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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 27 May 1970

Vol. 247 No. 2

Horse Industry Bill, 1970: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time".

This Bill marks the implementation of the third of the three major groups of recommendations made by the survey team on the horse breeding industry. In 1968 the recommendations dealing with my Department's horse breeding scheme were implemented by the introduction of the national mare nominations scheme with its adjunct of foaling premiums. I am happy to say that this has proved very successful. This year we are awarding more than 6,000 nominations—that is more than double the number awarded three years ago.

Last year the capital of the National Stud Company was raised from £500,000 to £2,000,000. As Deputies are aware this was for the purpose of ensuring that, as the survey team recommended, the National Stud should be in a position to meet all the high standards required of such an institution.

In this Bill we are dealing with those recommendations of the survey team that relate to the setting up of a Horse Board; the licensing of horse riding establishments; the provision of national training centres and the miscellaneous problems associated with improving the image of the Irish horse industry both at home and abroad.

The importance of our horses is something that cannot fully be expressed in economic terms. Even in economic terms their value is probably far more than the £5 million they realise on exports since for tourists they represent part of the Irish scene. Our thoroughbred industry is in a healthy state and the achievements of our breeders and trainers are something we can all justly be proud of.

This Bill does not involve the thoroughbred industry but it is of particular concern to farmers who breed non-thoroughbred horses. As we all know the working horse on the farm is becoming, if not a vanishing species, at least a diminishing species. This is part of progress; one might even be tempted to say it is part of the price of progress. But one way or the other it is a fact and we must deal with things as they are and adapt our production accordingly.

In present day circumstances the best market is for the pleasure horse— the hunter, the showjumper, the three-day-eventer, the riding pony. In this country we are very favourably circumstanced to produce such horses. My Department are encouraging farmers, through nominations and foaling premiums, to keep brood mares of the right kind and to breed from them. They are also supplementing the efforts of stallion owners by locating Irish draught and thoroughbred stallions in areas where there is need for them. They also subsidise the Connemara Pony Breeders' Society in their efforts to foster our native breed of ponies. Thus we hope to expand our production of horses and from what I have said earlier about the increase in nominations we may hope that we are succeeding.

Production is of course only half the story. The other half concerns everything that needs to be done to promote the Irish horse. This is where the Horse Board comes in.

The recommendations on the Horse Board were influenced by the frequency with which the various interests, in their discussions with the survey team, laid emphasis on (1) the need for some kind of controlling body to co-ordinate the activities of the various associations dealing with equestrian matters; and (2) the need for a national training centre at which promising riders, both civilian and military, would be trained and which would provide a supply of people sufficiently highly trained to act as instructors at local training centres throughout the country. These two ideas were to a large extent tied up with one another as most of the views expressed to the team envisaged that an important part of the functions of the controlling body would be to run, or assist in running, the national training centre.

Working on these two considerations as a nucleus the survey team drew up a list of functions for the board which are reflected in section 7 of the Bill. It will be seen that they are very far ranging and amount in fact, when coupled with my Department's horse breeding schemes, to a programme of development for the non-thoroughbred horse industry of this country. Not only will the board co-ordinate activities and run a national training centre but they will help national teams to compete at equestrian events, will see to the training of riding instructors, do publicity on horses, help the trade in non-thoroughbred horses in various ways and provide for an apprenticeship scheme in farriery. In addition to these executive functions the board will act as my advisers on horse breeding generally. Moreover, provision is made for giving the board extra functions if experience shows that this is desirable.

Of the board's executive functions it is fair to say that none will be more important than the establishment and running of a national training centre. It is my hope and conviction that this will become the focus for progress in horse riding. As a sport, as a means of publicising our horses, and even as a matter of national prestige, horsemanship is something we do well to foster. We should not feel aggrieved if we do not always dominate international jumping events. What we should aim at is to enable the talent we have in horses and riders to find full development. Many wonderful successes have been achieved in the past by both our Army and civilian riders and I am confident that the national training centre will be the means by which we can be sure of maintaining the traditions and standards that have been handed down.

It will be evident that the board will have a very onerous job to do. Only men with outstanding qualities could hope to do it. Sections 8 and 9 of the Bill deal with the appointment of members and of the chairman. The board is to have not more than 11 members; they will be nominated by me and where appropriate I shall be consulting the horse organisations about the selection of people to serve on it. Some interests may not necessarily be represented by any organisation but I would propose that all interested parties should have a voice on the board. As it is important not to make the board unwieldy I have come to the conclusion that a maximum of 11 members is a fair assessment of the size needed for the board.

Much of the rest of Part II is made up of routine provisions necessary for a statutory body. The board will be a body corporate, they will have a seal, and members must disclose any interest they have in proposed contracts. The procedure at meetings of the board is detailed at section 12; they must furnish audited accounts and an annual report and they may employ staff who may be delegated to carry out their functions. Other powers of the board relate to acquiring premises, buying and selling horses, borrowing, the making of grants or loans, investment of funds, acquisition and disposal of land and the acceptance of gifts.

There are two provisions however that I should like to dwell on. The first is section 13 which relates to State grants to the board. It is in this context that I want to deal with a recommendation by the survey team that a national lottery should be run on behalf of the board. Even if such a lottery were run it would not be by the board and so in any circumstances it is not necessary to refer to the matter in the Bill.

The idea of a lottery in aid of the board gives rise to some important questions. By and large, as the law stands, a lottery in this country must be for charity. It does not seem fitting to depart from this position in favour of an individual body; in other words, if any change were to be made it should be on a general basis, not an ad hoc one. Even if there were no other consideration involved any such lottery for the board's benefit would have to be on a large scale and it seems inevitable that it would be to the detriment of lotteries for charity. All things considered I believe it is best to leave this question in abeyance for the present. It is not, of course, intended that the State grant shall be the sole source of income of the board. It is expected that the existing organisations which contribute towards the horse industry generally will continue to do so and that the State grant will be related to such contributions.

