointing to a farmer, even with the premium, to wait for the required period and then find his mare is not in foal at all. This kind of blow to a farmer that might be coming back to horse breeding might drive him away from it again. The farmer should be made aware of the importance of providing the proper environment for the mare to produce a good foal. The proper way of breeding the Irish hunter is by crossing a thoroughbred with a draught mare and that presupposes that there will be a never-failing supply of draught mares. There have been draught mares up to now because farmers have found them useful. Even in these days of mechanisation farmers retain them, but generally the man who retains a mare is a man with a taste for horses, who likes to have a horse about the place. I have no doubt he will find that for a lot of winter work, if he has cattle out he will do less damage to his grass than if he does the same job with a tractor. There are many useful jobs a horse can do around the farm.

The number of people who want to keep the draught mare is falling and it may reach the stage where even the best work done by this board will not make available the number of mares [363] needed to provide the hunters for the horse industry generally. The Horse Board may have to consider some genetic experiment to see if a breed to be called, say, the Irish hunter, can be evolved. I know the survey report very firmly sets its face against half-bred stallions because it is afraid of mongrelisation, and rightly so, if they were to be allowed stand indiscriminately. However, it must be remembered that the thoroughbred horse evolved fairly quickly from a pure Arab breed imported from the East and crossed with the rough local cob, and that within a few generations, by dint of selective inbreeding, the thoroughbred evolved, and evolved so quickly that after about 50 years, at a time when there was much less scientific knowledge than there is nowadays, there was no comparision between the size, looks and conformation of the then thoroughbred and its Arab ancestor.

Perhaps it might be possible for the National Stud to carry out a genetic experiment to see if a breed, coarser than the draught, could be produced. It would solve the problem of having to maintain a foundation stock of draught mares. I do not know if this is genetically possible but I can see no reason why it should not be attempted, under carefully controlled conditions, in the National Stud. It would solve many problems and could be the start of a very lucrative industry for this country.

The thoroughbred industry is in a healthy state because the rewards are great and any industry that produces good rewards will thrive. I do not know if Bord na gCapall intend to have much to do with the thoroughbred industry—they are not excluded from dealing with it in the Bill. They cannot have any function with regard to the sale or export of thoroughbred horses and that is fair enough because this matter is looked after quite well at the moment.

We are inclined to think only of thoroughbred flat horses when we mention lucrative rewards. However, this country has a tradition of breeding national hunt horses and this branch [364] of the sport is developing and has become more popular in the past few years. Larger crowds attend hurdle meetings both in England and in this country and the prize money is being increased all the time. That has been reflected in the prices being paid for the chasing-bred horse in this country, the store horse and the horse that shows to advantage in a good-type maiden hurdle. Frequently those horses are bred, not by high-powered financiers, but by farmers in the Midlands and in Counties Waterford and Wexford. This kind of breeding requires and deserves encouragement. It is possible that the increasing prices available for these horses will provide the encouragement but we want also to encourage more people to go into this kind of breeding.

The difficulty, however, is the length of time the breeder must wait before he knows he has a mare capable of producing winning national hunt horses. The time involved may be too long, he may have sold the mare before he realised her true potential or he may have been going to national hunt-type stallions because he could not afford to go to the high-class stallions. The person may be lucky enough to pick a stallion which suddenly becomes popular and whose stock starts to win races. The difficulty in regard to the national hunt stallion is that very often he is an old horse before his name is made. The small breeder does not get the opportunity of going to the horse that will sell his stock. If he is lucky enough to have a mare and to know that she can produce winners he can go to an unfashionable sire. If he has a young mare, perhaps with winners in her background, he may not be able to afford to go to a highly-priced national hunt horse and he has no alternative but to go to a young unknown sire.

I should like to see a scheme in operation whereby the name of a national hunt sire could be made earlier; the only test is to get a horse on to the racecourse and in the event of a win the horse's name is made. However, if a national hunt sire goes to stud for the first number of years he gets half-bred or draught mares and [365] the odd thoroughbred mare. If he gets a few good mares the stock may win races. I should like to see a scheme whereby when the Department lease a stallion of this type he could be assured of getting a mare that has bred winners or comes from a good winning line. The man who owns a winning mare will not want to go to a new sire but to an established sire. This man will have to be compensated to a fairly large degree for going to an unknown national hunt sire but that is the only way in which a young sire's name can be made known. The number of sires in this country known in England is very small. Invariably when they are examined they are found to be standing at studs where it is impossible to give them mares likely to produce winners.

Throughout the country there are numerous sires which could produce winners if good quality mares were available. In my county there was one such sire called Richard Louis who died when he was very young; however he was lucky in that in his first few years at stud he got good quality mares and had winners early in his career. It became obvious that he was going to be a first-class sire and he proved that with the thoroughbred mares which were sent to him. There was also another horse called Blue Cliff which, if one is to believe all the breeders in the area, must have been the hardest worked stallion in Europe. This horse got half-bred and draught mares but very few thoroughbreds but he did get some winners. I have been speaking to a well-known trainer who is anxious to buy thoroughbred Blue Cliff horses because he thinks this horse was a sire of immense potential under national hunt rules but did not get the chance.

If we wish to satisfy the growing market in England for national hunt horses we must have more sires that are known to be capable of getting winners and the only way is to give these horses in their early years at stud proven, high-quality mares. We must realise, however, that an owner cannot be asked to send a valuable mare to an unknown horse unless he is well compensated. This aspect of the [366] steeplechase breeding industry will have to be examined carefully by the new board.

I am not dealing with the flat racing breeding industry because this is well looked after. The lucrative rewards obtained ensure its continued success and the tax position is satisfactory enough to ensure that high-class stallions will be kept at stud in this country. It does not matter very much whether a horse is headlined in the papers as being Irish-bred because breeding nowadays is international. Ragusa was hailed as a famous Irish-bred horse but his dam was bred and raced in America, she was covered in Italy and she dropped her foal in Ireland—Ragusa, therefore, became an Irish-bred horse. We need not be annoyed to read of English horses winning races when, in fact, they are Irish-bred horses; it does not matter any more. Horse breeding at that standard is now international.

There is one aspect to which I should like to make a passing comment in relation to the National Stud. The system of allotting nominations is beyond reproach and above suspicion. I shall say no more.

Another matter to which this board will have to direct their attention is the sale of non-pedigree horses. At the moment the farmer has considerable difficulty, and very often he is not properly compensated for his work, in breeding and rearing these horses. A farmer may show such a horse at the agricultural shows and hope someone will put an eye on him or, if that fails, he will bring the horse to the October fair in Ballinasloe. The business is a very hit-and-miss one. It is not designed to encourage a farmer to breed half-bred horses. Farmers who breed horses want to be able to sell those horses. The market is uncertain and the business is a troublesome one. I do not know how the board will overcome this difficulty. Possibly there may be regular sales by auction at established centres to which those interested in half-bred stock could come and bid as they do at Ballsbridge for pedigree stock. There will have to be an immediate implementation of a registration system. This is strongly [367] recommended by the survey team and I have no doubt the board will implement that recommendation. That will make it possible to identify these horses so that buyers will know if they come from reliable breeders. There would be no point in organising sales unless customers could identify what they were buying.

Deputy O'Donnell paid tribute to farmers for their generosity in allowing people to hunt over their lands. I should like in particular to pay tribute to the farmers in my own constituency of Longford/Westmeath. There are four hunts in the constituency and the generosity and hospitality of the farmers there is without parallel. The hunts respect the farmers' rights and the farmers recognise that if a mearing is damaged more than it should be or a bit of fresh grass inadvertently galloped over that is accidental and not deliberate. It is something which occurs in the excitement of the chase. Relations are good. Long may they continue to be so.

Deputy O'Donnell mentioned cases of hunts galloping through a herd of dairy cows. I think he was possibly exaggerating. It may be that visitors from the United States may offend in this manner, but these are the people Deputy O'Donnell wants to encourage. If what he complained about did happen then it is a shame. This is one of the dangers in encouraging too many visitors. It is something that will antagonise the farmers. Big fields are difficult to manage and are therefore more likely to do harm. I would not be too keen on encouraging that type of tourist in large numbers. Large numbers might prove very lucrative for a man with suitable horses, but there should be some control. It should not be open ended.

I do not know how the functions of the new board will tie in with those of the Racing Board. It would appear from the Bill that the functions would be wide enough to ensure overall control of the industry. One of the most important parts of the industry is horse racing. There is quite a degree of dissatisfaction on the part of some racecourse executives with the Racing Board. I should like to draw the Minister's [368] attention to Kilbeggan racecourse. Last year the Racing Board announced—I think it was to the Press; certainly it was not to the racecourse executives—that five racecourses would be closed. They did not say that in so many words; they said they would withdraw their subsidies and the racecourses would have no alternative but to close; if the Racing Board withdraw their financial help no racecourse can carry on.

The five racecourses concerned were Kilbeggan, Wexford, Ballinrobe, Laytown and Tuam. The first intimation the Kilbeggan executives got of this proposed move was when the chairman was phoned by the Daily Mirror asking if he had heard the news. On inquiring he found that the Racing Board had, in fact, made this announcement. At the time, 1968, these five racecourses had cost the Racing Board £6,000. Two of the courses had cost £4,000 but they would not say how much any one racecourse had cost or what the loss was on it. Kilbeggan is over 100 years old. When the present committee was formed in 1955 the racecourse was in a poor way. It actually owed £300 to the Racing Board.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The board established under this Bill will have very definite functions. As the Deputy said, the Racing Board has definite functions. There may be co-ordination but the Chair would not like the House to deal with matters which are the function of the Racing Board.