The other provision I would draw attention to is section 25 of the Bill. This enables the board to appoint such committees as they think fit to help them in executing their functions and these committees may include persons who are not members of the board itself. This is in line with a recommendation by the survey team. Allied to this is a recommendation by the team that the board should themselves have an advisory consultative council. Since most of the value to be derived from outside opinion could be available to the board through their committees and since the addition of a consultative council would tend towards undue complexity of structure, it has been decided not to provide for a consultative council.

I come now to Part 3 of the Bill, which deals with the licensing of horse riding establishments. Before I deal with the individual provisions there is one point I should like to make. It has been represented to me that licensing, with its concomitant of barring any unlicensed operator from carrying on business, would be premature. This is a matter on which I have an open mind but in deference to these views I am prepared to be guided by whatever the Horse Board has to say on the subject. The board will have the function of advising on the conditions to be attached to licences and if they consider licensing to be premature then it will be deferred. This will be possible because Part 3 will not come into operation automatically with the passing of this Act but needs an order for the purpose under section 34. If licensing is deferred, a system of voluntary registration might be tried in the interim.

A licence will be required under section 28 for any establishment as defined at section 27. In order to avoid disruption of operations various periods of grace are allowed under section 28 to existing operators and to those who buy establishments and to the personal representatives of deceased licensees.

Section 29 outlines the objectives against which applications for licensing will be assessed. Broadly speaking, they may be summed up as concerning the welfare of the horses and the safety of the riders. The section also outlines the procedure to be followed when licences are refused or revoked. Powers of inspection are provided for at section 30. Section 31 deals with miscellaneous offences which again are concerned with the welfare of horses and the safety of riders.

Section 26 gives power to exempt particular classes of business from licensing. Experience may show that it is unnecessary to control small-scale operators on the one hand or on the other operators engaged solely in hiring out hunters. I have no views on these subjects at present but it seems wiser to allow for the possibility of exemption.

This then is the Horse Industry Bill and I recommend it to the House. It is based on the recommendations of the survey team on the horse breeding industry, a body of men to whom all concerned with horse breeding in this country owe a deep debt of gratitude. It is also acceptable to the various organisations concerned.

As the Minister remarked, this Bill implements some of the recommendations of the survey team that was set up five years ago and which recommended certain changes, including some of the steps that have been taken in this Bill as well as an increase in nominations and an increase in capital in respect of the National Stud. It is generally recognised, and the figure which was quoted by the Minister confirms, that the horse-breeding industry is one of the most valuable industries we have. So far as the value to the country is concerned it is measured not merely in terms of actual income derived from sales or exports but also in terms of the valuable employment provided in widely dispersed areas, in many cases employment of the very highest standard, giving good pay and conditions and enabling people to live in areas where life is more attractive than would be the case if they had to migrate to towns or cities.

The industry, as it is described, consists, I suppose, of two parts, thoroughbred breeding and racing which is not the subject matter of this legislation but, of course, attracts probably the greatest amount of attention. As the Minister remarked the thoroughbred industry is in a healthy state. To that extent I believe that the country and particularly those employed in it owe to the proprietors of these studs a considerable debt for the employment which is provided. While naturally people are in it for profit, nevertheless, it is the initiative and skill of the owners or directors of these studs that enable valuable rural employment to be provided and also assist the economy through the breeding and sale of thoroughbred horses.

With the very substantial increase in the value of bloodstock in the post-war era this particular aspect of the horse industry is confined to those who have the capital and are in general in a position to engage in the industry on a relatively large scale. There are, of course, exceptions. Very often the small breeders achieve success which does not come to the larger ones to anything like the same extent, but that is part of the luck of the game as well as the skill involved in the individual's management and breeding of horses.

This Bill is designed to deal with the hunter, the showjumper and the three-day-eventer as well as the riding pony. Because of the greatly increased mechanisation which has been described as the price of progress, the numbers of half-bred horses have declined very steeply. According to a reply to a recent question there has been quite a remarkable drop in the numbers even in the five years since the survey team was first set up. In 1965 the number of horses, other than bloodstock, exported was 9,767 valued at £957,330. The following year it was slightly up, but last year the number had dropped to just over 5,000, though in actual fact because of the decrease in the value of money the value of the 5,000-odd sold was £973,742. Therefore, in the space of five years the number of horses other than thoroughbreds sold had dropped by half.

It is therefore important that the measures which were recommended, one of which has already been put into effect, should be not merely availed of but if necessary added to. I had a look at the figures quoted in the report for the premiums and nominations that had been given. While they have been increased somewhat the rate that was available when this team reported was far too low compared with present prices and the costs involved.

It is the small breeder who needs encouragement and assistance. Sometimes people say it is impossible precisely to define the small breeder. Quite a few successful thoroughbred breeders have very small studs. Is it decided because a man has say one, two or three mares that he is a small breeder? This man could be a very successful breeder and may not necessarily need the assistance, or he may have, because of other interests, or his success at breeding, access to either stallions or nominations over and above what we normally term those of a small breeder. I do not want to get involved in a definition problem but I would say the average small breeder is the farmer who keeps one mare or possibly two mares and who—either himself or a member of his family—hunts, show jumps or goes in for various events and breeds either a half-bred or in some cases a thoroughbred.

For the purpose of this discussion the important thing is those who breed hunters or show horses. I believe there is a complete difference between the problem experienced by small breeders and the ordinary thoroughbred breeders and this is a factor which must be taken into account. In breeding either show horses, hunters or event horses or for that matter chasers or hurdlers the time factor is a very big element. Horses do not reach the position in which, in general, they can be produced at shows at under four years old. There are of course exceptions but on balance it is five years from the time the mare has been got in foal before the person concerned knows whether the animal he has bred, if he has retained it, is successful. In that time a whole lot of things may have happened. The mare for one reason or another may have been sold or failed to produce. Many people are unable to find out subsequently how the animal they bred progressed and by the time it is successful, for one reason or another the mare is gone.

Special consideration should be given to the small breeder and also to the person who produces what is described as a store horse, whether it is a half-bred or a thoroughbred. Store horses take three to four years to be of any value to their owners, although in some cases they are sold as unbroken two- or three-year-olds. If they are by a successful sire and the mare has a reasonable background the prospect of sale is reasonably good. In many cases the beneficiary is not the breeder because for one reason or another by the time the animal shows potential, or has developed his potential, the breeder may have either disposed of the mare or sold other produce at less than what they would have made if the success which attended the earlier progeny, either a hunter, show jumper or eventer had been discovered.

The time factor is important here and special consideration should be given to encouraging the small breeders. Horse breeding, no matter how it is looked at, is an expensive business. It is naturally more expensive if it is unsuccessful than if it is successful. Nowadays a whole lot of expenses are incurred by breeders and a special case can be made for encouragement both in respect of the premiums and also in respect of grants or incentives to the breeders concerned.

The Minister mentioned the point, but he has not given direct indication of what is involved, that the survey team recommended the idea of a lottery. I agree that is a bad idea. It might be all right but it would be impossible in our circumstances with the provisions which apply to lotteries, confining them to charities to operate a lottery in respect of this. In any event, it is possible that there is a limit beyond which we can expect to get revenue from lotteries and the number of sources in that regard have already been tapped. I would be interested to hear from the Minister if any estimate has been made of the sum of money it is proposed to provide under section 13 or is it proposed to leave that to the board when it is set up? It may be that at this stage it is difficult to put a figure on it. At the same time it is obvious from the figures which were given in appendix D that the amount allocated for nominations—although I was glad to note from what the Minister said in the opening sentences of his speech that the number of nominations at 6,000 is more than double what was awarded three years ago—was less than £12,000 in 1965. Approximately half the number of mares presented for nominations were approved and subsequently a number of them were actually sent for nomination.

It is an extraordinary commentary that the fees charged for some of the stallions are hardly more than you would pay in an AI centre at the moment in respect of a cow. Some of them were as low as £3 so that the change in the amount of the fee is obviously warranted if we want to encourage the small breeders in this regard. On this matter, it is to some extent impossible to divorce the consideration of thoroughbred breeding in respect of 'chasers and hurdlers from that of show horses, jumpers and others. They are not entirely unrelated. Although nowadays a great many of the successful 'chasers and hurdlers have blood lines which, compared with formerly, are far more distinguished in respect of ancestry and performance, nevertheless, a number of smaller breeders breed both thoroughbreds and three-quarter breds which, if not successful as either 'chasers or hurdlers, may be successful as show jumpers and eventers.

In that respect, gratitude is due to the farmers for their willing co-operation in permitting and assisting hunting. The vast majority of farmers in the hunting areas of this country welcome hunting and this should be appreciated, particularly nowadays when a great many of the people who ride or hunt have urban backgrounds. Of course, this is a welcome development.

With the decline in hunting among farmers, their sons and daughters, because of mechanisation, there has been an increase in the number of people with urban backgrounds who hunt and ride. This has been encouraged by things like the pony club, riding schools, gymkhanas and so forth. At the same time, a number of the people who engage in such events and who also hunt, because of their urban backgrounds may not appreciate adequately the co-operation which is so willingly given by farmers and which is so vital to the success of hunting.

This industry is all of a piece and in order to promote the development and success of the jumper and the eventer, facilities for hunting and free and generous assistance to it are most important. The farmer is to be thanked for this. We must consider the cost of maintaining fences and the problems involved in regard to TB tested cattle and so on and the anxiety of all farmers to ensure that disease is not carried from one farm to another. Those who hunt, therefore, must appreciate the generous co-operation of farmers, without which hunting could not be carried on. This is a two-way traffic and those who hunt should bear in mind the responsibilities and the risks involved for farmers in regard to their stock and the expense that could be involved for any damage done. Members of hunts generally ensure as far as possible that adequate steps are taken to repair any damage.

Again referring to mechanisation, there is a great deal to be said for training schools or a training scheme for farriers. This is a highly skilled craft but because of increased mechanisation it is a dying one. Farriers are difficult to get. Those engaged in the craft have to travel considerable distances and those who avail of their services are very glad to get them. It is, therefore, essential that those engaged in this skilled craft should be properly trained. One of the recommendations by the survey team is that an apprenticeship scheme be provided and I understand that some of the vocational schools are doing something about it. It is a craft which can be learned from a person already trained or from an existing farrier. It involves the entire horse industry and all engaged in it. The presence of suitably qualified and trained farriers is a sine qua non as far as the industry is concerned.

The survey team made certain other recommendations which are not directly dealt with but which were referred to by the Minister. One is in respect of the National Stud. When the National Stud was originally taken over just after the war it achieved considerable success with the first stallions purchased. The people there at the time set out on a certain line of policy and the initial purchases were by far the most successful. The stallions purchased since never achieved the success of the original three, Royal Charger, Preciptic and Black Rock.

Those three horses were purchased on the basis of providing for the breeder in this country sires that would cater for different strata of breeders. Royal Charger was a classic or semi-classic horse and proved most outstanding. Preciptic was a tough and consistent racehorse with a consistent pedigree and he achieved great success, being made available at a lower fee than Royal Charger. Then, there was Black Rock, a French bred, successful mainly in breeding chasers and hunters. Subsequently, the National Stud purchased such sires as Tulyar and probably the best thing they did in respect of Tulyar was to avail of the opportunity to sell him.

It is important that the stud should decide on the policy to be adopted in the future to cater for different strata of breeders. As the Minister mentioned in the course of his speech, the breeder of thoroughbreds, particularly the larger breeder, is in a position to avail of the more expensive sires because of his financial resources. The smaller breeder, because of lack of capital, should be entitled to have from the National Stud stallions available at reasonable fees. In this context the question of PLV or some other criterion should be brought to bear. Here again, however, it is difficult to decide what is a small breeder. Valuations differ from county to county and the size of a farm may not bear any relation to the size of the breeder. He may be a man dealing mainly in cattle, or even in tillage, who keeps a mare. In the context of horse breeding he would be regarded as a small breeder.

The survey team recommended that the National Stud should always have available a prestige stallion. A prestige stallion can be defined as a classic horse. The cost of a successful classic horse is quite considerable and it is never certain that such a horse, no matter what his background, will be a success. It is argued that if the fee for such a horse is sufficiently high he will have paid for himself in three or four years at stud and this is partially true. However, excluding the sale of Tulyar and possibly Panaslipper, they have failed to achieve the objective which was mentioned in the idea of a prestige stallion.