Mr. Cooney: Judging by the wording of the Bill, this will obviously be a superior body in the horse industry. Possibly the most important part of that industry is horse racing. I do not think I am straying outside the scope of the Bill at this stage.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair would refer the Deputy to section 7 which deals with the functions of the board. I am sure the Deputy will have an opportunity of dealing with this on Committee Stage, if it is relevant.

Mr. Cooney: I have not very much to say about it, but it is relevant to the fact that this board will have overall [369] control and when the Minister comes to make his regulations what I have to say may assist the Minister in making his regulations. I want to point out the way in which the Racing Board have acted to the detriment of the horse industry with which this Bill is concerned.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair is still in some difficulty in regard to how far the Deputy intends to go in this direction on the functions of the Racing Board.

Mr. Cooney: If the Chair will listen for a few minutes he will realise——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair wishes to ensure that no precedents are being created by listening.

Mr. Cooney: I do not think anybody would take a novice as making a precedent.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: If the Minister accepts the fact that there is this situation at present——

Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries (Mr. J. Gibbons): I am told that the reference to racing is not really relevant.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Minister says he is advised that references to racing are not relevant to this Bill.

Mr. Cooney: I shall accept the ruling of the Chair.

Mr. J. Gibbons: The racing end of the horse industry, as the Deputy will appreciate, is already very well catered for and it is not contemplated that the board now proposed will have any direct function in the matter of horse racing. They may interest themselves in racing but they have no direct function in the matter and therefore I think the Deputy's remarks are not relevant to the measure before the House.

Mr. R. Barry: Will the Dáil get any opportunity of discussing the proposed withdrawal of grants from the racecourses mentioned by the Deputy?

Mr. J. Gibbons: That would be a matter for the Minister for Finance. [370] The Department of Agriculture have no function in that as far as I know.

Mr. Cooney: Would the Minister not agree that in drafting his regulations he will have to settle the position of Bord na gCapall vis-à-vis the Racing Board and that some connection between the two is absolutely unavoidable?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Perhaps the Deputy could deal with this on the Committee Stage. The Minister feels that matters pertaining to the Racing Board cannot be dealt with on this Bill. The matter of withdrawal of grants which Deputy Barry raised is dealt with by the Department of Finance. We are moving beyond the scope of the Bill before the House.

Mr. Cooney: I accept the Chair's ruling but I did want to make it very clear to the Minister that Kilbeggan racecourse has been very badly treated by the Racing Board.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy has made the point.

Mr. Cooney: It is absolutely essential that an equitation centre should be established. This should be one of the priorities of the new board. Because of television show jumping is now possibly the leading summer spectator sport and when a sport commands a following of that size it moves into the big money bracket. Our horses would be involved and we want to ensure that some of the financial rewards will find their way back to the farmers who breed the horses and that some of the prize money will find its way to this country. The only way to do that is to make sure that our standards of horsemanship and horse traing are capable of meeting the most severe international competition. This can only be done by providing the physical facilities of a centre, plus the very best technical instruction. No money should be spared in ensuring that these are available because, apart from the actual direct financial rewards in terms of prize money and increased value of horses, the performance of our horses will be an advertisement without parallel. We cannot afford to waste advertising of that nature.

[371] Apart from show jumping the centre would also have to deal with three-day eventing. Our team in the Olympic Games was most unfortunate in that there was what can only be described as a monsoon in the middle of the cross-country event. We should ensure when we take part in international events of that status that our performance will leave nothing to be desired if we really mean to hold our place as a premier horse breeding country.

It is provided in the Bill that persons giving instruction at riding establishments that are to be licensed will have the necessary skill and ability. I suppose the Bill must be rather open but who is to lay down the standard of skill and the qualifications of the instructors? This will cause some difficulty. It is provided in the Bill that on appeal against the revocation of licence the Minister can direct an inquiry to be held by a practising barrister of at least ten years standing. I know many barristers and very few of them would be qualified to hold an inquiry of that kind because of the technical evidence relating to the care and management of horses that would be involved. Provision should be made for the appointment of an assessor to sit with the person holding the inquiry.

The Bill is welcome and I hope the board will come into existence as soon as possible. I do not think that members of the board will, as Deputy O'Donovan suggested, expect to be paid for their services because there is provision for them to delegate to committees. I could not envisage them having to give such hours of service as would necessitate payment. I think provision for their expenses is quite adequate. I gathered from the Leas-Cheann Comhairle that various things I wanted to say in regard to the different sections may be raised on the Committee Stage.

Mr. Keating: I want to add my voice to that of Deputy Cooney in welcoming the Bill in general. It is important for us to recognise that, although it is difficult to make precise economic predictions in the matter of the non-thoroughbred horse, the prospects [372] are now extraordinarily good particularly with the growth of television to which Deputy Cooney referred and with the growth of such things as three-day eventing and the importance of the equine section of the Olympic Games. If this is coupled with growing leisure throughout the world and with relatively higher standards of living and more spending money, we face the prospect of many millions of people wishing to be not just onlookers but participants in a sport that is coming to be recognised as complex and satisfying and in every way magnificent.

With this prospect of an immense and continuing growth in all equestrian sports and with growing participation in them, we find ourselves uniquely located in a world sense to supply what must be a rising demand. This is an extraordinarily fortunate situation for us but one which places great responsibility on us and requires planning. In this context, I think the work of the survey team is to be commended for their recognition of the importance of this industry in Ireland and its immense potential for growth and the forward-planning and care that went into what is, by-and-large, a valuable report.

We are, then, devoting thought and planning to something that almost certainly for the Irish countryside will be profoundly important and in economic terms of growing importance as years go on. A larger section of farmers' incomes—although it is already significant—in relation to thoroughbred and non-thoroughbred horses, a growing section of rural income will come from this sort of agricultural activity and the figure the Minister quoted, £5 million, is one we can expect to increase quite rapidly and steadily.

If we look at the evolution in Ireland of—I am not going to talk about race-horses—what might be called sport horses in a general sense, whether show horses or hunters or children's ponies or three-day event horses it has been largely a fortuitous one and it has been based on a number of circumstances which no longer apply. If one goes back to the period before the independence of the State, it was a very [373] important military role as a source of cavalry horses in this country which gave an economic base and a direction to the breeding of a certain sort of horse. That, of course, does not exist any more.

Then, we have this extraordinary wealth which it is impossible to put into terms of pounds, it is impossible to quantify—the deep knowledge and the deep love and deep feeling of identification that exists all through the Irish countryside. The extraordinary feeling for horses that Irish people have is amazingly valuable in terms of being able to produce good stock in the right numbers.

As a practising veterinary surgeon and as someone who has worked with horses in other countries, it is very striking to me how far superior in their feeling for horses even the average Irish employee in any way related to horses is to the comparable person in other countries who has not the affection, the insight and the love of his work that makes Irish horse-minders so good. This is an historical accident. The tremendous interest in horses may have been imprinted on us at a time when the vast majority of the population were forbidden to own a horse above a certain quality. It may be this that has made us so deeply interested.

It may be that this disgraceful ordinance of the past has left us a useful residue of care for and interest in horses. This is an enormous wealth but the other circumstance that was of great value to us is one which is also changing. I refer to the farmer who kept one or two mares, probably only one mare, the Irish draught mare, who could work the land, go to town, hunt, produce a foal to a thoroughbred stallion, an animal that was a hunter and a very desirable sort of creature. This section of our population is disappearing fairly fast anyway and utilisation of horses on farms is, of course, disappearing too. It is regrettable but it is a fact.

Therefore, I think it is desirable to urge on the Minister the consideration of ways in which the keeping of what we will call an Irish draught mare should be made more financially desirable. I do not mean simply by [374] means of premiums, although the premiums are useful, but we have witnessed a circumstance where all over the country due to the pressure of advertising and due to the pressure, indeed, of emulation, farmers have mechanised beyond in many cases what is strictly economically justifiable and where it would pay them better on a certain scale to have a thoroughbred draught mare.

An interesting line of investigation that I know of is being carried on in France where the same problem came up. It is in fact, State-aided research to provide modern designs in relation to machines, ploughs, all sorts of implements, carts, but for use with horses.

We are using implements now which are nothing like as modern or as efficient as they could be and there is interesting French work on this and I should like to see some initiative from the Department to see if it would be possible to employ modern techniques and modern materials in the construction of agricultural machinery for use in conjunction with the horse.

We can expect—and I think we ought to expect—to be the world capital of horses in the future. We have the climate, the tradition, the inclination, the know-how, if we take the right organisational steps at Government and at industry level and there is nothing that can stop us doing this. This, then, would be the obvious place to locate the construction of the sort of implements which would be efficient, modern and much cheaper than the tractor operated machinery but it would be of value, not just in Ireland, but in other parts of the world as well, particularly in developing countries, because we have seen a rush with tremendous commercial pressure behind it into mechanisation, when, in fact, often it has not been economically justified. We could use research, investigation services, the methods of popularisation and economic investigation, all the methods of persuasion we have to indicate to farmers over and over that they would be better off keeping a mare, getting a good foal and being able to do a number of jobs on better economic terms with the right sort of mare, that she would pay better than by doing it with machinery.

[375] The thing that is worrying is that the base of the breeding industry of the pleasure horse, while it is still extraordinarily wide in Ireland—and this is the source of our strength—is none the less narrowing fairly rapidly. The number of people who keep the Irish draught mare is becoming fewer and our real wealth is the man with an eye for a horse, the man who picks a stallion that would fit well with his horse, the man who really does a foal well. To the extent that we possess many tens of thousands of such people, we are sure to continue turning up good horses. If that base narrows then we get into the position where it becomes a big industry for a smaller number of people and this, of course, is undesirable from the point of view of putting money back into the countryside but it is also undesirable from the point of view of the continuous improvement of the quality of horses.

So that, the fortuitous situation that until the turn of the century we were a very important source of horses for the British army and that we have, because of the structure of our rural population, the tradition of the draught mare being spread out through the whole countryside, are things that are disappearing and it, therefore, makes the task all the more urgent to restructure the industry. We cannot depend on the fortuitous or largely fortuitous circumstances that gave us our eminence in the past and we cannot depend, in fact, upon the persistence of that eminence. We must be a little disturbed. While we are delighted to see Irish horses showing up, for example, in the jumping teams of Italy and Switzerland we have to be impressed by the emergence of the German pleasure horse, an extraordinarily high quality, extraordinarily well-made in terms of human training, an extraordinarily successfully produced animal based on a tradition different from our tradition of crossing a farmer's working horse with a thoroughbred stallion.

I am speaking in this context as a veterinary surgeon, as someone who has taught the examination for soundness of horses in a veterinary school. I should like to make a plea for more [376] research in the whole horse area because the sort of eminence we must aim at is that we must be the best in the world in this area. That is a perfectly possible objective circumstanced as we are in this country.

Therefore more and more we must be completely au fait with world research on thoroughbreds and all sorts of horses. We must not just read other people's research and transfer their findings to Ireland. We must be at the forefront of development. I say this as a member of the profession. Not solely, but primarily, this research should be the task of the veterinary profession. I owe part of my professional education to an organisation that has existed in Britain for many years. It is now called the Animal Health Trust. It runs scholarships and it also runs an equine research station and has done so for many years at Newmarket. This is a small and semivoluntary body. It has some State support but most of the money is contributed voluntarily. The work done at Newmarket by the Animal Health has spread far beyond Britain and has been of great value all over the world.

People associated with horses are often a bit unscientific and sometimes a bit anti-scientific, indeed. Nonetheless we can as little escape the impact of science on horses as we can escape it on any other area of human activity. At the moment our equine research is being carried out partly by people in the veterinary schools and partly in the Agricultural Institute. Equine research should be clarified and unified and strengthened in this country because, if we are to be the best in terms of the product, we have no option but to be the best in terms of the back-up science, whether it is of a disease prevention nature, a genetic nature, a nutritional nature, or whatever.

We are very fortunate in Ireland in that the sort of snobbery that attaches itself to riding horses in other countries is almost non-existent here. Riding horses and being interested in horses is not confined to a tiny sector of the population, generally a rather snobbish and unpleasant section of the population, as it is in other countries. This is of great value to us and we can build on it because we can draw on [377] a whole population both as horsemen and as horse breeders. As people become a bit richer their range of sporting and recreational activities spreads. We have seen this happening in regard to boating, for example, and I think we can expect to see it happening in regard to horses.

It is already very widely based in Ireland but it seems to me to be very important that we should plan and act in such a way that all sorts of equestrian sports are made available to the whole population. This sport is fairly readily available in the countryside and it should be available in the cities as well. Therefore, while it needs tact and consideration and the ordinary awareness of people's problems in its introduction, the suggestion about the licensing of horse riding establishments is a good one. Its introduction would have to be worked out, but the suggestion is good from the point of view of the protection of the public and, speaking as a veterinary surgeon, also from the point of view of the protection of horses. There is a tiny proportion in any uncontrolled and growing public activity of this sort, in any country, at any time—this is no stigma on Ireland or on the present—who may be careless or neglectful with effects that are adverse to the image of horse riding establishments. The various Government Departments have shown themselves to be quite human and well-behaved in regard to licensing other things and I think this ought to be done, as soon as it can be introduced, in a humane way.

I want to say something about the problem of the Irish draught because in the past we based ourselves very much on the tradition that tens of thousands of farmers had in their mind's eye what the Irish draught ought to be. We can depend on this less and less in the future. I agree that conformation is important in horses. It is more so in horses than it is in other domestic livestock. In the end performance is the thing, and not conformation. From somebody who has been involved with horses all his professional life, this may seem like sacrilege but it is true. It is more important that a horse should look nice than that a dairy cow should look nice. If [378] you are producing a show jumper the important thing is that he should jump. If you are producing a racehorse the important thing is that at the end of the race he should pass the post in front of the others.

I think we are coming to the time when we cannot make progress in providing guaranteed performers, whether it be for show jumping or three-day events or whatever, without many more records. We do not know much at this time about breeding for these things in the way people know or claim to know about breeding to get a “mile and a halfer” or a 'chaser. Without identification of the animal and the accumulation of records we cannot go on to a more rationally based and scientifically based programme. This seems to me to be central if we are to offer to the whole world not just magnificent conformation or good bone but also good performance.

The other interesting thing is the experience in Europe about the production of what one might call pure strains or pure breeds, not really distinct breeds but pure strains which are not thoroughbreds and which are not working farm horses like the Irish draught or the Clydesdale but which are specifically bred, both stallions and mares, as pleasure horses, as riding horses or show jumpers. There are arguments against a rapid evolution in this direction in Ireland. We have great capital and something extremely valuable in the existence of the Irish draught. I am not for one moment suggesting that we should get away from that.

I am suggesting that we would lose nothing if, in parallel and on a very limited scale, as we have done for example with some breeds of cattle, we investigated how some of these European pure breeds of pleasure horses would acclimatise themselves to this country and how they would do in our circumstances. I should be interested to hear the Minister's opinion on whether this is a valid line of development. It is something we certainly ought to be looking at because there are experienced people in Europe who believe that the future of the pleasure horse lies with some of these special [379] strains when you are looking for extraordinary docility and controllability, when you are looking for the horse to deal with the big jumps and the tiny spaces of the modern show jumping arena. We must at least look at this line of development and keep in contact with the evolution in European countries and also to some extent in the United States or we may be left out. I am not counterposing this to the Irish draught which I am sure in the lifetime of the vast majority of people here will remain the backbone of our pleasure horse production.

This is a place where we might open our options and look at other possible lines of development. A national training centre is necessary. Without a place that builds up very great expertise and very great traditions of the highest technique and method, one does not get to the forefront in the training of man and horse at a time when such qualities are used all over the world in the production of highly trained horses. The day when an experienced man and a good horse could, of themselves, come to the forefront in international show jumping is gone. Compared with the 1930s, other countries have gone ahead of us in this regard. A national training centre is, therefore, a good concept.

It is very important to keep the breeding, training and enjoying of horses spread through the largest possible section of the community. We must not let it become the sport of a geographical area or particular income group. We must have the participation of people who are not rich enough to put a horse in a box, drive 200 miles and stay away from home for three or four days. While we need a national centre located in one place where the pinnacle of technique, tradition and know-how can be accumulated, we need a bit of geographical spread as well: we need some subcentres. If we build it all into one centre, we should be differentiating in favour of the rich: we should be narrowing the base of our industry and making participation harder for the ordinary working farmers who are and always will be the backbone of this industry.

[380] It is necessary to reconcile the spreading of the industry with the need to attain a pinnacle at a single centre. I do not say that centres should be spread at the same level throughout the country but offshoots of subdivisions are desirable in different geographical locations. We must marry our profoundly fortunate position of a widely-diversified interest in and knowledge of this industry with a very high technique and with the ultimate that one can get in modern science.

With a common language among the vast majority of our people with that spoken in Britain and in the United States and with immense interest in our horses among the British, the Americans and people as far away as Japan, I believe a very retrograde trend in the breeding of our thoroughbred horses is evolving. I believe we are seeing the evolution of groups who are becoming dominant in thoroughbred breeding who have very little roots in Ireland and very little concern for Ireland. This is dangerous. While people are welcome to come here and to breed horses here, the control must remain in Ireland. We must have good scientists, good stud managers, good breeders, good geneticists, good veterinarians, and so on, if we are to achieve the pinnacle of quality which is so desirable and necessary. We must have experts of every sort. We must have highly expert people who are as good as the best, or who are the best, in the world. To the extent that we let the control of the industry out of our national grip, we run a risk in all of these areas. I shall not pursue that trend in thoroughbred breeding which is more apparent there than in the breeding of pleasure horses. The stakes are greater in the breeding of the classic thoroughbred horse.

In the past quarter of a century, the value of the pleasure horse of good quality three-day type is increasing. The prize money is going up and up and commercial sponsoring is going up and up. There are vast television audiences also. In other words, it is rapidly becoming a very big business. Therefore the composition of the board is crucial. It would be nice to say that, in the choice of persons, Ministers had [381] always acted out of a desire to get the very best possible people but it would not be true to say so. On the other hand, I do not suggest that boards are packed with reliable nonentities who get there on the basis of services rendered. Sometimes Ministers have behaved well and sometimes they have behaved disgracefully. When they behaved disgracefully, the industry suffered long after they had gone. We shall watch with very great concern to see whom the Minister nominates.