The tendency nowadays for most of the large studs is to avail either of the syndication of nominations or a number of studs interchange, through syndication, nominations to different stallions which course is possibly the most successful way of dealing with the matter. In that connection the change that was made by agreement here last year in the Finance Act should enable those who own stallions, irrespective of whether they have stud farms in this country, to locate at satisfactory terms stallions in Irish studs and to avail of the tax concessions. From discussions I have had with breeders I am aware that the change we made in the Finance Act has enabled a number of successful racehorses who would ordinarily have been sold and sent abroad to be located at studs other than those owned by the actual owner of the stallion.

Regarding the question of riding establishments, there is a good deal to be said for laying down minimum requirements. At the same time, I agree it would be undesirable, without advance notice, to impose unduly onerous restrictions on riding schools or establishments that hire out horses. There is a case for providing a number of indoor riding establishments and this might be considered in conjunction with Bord Fáilte. There is no doubt that due to weather and other factors, the advantages of indoor riding establishments are considerable. They save the riders in inclement weather and are also useful when the ground is so hard to ride outdoors. A number of the larger racing establishments have indoor schools for exercising and there are certain other indoor establishments provided in Dublin and in some other centres.

This practice should be encouraged. I hold the view that we could extend considerably the attractions of riding and trekking, particularly for tourists. However, it is important that minimum safety and other requirements should be laid down. Most prudent owners of That is a very important consideration such schools will make certain that they have adequate insurance but certain minimum precautions require to be taken. I agree with the Minister that it is important at this stage that an open mind be kept in regard to the question of licences and I presume this is one of the matters the new board will consider.

The idea of establishing a single training centre was also mentioned. I am not certain that this is a practical proposition or, if it is, it would be confined entirely to those whom one might perhaps incorrectly describe as "professionals". For those people who engage in show jumping it is essential that they retain their amateur status in order to comply with the requirements of the International Equestrian Federation. At the same time, in the ordinary accepted sense of the word "professional" the standard of skill nowadays required for jumping is much greater than it was before the war and that is one of the factors that has had an influence on the change in international events.

In pre-war times most international teams were army teams because most European countries, and even nations outside Europe, had equitation schools. However, the mechanisation of armies and the transition from pre-war to post-war conditions has meant that, with few exceptions, the numbers involved in equitation in any army is much less than previously. There was genuine agreement here that it was a wise decision to allow mixed teams to compete in equestrian events. Considering our resources, both financially and in regard to personnel, the standard achieved by our Army and civilian riders abroad bears comparison with the best. We have sent abroad riders, both Army and civilian, who not only have brought the highest distinction on themselves but have reflected great credit on the country.

The survey team recommended that qualified trainers be engaged from abroad but here again the luck or chance element enters into it. Some of the most highly successful riders and performers are not the best instructors; likewise, some riders who never attain the same skill in the saddle can be excellent instructors. There is no royal road to success here. In many ways a horseman is born and not made, although he can of course improve himself. I think it is a great tribute to our horsemen and women that they achieved such success compared with the opportunities and facilities, financial and otherwise, which exist in many other countries. International show jumping has changed a good deal, the military element is much less prominent and the civilian competitors are, in the main, engaged in it for a living, which, in one sense, makes them professional but at the same time involves them in the nominal retention of amateur status.

The provision of either a single training centre or a number of riding schools in various parts of the country would be expensive and very few of the people involved would have the necessary capital. To that extent this board, possibly in consultation with Bord Fáilte, should consider setting up, not merely in the big cities but in other centres to which tourists go, centres where horses can be bred. While horsebreeding is not restricted in any sense of the word certain areas are more successful than others. One of the interesting things about the statistics published in respect of premiums was that Kildare, which is a notable county because of the great number of horses trained there, had no nomination. The only other county which I saw missing there was Offaly. The idea of encouraging small breeders is that with very few exceptions horses can be bred anywhere. In fact, some successful horses have been bred on very bad land. The advantage of assisting people to breed horses is that they can carry this scheme out in almost every part of the country. Horse-breeding in Connemara has provided an income for people who have much less chance of getting a living off the land. In many cases the quality of the ponies bred in Connemara has been exceptional.

The Minister said that the survey team recommended that particular bodies should be represented on the new Horse Board. According to the way the Bill has been drawn up this is not proposed, although the Minister has said he would consult with them. I think it is important to get the co-operation and goodwill of the various bodies, especially the long-established ones, involved in the business. I am thinking of such bodies as the Horse Riding and Jumping Association, the Olympic Horse Society, the Thoroughbred Breeders and the Connemara Pony Society. The RDS has also done good work. The report commented on the fact that the RDS was in the anomalous position of promoting shows but having to rely on voluntary efforts. With the changing pattern of life it is impossible for people to be engaged in such voluntary activities. I think their contribution should be recognised and they should be consulted and represented as far as possible on this. I believe all these bodies should be consulted and a representative board built up. I notice there is no similar requirement in the National Stud Act but this may be included in the articles of association.

Section 11 of the Bill provides that:

A member of the Board who has—

(a) any interest in any company with which the Board proposes to make any contract, or

(b) any interest in any contract which the Board proposes to make,

shall disclose to the Board the fact of the interest and the nature thereof, and shall take no part in any deliberation or decision of the Board relating to the contract, and the disclosure shall be recorded in the minutes of the Board.

I think this is an important requirement because I believe it is absolutely essential in matters of this kind that there be a full disclosure of the interest of anyone whose concern might conflict with the discharging of his duty as a member of a board.

I do not know how the size of the board was arrived at. I understand there are 11 members on the Racing Board. I suppose the same number was hit on here. If the board is to provide regional representation a reasonably large board is necessary. On the other hand, 11 may be a bit large from the point of view of effective working. The Racing Board consists of 11 members but it was specifically designed to take a certain number from the Turf Club and the Irish National Hunt steeplechase committee—three from each—and five others. In this particular instance no specific number is to be drawn from any source. The discretion is left entirely to the Minister. It is, of course, difficult to cover every eventuality, but there is something to be said for specifically naming some of the bodies that were consulted and which have been in existence for a number of years.