It is essential to maintain the control among Irish people because it is by participation in this sort of work that people get to the level of knowledge and expertise that can build the future of the industry. Therefore, this is a very crucial decision and without making comparisons with the past or giving specific instances I would urge the Minister, as strongly as I can, to be guided by professional competence and no other consideration. Since it has been decided that the board must be filled by ministerial nomination and not in another way, in what I might perhaps consider a more democratic way, I want to urge the Minister to listen to the existing professional experts, the existing participants, the people actually involved in the industry. I would like to see a mechanism by which, as distinct from consultation, the actual right to select was diversified a bit and taken out of the Minister's hands. I would like to see that in many instances where people serve either in a voluntary way or for small remuneration on boards of this sort but that is a large and general discussion. I do not think the method of ministerial consultation and then ministerial nomination necessarily gives one the best people. Very often it does not but I am not now raising the question of a change in the method by which people are put on the board. I am urging the Minister to utilise the present mechanism in a very cold-blooded and ruthless way to ensure simply that the industry, which is of growing importance, will be served by the best possible people regardless of who they are.

I want to close by reiterating the point that, in fact, the source of our [382] strength is the widespread nature of interest and knowledge and commitment on the part of our population and therefore the primary consideration should be to keep the horse breeding industry and the whole industry of the utilisation and enjoying of pleasure horses as widely dispersed through the population as possible, to resist the tendencies which are obvious—because one must base oneself on sophisticated and expensive techniques and a very high level of science—that therefore one must do this with a small number of big producers and in single centres. We need diversification and we can get the science and the sophistication while keeping the broad base and while guaranteeing that the control of the industry remains in the hands of a very large number of farmers who have been its sustenance in less good times and whose expert knowledge is, in the long run, the only guarantee of the future success of the Irish horse industry.

Sir Anthony Esmonde: I welcome this Bill very much indeed and my remarks will be directed largely towards the subject with which I am most familiar—that is the half-bred horse. Thirty or 40 years ago this country abounded with good half-bred horses with plenty of bone and not too much weight. With the gradual evolution and changing of times the demand became greater for the thoroughbred horse. As far as the official aid and sustenance towards horse breeding went it was largely towards the development of thoroughbred horses. For a variety of circumstances the weight-carrying hunter, which I regard as being the ideal half-bred horse, gradually disappeared. In the first instance, mechanisation did away with the horse population here. Secondly, the demand was changing. Twenty or 30 years ago this country was full of weight-carrying hunters, with very fine bone and a good deal of quality in them. Then the demand across the water, where we exported a great number of horses, changed. A different type of hound was bred, a faster moving hound, and what was demanded was a horse that could gallop but not necessarily jump. There was also a different type of [383] person going to hounds. Before there were the traditional fox hunters, perhaps living most of their lives in the country but now there was the rich business tycoon or the higher executive who was well able to afford to keep a horse somewhere in the country and motor down from London to go hunting. He was looking for a thoroughbred and nothing else and the tendency then was towards breeding these blood horses. The net result of that has been that the weight-carrying hunter which has a wider scope than any other kind of horse has largely disappeared. For that reason I welcome this Bill. I welcome anything that will aid, abet and assist the production of something for which there is a marketable demand.

Anybody who has a decent weight-carrying hunter today can command a big price for him but I want to stress that in the horse-breeding industry the middle-man derives the benefit rather than the person who is actually responsible for producing the material. There is another factor too—a small farmer breeding horses finds himself in the difficulty of trying to run young horses with other stock. Anybody who has bred horses on a limited amount of land—I found myself in that position at one time—will know of the unsatisfactory situation of seeing young horses chasing his milch cows in calf around the field. Unless a person has a considerable amount of land, with the increasing value in cattle and livestock generally, it is not as economic for him to breed horses as it was in the past. North and South Tipperary, Clare—a very good horse-breeding centre—Wexford, Kilkenny, Carlow and Cork have had horses bred by small farmers. That is not happening today. For that reason a board is necessary to deal with up-to-date conditions and to arrange a situation whereby it will become economic to breed such horses again.

I was very interested in Deputy Cooney's speech in which he showed a wide knowledge of the subject. He drew attention to the fact that the original thoroughbred horse developed from the Arabs crossed with other [384] breeds and was gradually built up into the racehorse we have today. Probably he could trace back the pedigree of Nijinsky which won the Derby today to the Arab breed, like every thoroughbred horse.

In Ireland we are particularly able to breed a good type of horse and a good type of hunter. We are able to produce, too, hunters which can jump. It is a fact that if one has a horse for sale which has hunted in Ireland he is a better seller than a horse that has never done so. For that reason I am particularly in favour of this Bill and particularly in favour of the aspect which it encourages, the maintenance of the horse-breeding industry here and the production of a horse that will carry weight. It is possible to breed a horse here on a limited size farm from a thoroughbred mare and a good, expensive stallion and get a squibbing return. I am sure the Minister knows the meaning of the squib but in case he does not I will enlighten him. A squib, to my mind, is a thing that would carry 12 stone just by virtue of his blood and nothing more. If a horse makes a mistake with 12 stone on his back and he is barely up to 12 stone down he goes. This brings me back to the rich business tycoon or the higher executive who is hunting today. What he wants is a horse which will carry him safely and will not go down with him. For that reason it is the 15-stone horse. When I myself hunted I never rode at more than a little over 12 stone but I always rode a 14 or 15-stone horse if I could get one, because I knew if he made a mistake he could recover and he would not put me down. As well as that to come into the draught breed one is much more liable to get a horse of economic height which is a minimum of 15.3 hands.

Another reason, apart from mechanisation, why our horses have largely disappeared here from the point of view of breeding, is that at one time there was a considerable number of what used to be called troopers, that is, horses that did not measure up to the economic height I have been talking about, and these could be obtained in those days at a reasonable price. That [385] type of trade does not exist any longer. We must concentrate as far as we can on the pleasure horse, the type of horse mentioned in the Minister's opening speech. The pleasure horse is the pony, and in the United Kingdom as a whole there is now a great interest in riding among urban dwellers. There are riding schools all over England and innumerable pony clubs in which people are riding. These wealthy people absorb the greater part of the marketable produce that was originally bought by a different type in the community. These people are teaching their sons and daughters to ride and are doing it through the medium of pony clubs. It is only natural they should do so. As urban dwellers they have not the advantage we have in Ireland where we have only to go into a field to ride a pony. They can be kept there at practically no cost whatever and children can learn to ride. That is the origin of pony clubs. I note in the Bill and in the Minister's speech that there is encouragement to look in both directions.

The thoroughbred industry will never suffer at the hands of the half-bred industry. If you take up a newspaper very often you will see that a horse which has won a race was by so-and-so, pedigree of dam unknown. These are horses which originated from the draught, maybe with five or six crosses of thoroughbred, which are quite capable not only of winning a race but of carrying weight as well. I remember quite a few years ago when a horse called Master Robert won the Grand National there was a terrific hullabaloo in the newspapers—the newspapers are always looking for news and more power to them—because Master Robert had ploughed in his youth. There is no better training for a horse than the plough. That is one of the tragedies of today, that all ploughing is done by mechanisation, even on small farms. Originally a great many of our horses came from small farms. They were broken to the extent that they were ploughers. Then they were sold, went through several hands and eventually became famous horses. One of the Minister's colleagues, Deputy Barrett from Clare, mentioned that very often horses that had been bred by small [386] farmers became famous racehorses. There was no real trace of their breeding, no knowledge of the particular dam from which they had been bred or the strain from which they had come. Therefore, the original owners did not benefit.

One of the functions of the board should be to give publicity in regard to breeding. There is such a thing as the book. If a horse is a thoroughbred the particulars are recorded there and it must be proved that he is of Arab strain. It is desirable that the board should keep a book as far as they can or some form of information so as to enable those who breed our horses to get the benefit. One of the exports we can considerably increase in Ireland is that of our horses. We do not always get the credit for them. Unless a horse is actually trained in Ireland it is often not recognised as being an Irish horse. The Grand National is surely the greatest test of a horse over fences. It is nearly always a horse of Irish origin that wins that race. Many of these horses come originally from Ireland. They have been reared here and as a result of the limestone land that is available in so many of our counties, they have developed that good flat bone which gives them the weight carrying propensity as well as the ability to gallop.

Therefore, I welcome this Bill and I hope that when this board is set up they will have as representatives on the board people who are interested in breeding. I would appeal to the Minister further that there should be on that board people who have originally bred horses, no matter who they may be. There is no reason why the Minister should appoint people who have 400 acres of land and have kept horses over the years. There should be at least one representative on that Board who comes from a small farming community, from some county which has been notable for breeding horses. I am trying to think of a good county and it is extraordinary that Wexford comes to my mind. I do not specifically ask the Minister to consider Wexford but there should be a representative from the small farming community who understands the breeding of horses, from among small farmers who in [387] many cases make sacrifices for the love of the horse breeding industry itself apart from what they make out of it. They will be in a better position to advise the Minister than anybody else.

Another feature in the Bill that interests me is in relation to farriers. Even before the last world war it was extremely difficult even in hunting countries to get more than one or two farriers who were competent to shoe horses well for point-to-point racing and for hunting itself. I know in the area in which I then lived—and I used to hunt regularly—there was only one farrier within a radius of 15 miles and if one went out over heavy ground it was difficult for the horse not to lose a shoe. I am not so much in touch with it now as I was then, but I am sure the difficulties in that respect are much greater now than they were then. It is possible one would have to put a horse in a van and transport him 20 or 30 miles to ensure that he would be properly shod. The proper shoeing of a horse is very important. Bad shoeing leads to every sort of trouble around the hoof, to lameness and so on and considerably reduces the efficiency of the horse generally.

It is difficult to get farriers to shoe horses nowadays. Many farriers, have started to work on the repair of machinery. I do not think the suggestion of teaching people the trade in technical schools or elsewhere would be very successful. This trade is traditional and the board should be encouraged to find out exactly how many farriers are still operating. They exist in the larger racing centres, of course, but there is no difference in shoeing a racehorse or shoeing a hunter except that for the former the shoes are somewhat lighter. The Minister should encourage the board to compile a list of farriers and they should be employed as instructors to teach other people.

The provision of riding schools should be encouraged. They are found in large numbers in the United Kingdom and, if we had the necessary number of riding schools available in this country, tourists from Britain could be encouraged to come here on holiday especially at off-peak holiday time. By [388] doing this we would help those centres that hire out horses and also help to augment our tourist industry.

It has been mentioned that some of the people who come here have little or no understanding of the problems of farmers. However, one does not have to deal with non-nationals to meet people who do not understand farmers' problems. As leader of a hunt, it has been my experience that in the matter of the proper care for farmers' lands the worst offenders are those who should know better and in some cases those offenders are farming themselves. I do not know if Bord na gCapall have any function in this matter but perhaps they might see to it that hunts are fully controlled and that it is obligatory on the hunts to protect the land of the farmers. All people who hunt in Ireland owe a debt of gratitude to the farmers and I am glad to pay my tribute to them in this House. It should not be forgotten that the farmers are the most sporting members of the community. The Minister might draw the attention of the board to the desirability of ensuring that the field master of the hunt should have full authority to see that the farmers' lands are not interfered with.

Mr. Creed: We are a horse-loving people and the Bill is accepted generally with satisfaction. According to the Minister's statement this industry is worth £5 million but we have only scratched the surface. I have no doubt this figure could be multiplied many times if we gave the industry the attention it deserves. This is the first board the Minister has set up since his appointment as Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. I hope he will not use the same yardstick as that used by his predecessor in the establishment of boards and that the 11 members to be appointed to Bord na gCapall will be people with a knowledge of the industry, a knowledge of the rearing, breeding and training of horses.

The Minister has a wide field from which to select. This Bill is to co-ordinate the efforts of the various boards which dealt with this industry to date and for this reason I welcome it. Like other speakers, I appeal to [389] the Minister to select people for this board who have the proper qualifications, and I am sure the industry will thrive if this is done. I hope that the Minister will select people who have been involved in the organisations that have heretofore been dealing with this industry.

I do not come from a constituency famous for its stud farms but I do come from an area that was noted some 20 years ago for its large number of farm horses. However, their number has diminished rapidly in the interim. Perhaps it could be said this is the price one pays for progress but on the other hand, if the industry was developed properly it could supplement the income of the farming community, particularly the small farmers. Twenty or 30 years ago many people made a comfortable livelihood by engaging in the business of breeding and rearing horses, but nowadays one could travel to many farms and not find any horses. In the past people took pride in being regarded as good judges of horses but I think it would be difficult to find 2 per cent of the farming community at the present time who could tell a horse's age by opening its mouth. The horse has had to take second place as a result of the mechanisation of farms.

The contribution this industry can make to our export trade is considerable. Ireland is the home of horse-breeding and nobody can question our ability to breed and rear good horses. This country is known far and wide as the breeding ground of excellent horses. It has a world-wide reputation. Because of that we should appoint to this board only those with an intimate knowledge of the industry. There is a General Council of Committees of Agriculture and that is an organisation that should be represented on this board. So should the various farming organisations.

Deputies on this side of the House have paid tribute to farmers who allow hunts over their lands. Great credit is due to these farmers because without their co-operation this sport would come to a standstill. There are some who may not appreciate the disturbance a hunt can cause and they may [390] be a little critical of those farmers who lay down certain conditions before allowing the hunt through, but the co-operation of the farming community is most important. Many of the farmers affected cannot themselves afford to engage in this sport and, from that point of view, their co-operation is all the more praiseworthy.

One of the main purposes of the board will be to encourage owners to keep good stallions. In the past breeding was haphazard. The old Clydesdales have disappeared and all the emphasis now is on the Irish draught horse. In my county there was a good deal of inbreeding because people did not appreciate the advantages of good breeding. There is still a good deal to be learned. Farmers should be encouraged to keep good Irish draught mares. The mares are the foundation of the industry. With good stallions and good mares it should be possible to produce excellent progeny. There should be a centre with stallions on show. That would encourage the owners of mares to look for a better type of stallion. The National Stud should be the shop window of the horse breeding industry and there should be some kind of prestige stallion on show there.

Some years ago pony trotting was very popular in my constituency. There were shows and gymkhanas which attracted tourists. The trotting pony is now practically non-existent. The new board should examine the prospects of reviving this industry. There is a great potential in the horse breeding industry, but the proper people must be appointed to the board. There is no reason why all types of horse breeding should not be revived. Horses are no longer required for farm work because of increasing mechanisation but there is no reason why farmers should not breed horses and in that way, farming incomes could be supplemented.

I have some reservations about boards set up by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, though I welcome the proposal here. There is the disadvantage that, when questions arise in connection with the operations of these boards, the Minister says he has no function in the matter. What representation will the Minister's Department [391] have on this board? I want to pay tribute here to the survey team which did an immense amount of work in examinig every aspect of this industry, consulting the various interested groups both inside and outside the country. Their work should not go unnoticed. It is as a result of their work we are here now discussing this measure.

On behalf of this party I wish to pay special tribute to them. When appointed they set out to examine the horse industry in all its aspects and make recommendations for its further development. They covered a very wide field and it obviously took considerable time and energy to do the job. Because of our tradition of producing excellent horses and our capacity in the training and breeding of horses the survey team explored every avenue available to them before making their report and credit is due to them.

The Minister mentioned the problem of the farrier. The old village smithy no longer exists. The job is very hard. I wonder what the Minister would suggest to the board in order to ensure that this occupation will not die out completely. Even in the farming community it is very difficult to get a blacksmith to shoe a horse. I discussed this recently at a meeting of Cork County Committee of Agriculture and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries recommended that a mobile forge be set up in different counties. Our problem in Cork is that farm horses still exist but blacksmiths are no longer there. This is a problem the board will have to tackle because the farrier's work is highly skilled.

It is very difficult to get young people now to serve apprenticeship to a blacksmith. I know that stud farms and training centres have made their own arrangements about blacksmiths. In my own area, where you had competition in the blacksmith's business in every village and fair-sized town ten or 15 years ago, some of the farmers in that area now must travel ten or 20 miles to get a horse shod. A young blacksmith is very rare and if the present decline continues in the future [392] as it has in the past there will be no blacksmiths. The Minister should bring to the attention of the board the seriousness of this problem.

In 1961 in County Cork we had 26,700 horses of all types. In 1969 that figure was down to 14,200. This indicates the way in which the horse industry is dying out. On a national basis, from June, 1968, to June, 1969, there was a drop of approximately 9,000 in the horse population. This is an alarming decline and if it is allowed to continue it will be very difficult to revive the industry. My reason, as I have said, for contributing to the debate is to point out to the Minister that it is necessary that the board should be established immediately and set about its task. The Minister will have the full support of the House for its establishment.

Mr. R. Barry: Like all the Members who have spoken I welcome the Bill and its provisions. Before discussing the Bill briefly I think on this day it is only right to put on record our appreciation of a great Irishman and a great horseman, Vincent O'Brien, and congratulate him on his success at Epsom this afternoon in training Nijinsky, winner of the Derby. Apart from our horses, their nature, stamina and their world-wide reputation, were it not for men like Vincent O'Brien the horse industry here would not be as well known internationally as it is today. The Minister will agree that the performance of this horse and jockey and of the trainer, particularly—we congratulate the owner also—did something that serves our horse industry well.

Deputy Creed referred to the alarming decline in the horse population. Like him I felt until a year or two ago that the horse industry as such was going through a very difficult time but recently I believe people generally are becoming much more interested in horse breeding throughout the country. I think with this Bill and the setting up of the board to co-ordinate the industry this decline can and will be arrested. I have been, like Deputy Creed, rather critical about the setting up of boards. I always thought we had [393] a multiplicity of them and I still believe so. The temptation is for a Minister or Government to set up a board to tackle any problem that arises but in this case I entirely agree with the Minister and the Government in the view that it should be done immediately.

I should also like to join with other Members who have spoken in congratulating the survey team on their excellent report. They obviously went into great detail and they must have spent considerable time in their investigations. It is to their credit that the present Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries believes that many of their recommendations should be implemented. We should now have no delay in setting up this board.

The Minister believes that 11 members is the ideal number but I cannot agree that is sufficient. There are many different organisations interested in horse breeding throughout the country and, in fairness to them, all of them are doing an excellent job in their own way in their particular fields of endeavour to promote the horse industry. When you have so many organisations of that kind and so many more, such as the one referred to by Deputy Creed, the General Council of Committees of Agriculture, I think a more realistic number for this board would be 15. I hope the Minister will consider this. Even if there were 15 members I believe there would still be disappointment among organisations not represented. A board of eleven is too small. A board of 15, including the chairman, would not be unwieldy in view of the fact that they were dealing with an industry which should be tackled in the most serious manner because of its great potential value to the country.

Provision is made for the licensing of riding schools. It is a good thing that riding schools should be licensed. My only fear is that too many riding schools will be set up. It would be much wiser and better for the horse industry generally, having regard to the limited number of instructors, if the number of riding establishments were limited. For instance, in a county like Cork there could be seven, eight or possibly ten and possibly half that [394] number in a county like Kilkenny. I make that suggestion because if there are too many riding schools licensed the job will not be tackled properly. The riding school is the basis for the whole future of horses and riders. I am delighted that nowadays many more young people are riding ponies. These young people come not only from the country but from cities and towns. Riding is a very healthy exercise and boys and girls should be encouraged to take up riding. I do not know where the necessary number of instructors will be obtained. That problem should be a first priority of the new board. They should take all steps to encourage instructors to take up positions in riding schools.