I remember when a number of people came together to found the Jumping Association after the war. It developed to such an extent that a number of regions had to be created. There is now what is generally known as the southern region, which in the main, I think, covers the State, though actually it has been subdivided, and then there is the northern region. The Jumping Association have undoubtedly done a great deal of good work and a great number of those who have contributed to its success have themselves no direct interest or, if they have an interest, it is somewhat remote. Many of them have given very valuable service and they deserve the best thanks of all those involved.

The Connemara Breeders Society is of much older vintage. It goes back to the first World War or to the years immediately after that. This society has done very valuable work. Some form of recognition might be included for some of these bodies. Because of the number of bodies, it is not, of course, very easy to make a selection. It is a matter that could be considered further with advantage on the Committee Stage.

This is a very important industry and every possible encouragement should be given to it. It provides in the main, although nowadays a number of females are employed, good male employment in the rural areas. The employment is dispersed widely over virtually the whole country, certainly over the majority of the counties. remembering the advocacy on the provision of employment in these areas. This is an industry in which there is an immense amount of native skill and ability. There are many natural advantages from the point of view of soil and climate. As the Minister pointed out, people who are not themselves involved in either horse breeding or riding are interested in the industry. One of the advantages of television is that, in the case of both racing and show jumping, this is as good a way as any to watch events, though I would myself always prefer to be on the spot. But television has encouraged people who never had an interest previously to take an interest.

This is an industry of which a country can be proud. We can be proud of our riders, both Army and civilian. All cannot win. All cannot attain the same standards but, allowing for our resources and the resources of the individuals themselves, the success that has been achieved reflects great credit not only on them but on the country. They have proved themselves to be ambassadors of the very highest calibre when they go abroad. They have attracted the most favourable attention for the country. Anything we can do from the point of view of promotion by way of legislation or financial assistance should be done. The steps taken in this particular measure and in some of the others mentioned are a move in the right direction. At the same time, we should not be complacent. There has been a decline in the short space of five years in the number of horses, other than bloodstock, exported. There has been undoubtedly some increase in the number of racehorses in training. That is to be welcomed.

The idea of a levy, such as was initially introduced in respect of the Tote and subsequently extended by the Racing Board on its establishment, has saved racing so far as this country is concerned. Some years after the introduction of that levy here the late Aga Khan, the father of the present Aga Khan, advocated in a series of articles in The Times that the same thing should be done in Britain and Britain did subsequently, many years afterwards, adopt the same policy. The Aga Khan, was, of course, a very successful breeder, and so is his son. The steps taken here at that time have acted as a headline elsewhere. The French have a similar arrangement. Without the financial assistance and without the increase in stakes it would have been impossible to bring racing to the pitch it has reached. Both the trainers and the jockeys deserve credit. We have produced trainers who are second to none. Most of them started from relatively small beginnings. They have achieved international success and, in many of the big races now, the question is what Irish runners are involved because they are the ones that will have to be beaten.

We are to a great extent dependent on the horse breeding industry. It provides valuable employment in a great many areas. From that point of view it is essential that it should be encouraged in every way. Changes suggested here will contribute to its further development. There may be certain details which can be discussed at greater length on the Committee Stage. The changes are not merely desirable but essential to maintain the industry at its present level and to expand it in the future. These proposals will, I believe, contribute to that. It is important, however, to keep an open mind in regard to certain aspects. It is important to get from those involved their views and suggestions on how to operate the industry. The recommendations made here contain a number of valuable suggestions. Some are not, perhaps, of any great significance but those that are valuable should be implemented as quickly as possible.

I also welcome this Bill, which is long overdue, because this section of our agricultural industry received little or no subsidy or financial aid in the past. The only aid it received for years was the value of the nomination ticket which was not very much. It was only £12,000 five years ago and it is hardly more than £50,000 today. This is very little in comparison with the vast sums in agricultural subsidy put into the remaining sections of agriculture. Despite the lack of financial aid the breeding of non-thoroughbred horses has progressed remarkably in the past 15 to 20 years. The people involved used their skills and initiative very effectively not only to breed good horses and turn them out properly but also to succeed in exporting them to many countries.

I was rather surprised to hear Deputy Cosgrave say that our exports in this field had fallen from 9,000 in 1965 to 5,000 in 1969. Perhaps the Minister would say if the reason for this big drop was the fact that the export of live horses disappeared practically entirely and that the number of live fat horses exported was included in the 9,000. I wonder if this is so because, speaking from my knowledge of my own constituency, the export trade in hunters and show jumpers increased in that period. Those involved have succeeded in establishing a very good name for our hunters and show jumpers in regard to their quality and in the way they have been turned out and handled and schooled before leaving our shores. They have developed exports to many countries, particularly England, to which we export a substantial number of those horses. We have also succeeded in broadening our market and have even exported horses to the USA, Canada, Italy, Germany and many other Continental countries. We have sent some of these horses to Egypt and places like Japan.

We may thank those who have sought out these markets and made various contacts at the Ballsbridge Show with visiting foreigners. They have spoken to them and encouraged them to come and see horses down the country. They have succeeded in establishing a very lucrative market but it is one about which we should not be complacent. It is a market which I believe can be expanded substantially and rapidly given proper encouragement by this new board which the Minister proposes to establish. It should also be remembered that any money now made available to this section of agriculture will not add to the Exchequer burden because I maintain that any breeder, and particularly the small breeder, who now decides to keep a mare and foal is surely keeping two or three cows fewer in the parts of Ireland where this type of industry predominates. When we realise the very heavy subsidy going to the dairying industry and the amount of subsidy involved for two or three cows we can see that we can afford to pour much more money into this horse breeding scheme. The board should be mindful of this when disbursing the funds available to them.