We can look back with pride to the jumping teams, both Army and civilian, who represented us at home and internationally with such distinction. It is important that training should start at an early age. Otherwise, potential talent will be lost. We would hope to have in another year or two a really first class international team of horses and horsemen to represent the country abroad.

I have already referred to the composition of the board and appealed to the Minister to extend the number. While not dictating or suggesting who the members should be I would suggest that he should ensure representation of small breeders. Many farmers are rearing horses in order to supplement their earnings on their small holdings. They should be represented on the board.

I should like to place on record my appreciation of the great service to the horse industry given in the last ten or 15 years by the Show Jumping Association of Ireland. After the last war the horse population was very small. It was then that the Show Jumping Association of Ireland was formed. Since then, without much publicity, the association has been doing trojan work in the encouragement of show jumping, gymkhanas and so on and have done a great deal to keep agricultural shows in being.

One of the first problems to which the new board should address itself is the question of agricultural shows. [395] These shows experience financial difficulty. Cattle and sheep interests do not support the shows to any great extent. The ponies and horses still attract public interest. Encouragement, financial and otherwise, should be given to all show jumping associations as a shopwindow of the horse industry.

While appreciating the Army and civilian jumping teams, it must be remembered that it is combinations like Tommy Wade and Dundrum that made this country world famous and that brought delight to our people. Dundrum was produced by a crossing of horses in a farmer's holding. I am glad that the Minister has said that one of the important objectives of the Bill is the development of non-thoroughbred horses. This is the most important reference in the Minister's speech. Those engaged in the throughbred industry have the necessary finance and expertise to carry it on but encouragement and incentives must be provided to those producing non-thoroughbreds.

When cattle and sheep are so dear it is difficult to convince the ordinary farmer, who is a hard-headed businessman, that to maintain a mare and rear a foal is good economics. It is generally believed that an average size horse would eat as much grass as three cattle. However, more farmers are now coming to believe that there is less risk in rearing foals than in rearing calves. We are depending on the small breeder to keep the horse industry going.

We in this House should record our appreciation of the many sporting farmers who allow hunting over their land. Very often damage is done to fences with consequent damage to crops by the straying of cattle onto a cornfield or tillage land. Farmers deserve our highest praise for allowing hunting over their lands. I should like to make one suggestion with regard to hunting. More often than not the fox will travel the same course. The hunt, therefore, will travel the same course and this may cause annoyance to a farmer on successive or alternate Sundays. It should be possible to encourage farmers over whose land the hunt regularly travels to arrange for [396] some kind of fences or gaps with a spar over them where the hunt could do little damage, leaving the fences intact. I have not made that suggestion before. I put it forward now so that, perhaps, some day, someone on the board may find it useful. A great deal of annoyance to farmers and landowners could be eliminated by that simple arrangement. I come from Fermoy, where there is a well-known stud which has benefited the horse industry to such a large extent. Within a few miles there is Cahirmee, where the fair will be held shortly. This is an annual event and horses from all over the country are bought and sold. Within a few miles on the other side there is the famous Tullow horse fair. This is also an annual event at which the same thing occurs. On behalf of all those who are so interested in the horse industry it is only right that my voice should be heard here appealing to the Minister to get on with the work of setting up this board. I assure him that we fully appreciate the importance of the horse industry. We wish him every success and we will co-operate with the board he appoints to keep the sport of kings going in this country.

Mr. Taylor: This Bill is of particular interest to everyone as well as to those engaged in horse breeding because in the Phoenix Park, or in Connemara, or in Clare, most people have a liking for horses and ponies. It has taken five years to publish this report and to get all the data into this little book. This information is coming to us rather belatedly. Since mechanisation was introduced into this country after the war there has been a gradual decrease in every county in brood mares. Despite the best interest and the best activities of the Department and the branch dealing with the horse industry, the numbers of horses and brood mares have steadily declined. I cannot understand why there has been this delayed action on the part of the Government. It is difficult to revive an industry whose foundation stock has been depleted. I would agree with the previous speaker who submitted that the finances of the people engaged in the thoroughbred [397] industry would permit them to invest the necessary sums of money to buy the proper type of stock and the proper sires.

I have a particular interest in hunters. I have an interest in the foundation stock again, the Irish draught mare. In Clare the farmers would not part with a good brood mare for any price. We produce the finest hunters in this country. Probably the best horse fair in Ireland is held in Kilrush because of the fine type of hunter we have produced in that area. I hope the new board will consider every means of encouraging farmers who own brood mares. They love the horses but financial considerations cannot be set aside when someone is trying to make ends meet.

The committees of agriculture in every county should be given the finances by the Department and the necessary finances should be channelled down the line to the different organisations who promote and encourage horse breeding. The promotion of shows is one of the best ways of displaying our best stock. If the prize moneys were increased there would probably be greater competition and a greater incentive to display the best stock.

Identifying good stock has been referred to already. It is impossible at the moment. If you have a good hunter or a good show jumper at a fair it will have changed hands several times from the foal stage on and it is impossible to know its breeding. Whether we decide to tag them or anything else, there should be some definite means of identifying them. There were three famous horses from my area Shaefel, Mr. Softie and Stroller. They are now distinguishing themselves in international fields. Unfortunately, they were not bought for our Irish Army Jumping Team as I would have liked. It is imperative to have some means of identifying our best stock. I wonder why the Departmean have overlooked this marking before.

We have the great fair at Spancel Hill and the famous fair of Kilrush and we have buyers from America, the Continent, Northern Ireland and [398] Britain. They should be encouraged to come here. Some years ago we established a tourist attraction called An Tostal. It was described by some journalists as something which was promoted in our monsoon period. We encourage golfers to come here, and others, to swell our tourism takings. We should encourage horse buyers to come here. If we increase our stock and if we raise the standard of our stock, we must not forget the marketing of those animals.

We are inclined to overlook the people who should get a share of the credit for the quality of our horses down through the years. I refer to the private owners who selected the best sires in the different classes, in the thoroughbred classes and also in the half-bred stock and the Irish draught. I should like to compliment the officers of the Department who certainly brought in very good sires. That has been responsible in no small way for the high standard of the progeny. We cannot over-rate the selective taste of the sire owners who produced the young stock by the selection of the proper sires.

When the Minister is selecting the members of the new board he should not overlook the owners of sires who showed their interest in the horse industry down through the years. They must have a place on the board. I refer particularly to the owners of sires in my own county. Their information would be invaluable to the other members of the board.

Riding schools should be encouraged in every county. There are two in Clare. Both are successful. We have people from the States and from European countries coming into Shannon annually. They are tourists who immediately see the advantage of this attraction.

A riding school is a social amenity in any area. It deserves the same financial support as Bord Fáilte would give towards development of any form of tourism. Because of the availability of horses for hunts as well as those available at riding schools, tourism has definitely been on the up-grade. The Minister should give every consideration [399] to family labour involved and to people who pay instructors who are engaged in the provision of this unequalled attraction. We cannot overlook our wonderful riders throughout the country who school and properly train our jumpers. We have had many distinguished riders. I recall the late Captain Michael Tubridy who was a very wonderful horseman and a wonderful sportsman. He met his death early in life but he left behind him the memory of a distinguished career in sport and horsemanship. Such riders should have a place on this new board where all interests should adequately be represented. Without such representation a balanced judgement cannot be made for the most beneficial promotion of the horse industry.

Reference was made to a lack of farriers or blacksmiths. That has been obvious for years and years. I am glad some thought is now being given to awakening an interest in that craft. The village smithy is a part of our Irish life. His usefulness will not properly be valued until he is extinct. If we do not train youth in this work we shall lose that craft.

It is about time our Army jumping team were in a position to have the best horses for use at home and abroad. We have not bought the best stock on which to enable our Army riders to display their horsemanship to the best advantage. We have quibbled over a few thousand pounds and allowed our best stock to go elsewhere. Some of our horses, having been trained abroad, have come back to compete in this country with other Irish horses and we have been made very well aware of all the relevant considerations. This should not happen.

With the enactment of this measure we can look forward to some improvement in the horse industry and to some improvement in the finances of the people engaged in it. I am more than pleased with the introduction, belated though it be, of this measure. Generally speaking, all those engaged in horse breeding, in the rearing of horses, in hunting or with horses in any connection, will welcome this Bill and the sooner it is implemented the sooner [400] its benefits will be felt by everybody concerned.

Mr. Clinton: The fact that I support a Bill of this kind is not an indication that I necessarily endorse every section of it. However, every contributor to this debate was in favour of some measure to assist our horse industry. The survey team responsible for the report on the horse breeding industry was set up by Deputy Haughey in, I think, 1964. They reported two years later. The report has been lying on the shelves of the Department for the past four years. Why did we wait four years before taking action on the report? Did we want it to remain on the shelves of the Department with the many other reports and recommendations of various committees on different aspects of the agricultural industry which has been so neglected over the years?

The horse industry is one aspect of our agricultural industry that has almost totally been ignored. The survival of this industry is an eloquent tribute to the farmers engaged in it down through the years who have maintained the good name of the Irish half-bred without any State assistance or recognition to any worthwhile degree. We welcome this Bill from the point of view of assistance and encouragement to the people who have kept the industry going, against odds, for so long.