I have no doubt the people involved in this industry will welcome every provision in the Bill which covers practically all aspects of the industry in the broader sense from the time the animal is foaled until it becomes a famous show-jumper internationally or until it is exported. There are, however, a few points to which I want to draw the Minister's attention so that he may lay particular emphasis on them when the board is formed. The first is something I did not realise until recently: there is a very low fertility rate in this industry, not even two-thirds, I am told. I suggest the Minister might take steps to set up some form of mobile clinic to cover one or two counties at a time. There are not many counties involved, only four or five, as far as I know, Clare, Cork, South Tipperary, Kilkenny, part of Wexford and, perhaps, Waterford. These are the principle centres of this industry. It should not be too expensive to establish a mobile clinic which would test a cross-section of the breeding mares. The main reason for the low fertility rate is lack of knowledge among some breeders in regard to observing these animals.

The Minister might also suggest that the board should seriously consider marking breeding mares and foals. What I have in mind is that there should be some form of tattoo on the inside of the upper or lower lip in the case of both mare and foal. This may not seem very important but it is very important to the small breeder because in many instances horses have suddenly become famous. This has happened with many of our horses. I could mention particularly Stroller, a very famous show jumper for England, and Mr. Softee who has been European champion on a few occasions. There are many others. These are horses that were actually bred in Clare and I know more about that county than others.

When Mr. Softee became famous he was described as an English-bred horse for many years until investigations were made and some people were able to prove that he was bred in County Clare. By the time that was done the dam and that particular strain had left the ownership of the breeder who lost any other benefits that might accrue from owning such a famous breed. If the facts had been established in time I have no doubt many buyers would have found their way to this area in search of further horses of this breed and the owners and those concerned in the area would have got particularly high prices.

Stroller, it is well known, was bred somewhere in west Clare but nobody can establish where. Tattooing of mares and foals would eliminate this situation completely. There would be no difficulty in tracing the origin of a famous horse and other members of its family. This trade lends itself to the obscuring of these facts because a foal is often sold as a foal and then passes on to another man by whom he is broken and then passes through two or three other people's hands before being eventually recognised internationally. Perhaps the Minister would keep this in mind when making recommendations to the board.

As regards membership of the board of 11, the Minister should consider representation for the breeding interests. It should include a person or persons who would capably represent the small breeders and also those who have been involved for a long time in the breaking and schooling of these horses and in the exporting of them and in the establishment of markets abroad. These people should be the first to get recognition on this board and should have a very strong voice in matters with which the board will deal. I agree that the Army, the Show Jumping Society and the RDS should be represented but I should like the grass-roots people to be very well represented.

The clause which covers the farriers is most welcome. People have to travel 20 or 25 miles to get horses shod even in my own county which is widely involved in horse breeding. There are payments for live foals. Believe it or not this is not widely known. It has been very badly publicised. It should be more publicised because many people do not realise that these payments are forthcoming. They are very welcome payments of £25 and £15 for foals by thoroughbred and non-thoroughbred stallions. These payments will add greatly to the remuneration accruing from horse breeding. If you add one of them on to the price which the hunter type foal was fetching last year, anything up to £150, it makes it really attractive to change over to horse breeding from dairying. This leads to a further relief in farm subsidy. It is a market that can be expanded by a proper drive by this board. We can expect a big improvement.

Deputy Cosgrave mentioned equestrian centres and the running of indoor equestrian centres. Some provision should be made towards their cost. They are very expensive to fit out and to run. There are two in my own county and there is one I know of in Malahide. The people running them are anxious to give tuition to young people. This involves paying a full time instructor. Perhaps the Minister would consider giving some relief to these centres. They are well worthwhile and I have no doubt that young people will learn the business of horse riding, starting with ponies. Young urban people are keenly interested in ponies and hunting of all kinds and they will benefit greatly from these centres. In due course our whole horse industry will benefit because of the standard of the riders we will be able to put into the international field. When all is said and done, our international team is the shop window of the whole trade. This fact should be considered.

I welcome this Bill as all people concerned with the industry will welcome it. This is a section of the agricultural industry which has always had to stand on its own legs and has done remarkably well under many handicaps. It has built itself up and I hope it will now develop much more successfully. I hope the people who have worked hard and with great dedication will be in a position to reap far greater rewards.

I consider this Bill to be a belated effort. It reminds me of closing the stable door when the horse has gone. Possibly the horse is out in a field and we may be able to get him in again.

The Connemara Pony Breeders' Society is mentioned here. I should like to see them getting a greater subsidy than they are getting at present. They can look back with pride to the day when the late Deputy Joseph Mongan saved this breed. I remember the great Cannonball. This was a great sire. They even had a wake for him. He was one of the last of a great line of Connemara ponies.

Much more should be done for pony trekking throughout the country. More should be done to help the American tourist effort in the off-season. The Galway Blazers have a fine hunt. The Americans think nothing of hopping over with their families and staying a week or two. They spend big money. Something should be done to build up this effort during the off-season.

I also see that the training of young men in farriery is mentioned. I do not think you can get instant farriers by lectures as suggested here. Vocational education committees can go a long way to help. I can speak with a certain amount of authority on this. I hold the certificate of master farrier. I had the privilege of being the youngest floorsman in farriery in Ireland in my time. I can look forward to a future for these young men but this is a tough trade. It is all right to offer a young man an incentive to train but there should also be an incentive for him to remain in the trade. Why have men left this business? That aspect should be examined. There were greater incentives outside the trade. There were easier trades for young men. It goes back to what we learned in school: "For the sake of a nail the battle was lost".

You cannot build up this trade unless you have men who are interested in remaining in it. It is all right to train a young man to fit shoes and nail them on. He is a floorsman. Unless a man is able to make a shoe from the raw material he has no business in that line. He is not a qualified farrier. There is also a shortage of the type of iron needed in the country areas. Fullered iron and concaved iron are required. The concaved iron is required for the highly bred animal and it is not easy to obtain it in the country. There is also a problem in relation to nails. The local shopkeeper keeps the type of nails he thinks he requires and it is very hard for farriers to get these materials. Those are the things that will help to kill the trade unless some central authority such as this board sees to it that supplies of materials are available for the man in the business.