The survey team was well qualified to investigate the condition of the industry and the problems attached to it. Is it intended that the recommendations in this report will be carried out, or how far is the Minister in accord with these recommendations? How much of this does the Minister disagree with? An immense amount depends on the composition of the proposed board. I regret it will be constituted, as this Government have constituted all their boards: handpick them and select them, in many cases not for their particular qualifications for the job but because they happen to be in favour for one reason or another.

One recommendation in the report is that the controlling body should be [401] appointed on the basis of nominations from the various bodies interested in the horse breeding industry rather than the Ministerial appointees. It would be regrettable if the board were set up in that way. Much depends on the composition of the board. They should be nominated by the various organisations who have kept the industry going and maintained the reputation of the Irish-bred horse with so little assistance. There is a long list of the recommendations of this team at the end of the report. The kernel is that the stock of good quality Irish draught mares is running out and that very little effort has been made to maintain a nucleus of perhaps 600, 700 or 1,000 high quality Irish draught mares.

Complaint has been made that, over the years, no efforts have been made to identify really good hunter stallions. We have had outstanding mares at show jumping. When it was known that they had such performances, what effort was made to breed from them? What effort was made to identify stallions who were good show jumpers and to what extent were they used? What effort was made to identify good three-day event horses?

The Irish people have a natural love of horses. I believe this industry has been carried on mainly because of that love of horses and because young people in particular were interested in breeding them in the hope that they would breed a national winner. They derive great enjoyment and recreation from watching this prospect grow. They broke him and rode him to hounds; all the time, they were expecting wonderful things to happen. There was a lot of fun in this game but there was very little money in it. I know that from my own experience. We subsidise many other activities; what have we done towards the encouragement of the horse-breeding industry? It is an industry which gives a lot of recreation and enjoyment in an area where life could be fairly dull and it confers extra benefits in increased employment and in the consumption of native raw materials. It is a very valuable native industry.

The points made by other speakers about our show jumping reputation at [402] international equestrian events are very important. The setting up of a centre where people can be trained to breed horses, break them and train them is of the utmost importance rather than to continue the present haphazard and unenlightened procedures. Consider the number of potentially excellent animals that are ruined by bad handling, wrong feeding and various mistakes of one kind or another by people who are not as skilled as they should be in this industry. As a result, they lost the opportunity of making great profits.

There can be profit in this industry also in the attraction of tourists. We must use the right sires and dams. Many people are willing to pay a good price if they are sure they will get a reliable animal. This board can promote our horse-breeding industry abroad in the same way as our cattle and sheep sales are promoted. Another consideration is that quite a lot of land in this country is more suitable for the feeding of horses than for the production of beef or even mutton.

If the proposed board is permitted to carry out the recommendations in this green book I think the industry will be reasonably well served. Our excellent riders down through the years and our outstanding reputation for half-bred horses are a great addition to the promotion of this industry. The prospects, therefore, are particularly good.

There is reference to the lack of services being provided and to the lack of interest generally in the industry. All of these matters have adequately been dealt with in this report. Probably the most important point is the follow-up and identification of well-bred mares and good stallions in order to produce good hunters. If we lose the Irish draught mares then the bone will be gone and we shall have nothing but weaklings. It really does not pay to keep horses for farm work. Bad and all as the situation was four years ago when this report was produced, the situation was four years ago action is speedily taken to preserve and increase what is left, then the future of our half-bred horse is very precarious.

There is a very big prospect for the Connemara pony. The Connemara Pony [403] Breeding Society have done excellent work to promote and foster this industry and to seek better markets for the Connemara pony. As the standard of living improves here and in Britain and on the Continent, I believe the demand for these ponies will increase. People will pay higher prices, there will be more time for recreation and this will prove a valuable industry for the west of Ireland. This is a facet of the industry to which particular attention should be directed. If young people have an interest in ponies and in this outdoor, natural environment we will have very little trouble with delinquency and all its problems.

One could take this report and go through it recommendation by recommendation but I do not see any point in doing this. These people have made a thorough study of the subject and the House and the country should be grateful to them for the report they have produced. An immense amount depends on who is appointed to this board and the freedom they are given to operate according to their own lights. I do not wish to see them, as the Minister has said, “handpicked” but I should like to see them selected from nominations of the various interested bodies in the horse-breeding industry. They should be given a free hand to carry out a much needed job.

Mr. Donegan: A Bill such as this should not go through this House without those interested in the matter giving their views. I regard this Bill as a permissive one that will allow the Minister to set events in motion if he so desires. I should like to see an improvement in the quality of the half-bred horse. There have been many discussions about whether we should have hunting; I think this great sport will continue for many years to come. It is a sport in which the participant also risks his own skin which perhaps adds to the enjoyment experienced in hunting.

The Irish hunting horse forms the nucleus of the show jumpers and the riding horses we export throughout the world. As Deputy Clinton has pointed out, there are large areas of land— [404] I am thinking in particular of west Limerick—where the land is suitable for the breeding of half-bred and even thoroughbred horses but is not suitable for the production of beef, mutton or milk. The horse-breeding industry has been woefully neglected in the past and this report has been with the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries for a few years. How our efforts to present ourselves in a favourable way to other countries have deteriorated since the golden days of Comdt. Dan Corry can be exemplified by my trip to the Curragh Equitation School during the recent Kildare by-election. I found that the youngest horse in the stables was 11 years old and the oldest was 18 years. This I consider a strong condemnation of the Government and the interest they have shown. I thought of men such as Comdt. Corry, the late Captain Tubridy and many others who were household names in this country and who carried the flag of Ireland so well when abroad.

I am glad that at this belated stage something is being done and that the Minister has indicated the need for a national training centre that not only will include the Army personnel but civilians also. Such a combination could prove worthwhile. It is well known that riders in England, Italy and many other countries are very often rich men who can devote the greater part of their time to the effort to bring their country to the top. We have not such rich people and the combination of Army riders who, while they are not professionals, can devote much time to the schooling of horses and the improvement of their riding skill and the natural riders we have could well bring Ireland to the top, a place she occupied for so many years.

Mention has been made about the licensing of riding schools and the production of hunting horses for hire. I have tried it and my experience in County Louth was that at Christmas-time the demand for horses was three times that of the supply available. However, once the Christmas period was over there was little interest in hiring out horses, at least so far as County Louth was concerned. It costs quite a lot per week to keep a full-sized horse, not only from the point [405] of view of actual feeding stuffs but also from the viewpoint of exercising the horse. The number of people who will actually exercise a horse are few. It may be different in Fermoy, County Cork, where the farmers and their sons still hunt and where it is possible that the farm workers also ride. However, in County Louth, unless one is attached to what is called a “hunting house” the number of people who will ride are few and so from this point of view one finds one has to exercise the horses oneself. That is all right until one gets involved in politics and then things may get sticky.

In the Shannon area rich Americans are prepared to come here and pay large sums of money to hunt in this country. There is no doubt that a great opportunity is provided by gymkhanas and show-jumping contests for young children who want to learn to ride. However, the truth is that for every six or seven children who participate in these shows, who ride in children's competitions and go to the Horse Show, only one continues riding in adult life. For six, seven or eight years he goes on riding. As an adult he has both the wish and the will to ride but he takes on responsibilities and he lives in urban conditions and it becomes physically or economically impossible for him to continue that sport, even though he might dearly love to continue it. It would cost him £8 a week to keep a half-bred horse for hunting or for show jumping and he probably finds he has not the time to enjoy such a very expensive amenity. A great number of adults who would like to go on riding just cannot do so. There is a great opportunity for providing riding schools to train young people. Out of every seven, eight or nine children who ride there will be one good adult competitor in a position to go on riding.

The point made by Deputy Clinton in regard to Connemara ponies is a valid one. The Connemara pony is a very quite pony, a docile animal, which performs well. He has no bad habits. Having said that, the probability is that the next Connemara pony I meet will kick me. The animal is highly prized as far away as the [406] United States and South Africa. The society has done very good work, the sort of work that should be done with the Irish draught mare; they keep the good female and the good stallion with a resultant improvement in both breed and bone.

With regard to my next point, I consulted with the Ceann Comhairle— not, Sir, because I thought you would be in the Chair, but because I wanted to be sure of my ground in advance— and I understand I can raise the question of the shutting down of provincial racecourses. It seems to me I am entitled to do that under section 7 (1) (b) and (1) (i).

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I do not know what conversation the Deputy had with the Ceann Comhairle, but I ruled on this matter earlier this afternoon. The Racing Board deals with specific matters. This Bill is confined in its scope. The Bill does not deal with thoroughbreds or with the racing industry.

Mr. Donegan: The Leas-Cheann Comhairle will take my word for it that the Ceann Comhairle did, in fact, say the matter could be raised. I have always, even in my most unruly moments, tried to be with the Chair. Section 7 provides:

The function of the board shall be—

Subsection (b) provides:

to co-ordinate (with the consent of the organisations or groups affected) the work of organisations or groups wholly or mainly concerned with the breeding of horses or equitation or matters connected with the matters aforesaid;

I respectfully submit that I would be in a position to raise the matter under that.

Subsection 7 (1) (i) provides:

to promote and develop the export trade in horses other than thoroughbred hourses;

I wish to raise the closing of a certain racecourse but, if you rule me out on that, I am out.

[407] An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair is concerned that discussion should not go outside the scope of the Bill and the Minister indicated this afternoon that the advice given to him was that this Bill does not deal with matters appertaining to the Racing Board.