I wonder too who is left to train these young men. Farriers are very few and far between. In the Curragh there are master farriers who can train men but there are others who just go around tacking on, as we say, at race meetings. You must have a man who knows the business from the ground up and is able to fit, make, shoe and finish off. Otherwise he has just half learned the trade and he will not have an interest in it.

This board should see to it that the materials I mentioned are supplied to the craftsmen because this is a trade which calls for a high degree of craftsmanship and a certain amount of temperament. When dealing with horses, one should be able to handle them properly. The maxim "all for the want of a nail the horse was lost" applies to this industry to a great degree. Is the expertise available to pass on the craft? Have the old men with the skill the way of passing on the craft to young men? The craft is disappearing very fast.

Mention was made of mobile forges. That is not so easy. I cannot see a mobile forge working satisfactorily in wet and stormy weather. There must be centres. If the job is not made attractive for young men to remain in it then we might as well throw our hat at it. I have employed men. Even after getting young men and training them at it, I have seen how some of them will not remain in this business. With my background of many generations in this business, naturally I would be prepared to help in every possible way with this board.

The handling and training of horses are two very important matters. We have seen horses ruined as a result of the temperament of the man training them. Such a man would need to be trained first before undertaking the training of horses. Who is to train the man? That goes back to square one. It can take years to eradicate bad habits developed by horses through bad training and bad handling. A man who dresses himself up in a riding outfit and who carries a riding crop does not become a trainer overnight. He must come up the hard way and prove himself. The status symbol of riding outfits, and so on, are not the be-all and the end-all as far as the handling and training of horses are concerned.

On the subject of the breeding of horses, I would say that a lot more could be done to publicise horses born in this country: that is especially so in the case of important races. A horse could have been bred, born and reared in this country and then trained in, say, Britain. Frequently when such a horse wins a race it is claimed that it is a British horse or an English horse. That claim is made just because the horse is bought by, say, an Englishman and trained in England. The same could be said of a show-jumper. It is very galling to see a show-jumper, which was bred, born and reared in Ireland and then bought by some foreign country and trained abroad, competing at international shows with other Irish horses and beating them just because it has been properly trained by some foreign team. We should emphasise that that horse is beating other Irish horses and that it is not a foreign-bred animal.

I wish this Bill every success. There are no overnight farriers. The technical school may do a lot but it will not do everything. They have to come up the hard way. When a craft is disappearing, I do not know where people can be found to carry it on.

It is with considerable diffidence that I take part in the discussion on this Bill. Strangely enough—again, by chance—I was, in the words of a civil servant giving evidence at a public tribunal, the hod man on two of the Acts mentioned here —the National Stud Act and the Racing Board and Racecourses Act, 1945. Strangely enough, both of these Acts were handled by the Department of Finance. I did a lot of work on the Racing Board and Racecourses Act. The late revered Mr. Seán T. Ó Ceallaigh, who was such a pleasant gentleman, used to talk in this House about what his "experts" told him. I shall not say who the other expert was but neither he nor I were racegoers. I suppose that, through dint of hard work, one gets a certain amount of knowledge of things. When we got to the other House, a representative of the Labour Party there asked, in effect: "Is this the best piece of post-war planning that the Department of Finance can do?" That was in 1945. We have no reason to apologise for the Racing Board and Racecourses Act. If every measure that went through the Oireachtas were as successful as that Act has been, this country would be a better place than it is.

Horse-breeding is of great importance in this country though the number of horses here has declined enormously since they ceased to be used for agricultural work. About the only point not mentioned so far is that the natural limestone plain which covers most of this country is a wonderful breeding-ground for horses. In addition, there were the Connemara ponies in the west: they are really spread over more than Connemara. Despite the ill-conceived efforts of the Congested Districts Board to bring in hacks, which rather upset the breed for a while, they are back to where they were, say, in the third quarter of the last century.

This country is also extremely suitable for the breeding of hunters. The Irish draught mare and the thoroughbred sire make almost the ideal hunting horse. I am afraid hunting is on its way out. It is less and less popular with farmers as they concentrate more and more on their agriculture. Damage is done to fresh grass if hunters are not careful although I think that usually they are extremely careful. One farmer in an area can upset the way in which the pack of hounds works. I am not sure that the end of the century will not see a change in the attitude towards hunting. Luckily, the bulk of our farmers in the west and south-west are generous-minded and do not interfere with people who just go across their land.

We have been lucky. Were it not for the passing of the Racing Board and Racecourses Act which developed the Totalisator Board into the present terrific source of moneys for prize money in races, conveying horses to racecourses and so on, there is no doubt that this country would not be in the position in which it is because a horse that wins a race worth £100 is worth a certain figure on the market and a horse that wins a race worth £1,000 is worth a completely different figure on the market. The market is, in fact, a kind of world market and a horse may be sent, say, to South Africa.

I had some sympathy with the remark made here earlier today that for a long time—though the annual publication The Irish Horse has made a difference—if an Irish horse was successful he was British bred. Many an excellent Irish horse went to India and other parts of the world with the label: “British bred”. Gradually various parts of the establishment in relation to horse breeding have been built up and this is a further brick in the edifice. The Department of Agriculture are to be congratulated on bringing in this Bill.

We have had some remarkable horses in this country. I cast my mind back to the great stallion Blandford. No other stallion sired as many Derby winners as Blandford did. He was removed from this country late on in his life—he did not settle down very happily where he was taken—because of an alteration in the tax law. I am glad to say the former Minister for Finance, Deputy Haughey, changed that so it is very unlikely that stallions will again be taken out of this country.

Deputy Cosgrave referred to Tulyar and indeed to Royal Charger which was bought by the National Stud. Royal Charger was one of those horses which had not got an extraordinarily good racing record. Indeed, Blandford had a very poor racing record, breaking down when he was a two-year-old. Royal Charger proved a remarkable investment because he bred horses which proved to be very fast at an early age. The climate has changed in recent years but after the war it was noted that most owners wanted quick returns and the horse that would race well as a two-year-old was a far more desirable animal than the horse that would race well as a five-year-old. This was one reason for the success of Royal Charger. I suppose the best thing that happened to the National Stud in relation to Tulyar was the fact that a gentleman came along looking for a commission and Tulyar was sold for the the same price as was paid for him because, of course, Tulyar was a complete failure as a stallion and, in fact, I understand became quite bald when he was transferred to the United States. Perhaps he did not like the change in climate either.