Mr. Donegan: I would respectfully submit that the Minister might not desire to have this matter raised.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I should make it clear that the Chair had ruled on the matter at that stage. The Chair does not want discussions on matters appertaining to the Racing Board.

Mr. Donegan: Then I shall not raise it. In many areas the love of horses seems to have gone. While I agree little money was made on half-bred horses in the past the fact is that no one lost a great deal of money. Usually one tries to have the right amount of fodder and bedding for whatever stock one has. If fodder runs a little scarce the animals do with a little less. Keeping a brood mare never costs a great deal extra. In the areas I mentioned — west Limerick and Clare—there are these vast tracts suitable for the running of brood mares and not suitable for anything else. A man living in the city who wanted to hunt might have to pay £8 a week for the privilege but the farmer's son got a lot of fun out of it at practically no cost at all and with the possibility always of a little profit. If we could revive interest in horses that would be a very good thing for agriculture and I hope the traditional areas, of which my own is one, will be encouraged to go into horse breeding and have once more the little bit of sport and a little bit of profit as well.

Mr. O'Sullivan: I shall be very brief. My interest is confined entirely to Irish draught mares and the continuation of that strain. In the area I represent we have a very big population of draught mares and I should like to see this breed kept clean and the subsidy given for it increased. My [408] reasons are that breeding a thoroughbred horse with a draught mare is bringing in an animal that is fetching a higher price. Because of that, I fear owners of draught mares are breeding them with thoroughbred stallions rather than keeping the breed to itself. If the subsidy were increased I think this could be stopped and we would have as at present a fine selection of Irish draught mares that would in future breed heavy hunters. To ensure that we must keep the breed to itself. I ask the Minister to consider this and see that a bigger subsidy is given to owners of Irish draught mares to breed them with Irish draught stallions and produce a number of mares that will be suitable later on for crossing with thoroughbred horses to breed heavyweight hunters which are becoming very scarce.

In areas like west Cork and Kerry where you have a breed known as trotting horses, trotting stallions should be sent into those areas to produce these animals for which there is great demand at present. These are the two points that I want the Minister to consider.

Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries (Mr. J. Gibbons): I should like to thank the House for its generally constructive approach to this Bill which is of very great importance to the farmers and especially to the type of people who produce what we are beginning to call the pleasure horse, the small operator, the farmer who owns one mare and operates in a small way. I did not think the Second Stage discussion would range so far and so widely. There was a good deal of repetition.

Perhaps I should begin by mentioning some points raised by Deputy Cosgrave who, in speaking of nominations for mares, said that nominations were not available in certain counties such as Dublin, Kildare and Offaly in the past. This situation has been remedied since the advent of the national nominations scheme and nominations are now available to everybody. The House will forgive me if I reply to the debate somewhat incoherently because I want to go through my own notes as I made them. There may be some repetition [409] in what I say arising probably from the incorrect method by which I made my notes.

Deputy O'Donovan on the last occasion raised the question of paying members of the board but he was the only Deputy in favour of this. Deputy Cooney today thought it would not be such a good idea and, on balance, it might be better to leave the arrangement as it is at present. I have no strong conviction in this direction but since the House seemed to have one voice for and one against, with only two opinions expressed, the amount of interest shown by the House in this point was rather marginal.

Several Deputies discussed the board, its composition and method of selection. Some expressed anxiety as to the good faith of the Minister in the selection of the proper people to serve on the board. It is the normal and accepted thing that boards be selected as envisaged here and it is up to the Minister to see that the best possible job is done in the selection of the board because if the best people are not selected the board will not be able to function properly and if it does not function properly the Minister will have to pay the piper in the criticism that will inevitably follow poor selection of members.

The survey team recommended that the board consist of nine members, including the chairman, and that various societies such as the RDS, the National Equestrian Federation, the Show Jumping Association of Ireland, the Irish Olympic Horse Society, the Army Equitation School, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and the pony societies and others should be represented. The racing bodies have indicated that they are not very interested in membership of the board. The Bill provides for a maximum of 11 members and requires the Minister to consult with such organisations as he thinks appropriate before appointing members. There will be no hindrance to giving effect to the views of the survey team. No organisations are named in the Bill and none will have a specific right to be represented because organisations may change their names or amalgamate or go out of existence. [410] One or other organisation may, for reasons that seem good to itself, decide that like the governing bodies it does not wish to be represented.

I think it was Deputy Tom O'Donnell who said that the key to the success of this board is its composition. While there are other factors that will make for the success or otherwise of this measure, I think he is right when he says that the selection of the proper people to serve on this board is of the most vital importance and I am determined that a proper selection will be made. Deputy Barrett spoke about the tattooing of mares and foals. To get a system of tattooing properly established would be a difficult and elaborate process. It would in any case be a matter for the board itself to consider. There are other systems of identification which work fairly well and which can be adopted and, in fact, are being adopted. It might be better for the time being to use such a system.

Deputy Barrett also mentioned the problem of fertility in mares. I am informed that the first crop of foals notified to the Department in 1969 under the new foaling premium arrangements represented a live foal rate of 50 per cent of the nominated mares. The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries are anxious to improve on this figure. The live foal rate for thoroughbreds is about 66 per cent. Even allowing for the difference in standards of management possible for thoroughbred mares there is obviously room for some improvement in the position for nominated mares. An association of the registered stallion owners was formed a few years ago and has shown keen interest in co-operating with the Department. Efforts are being made through the association to improve the conception rate for mares since in this matter the skill of the stallion owner is important.

Deputy Keating mentioned the importance of veterinary research. The Department's veterinary research laboratory is also investigating infertility in mares and it is hoped to get some extra special specialist staff for the job.

Deputy Coogan and other Deputies [411] spoke of the importance of farriering. The question of training new farriers and dealing with the fairly acute problem of their scarcity at the present time is a problem the board will have to consider and will have to decide on what type of training scheme that will answer their purpose best. There is no reason to be over-pessimistic about this because I think Deputies will agree with me that since farriers have become scarce their services have become rather expensive and it is therefore becoming a profitable job for a young man to take on. I think the market will determine, or will help at any rate to determine, the availability of farriers in future and whether it does or does not it will be one of the jobs of the board to see that there is an adequate supply of farriers for the business.

Deputy Barrett also mentioned the necessity for representation on the board of grassroot people, although I do not think he used that expression. I am fully conscious of the fact that a great many breeders in the half-bred horse industry are smallish farmers and I am conscious too of their entitlement to representation and I hope to see that they will have it.

Deputy Cooney and Deputy Keating in speaking of the matter of the breeding of the pleasure horse strains both, I think, certainly Deputy Keating, said that some work is being done in France at the present time on the production of a pure bred pleasure horse by selection. That is an interesting point and a point that, as a layman without any particular experience of the matter of horses, I would not like to offer any opinion on but it is worth examining. It is the type of problem that we will be asking the board to consider.

Deputy Keating spoke about the location of a national training centre. Section 7 of the Bill speaks of a centre or centres and obviously the capacity of the board to establish a centre of one kind or another for their various purposes will be governed by the amount of financial support that they have got. It is quite obvious that we will have to begin with one anyway. It is also obvious that the selection of [412] the proper place for this centre will be of great importance. It is not as difficult a problem as it looks, I think, because the national training centre will be a rather specialised type of establishment and the most ideal place for it, obviously would be the place which would make it accessible to the greatest number of people who would be likely to want to use its facilities.

Deputy Kavanagh spoke about the necessity there was for attention to be given to the horses that are being used in the business of the gipsy type caravans that are becoming very popular at the present time. I readily agree with Deputy Kavanagh that it is quite important that no ill-treatment is suffered by the animals that are used in this business but I do not think that it is a matter that comes properly within the aegis of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. It is a matter that should more properly be dealt with under the Protection of Animals Acts.

Another factor in this, of course, is the fact that some people who hire these caravans and horses for holiday purposes are inexperienced with horses and may unwittingly inflict a certain amount of pain on the animals they are driving. I do not know in what way this can be handled except that some sort of rudimentary instruction could be given to them by the people who hire out the caravans and horses. It is certainly important, I agree with Deputy Kavanagh, to see that the horses are properly treated and that the tackle used is in good condition and does not impose unnecessary suffering on the horses that are used.

Deputy Cooney spoke of the pure bred Irish draught. I am informed that there is really no such thing as a pure bred Irish draught, that the Irish draught horse is rather a type of a horse rather than a breed of a horse. He thought it was necessary to keep this particular type of horse as true to type as possible. The Department since 1968 have discontinued registration of Clydesdale stallions. No nominated mares may be served by Clydesdales at the present time. There are about 120 draught stallions now registered for the service of nominated mares and [413] the determination of registration is made as a result of inspection by the Department.

Deputy O'Donnell, Deputy O'Sullivan and other Deputies referred to the necessity for providing incentives to keep horses, especially Irish draughts. The position at present is that a man with a good mare can get £7 nomination towards the cost of service by a registered stallion; £15 or £25 premium if the mare produces a live foal to a nominated service; £25 if both sire and dam are registered Irish draughts, otherwise £15; and £45 for a suitable Irish draught colt if it is kept entire until it is two years old. That currently is the position.

Mr. O'Sullivan: That is only for a very limited number.

Mr. J. Gibbons: That is right. However, as I mentioned in my opening speech the number of nominations in the past three years has doubled and again, like the other tasks we are imposing on this board this is the purpose of the Bill—to foster the development of the foundation stock of the Irish draught and the development of the half-bred horse industry generally. I think the House appreciates this purpose and agrees with it. As some Deputy said the sooner we get on with it the better.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 9th June, 1970.