There are so many aspects of this matter that I am quite incompetent to deal with it in comparison with Deputy Cosgrave or Deputy Barrett. I do not mean any reflection on them but I noticed that whereas normally they speak slowly and easily today words just poured out of them about horses. This occurs, of course, when men who love horses speak about them. My contribution, I am afraid, will compare very badly with theirs.

It certainly has been the purpose of the National Stud to make relatively expensive stallions available to smaller breeders and this is really essential if the breeding of throughbreds is to be spread throughout the country. Deputy Barrett gave us a reason why it should be spread throughout the country and that was that part of that £35 million which is being spent on the Golden Vale might be saved. I know my colleague Deputy Tom O'Donnell does not agree with me on this matter but there are limits to the amount of money we can pour into the Golden Vale, of all parts of Ireland.

We produce the best horses there.

You do indeed. You produce excellent horses in County Limerick. Deputy Cosgrave referred to the fact that we have produced since World War II, some wonderful trainers of horses for racing in this country. There is no question but that two or three of the leading trainers in the world are in this country today.

Part of this Bill deals with riding schools. This is a difficult problem because it is suggested sometimes in England that horses in riding schools are kept somewhat underfed deliberately because this keeps them relatively quiet and complete newcomers to riding are not likely to be thrown to the ground or injured. It is an awkward problem. The late Commander Finlay ran a very fine establishment next door to the Phoenix Park racecourse.

His son still does.

He also had the record of buying Limerick Lace. He was a member of the Army jumping team, one of the really successful jumping teams, and he was responsible for buying Limerick Lace for the team. There is the question of State interference involved. There is considerable comment in England, where these pony establishments are more numerous than they are here on account of the vast population there. There is the problem of trying not to interfere too much and at the same time of trying to improve standards.

The Minister's brief dealt with the question of a lottery. It might not be a bad method of raising some money. I am not necessarily disagreeing with the conclusion that was reached.

It occurred to me reading through the Bill—I hope I read it correctly— that there is no provision to remunerate the members of the board. We live in an age when the number of people who can afford to serve on boards of this sort without remuneration is far fewer than it used to be. I am afraid one could easily restrict one's selection in a way that would be undesirable. I certainly would consider putting down an amendment to provide, if the Minister saw fit, that members of the board might be remunerated. I know, of course, that since the farming community pay no income tax they are better able to do this kind of thing than other people but I can think of actual persons who might prove very successful members of this board whom it would be unfair to ask to serve on it without allowing them remuneration.

The Army jumping team was remarkably successful in the late twenties and in the thirties and then a wrong policy was adopted as regards the buying of horses, a parsimonious approach. I remember one famous show jumper, Tubbernagealt, that could have been bought on the market here for the Army jumping team. That horse would have made a very big difference to the team provided £2,000 was prepared to be paid for it. At that time the purchasers of the horses believed in buying young horses for about £300 each on appearance and attempting to build them up. That policy has changed all right. More expensive horses are now being bought for the Army jumping team and this is likely to lead to an improvement in performances. However, it was rather unfortunate that for a longish period this very fine team should have fallen on relatively unsuccessful days.

I welcome this Bill and hope the Department will be able to implement its provisions satisfactorily.

Coming from a constituency which I think can rightly be regarded as being in the forefront of the hunting and horse breeding industry down the years, I welcome this Bill. It is long overdue. The survey team was set up in 1965 by the then Minister for Agriculture and it reported in June, 1966, so it is four years later that we are presented with this Bill to implement the main recommendations of the survey team which examined the whole question of the horse breeding industry.

This is an important development and provided the Bill is amended to cover certain observations that have already been made by some of the speakers, this Bill can go a long way towards reorganising and modernising the whole approach to the breeding of non-thoroughbred horses. The Bill, as I understand it, has three main objectives: first, the establishment of a Horse Board, to be called, I suppose, Bord na gCapall; secondly, the licensing of riding establishments; and, thirdly, the establishment of a national training centre.

According to the Minister's speech it is proposed to establish a board consisting of 11 members. The Minister has made a valid point in saying that a large board would be unwieldy and might not be workable at all. The Minister also says that before appointing the members to this board he would consult with interested organisations and parties. He will have a lot of consulting to do because in appendix B on page 43 of the survey report there is a list of bodies and persons who submitted their views to the survey team, and we find there were 17 different organisations who submitted their views, and in addition there were representatives from 18 different county committees of agriculture. This makes a total of 35, and there is a long list of 40 or 50 other persons who made submissions to the survey team.

I want to be quite blunt about this and to warn the Minister that his nominations to this board will be watched very carefully. We have had examples of boards set up by various Departments and by various Ministers for Agriculture in which it would appear that the main qualification for nomination was membership of the Government Party. I particularly want to warn the Minister against following the example of one of his predecessors in relation to nominating members to the Board of the National Stud. Reference has been made in the Minister's speech to the National Stud. An absolutely ridiculous situation obtains in relation to this board. The National Stud is a State-sponsored organisation which should have and is supposed to have as one of its main objectives the assistance and encouragement of the smaller bloodstock breeder.

Under one of the Minister's predecessors people have been nominated to this board who themselves are owners and directors of private studs and who are in competition with the National Stud itself for sires. It is a well-known fact that this has happened on a number of occasions. If this Bill is to work out properly in the interest of the small breeders and in the interest of the farmers, who have been specifically mentioned in the survey report and in the Minister's speech, then the board should be comprised of people representative of those whom the Bill is setting out to help.

I have certain reservations about this report. While acknowledging the fact that the people who comprised the survey team are busy men and men who have considerable experience of the bloodstock industry, I think it is not without significance that two members of the team are non-nationals and are engaged in the bloodstock industry in a very large way. As I said, the success or failure of this Bill will be largely dependent on the people who will be nominated by the Minister to serve on the board.

In view of the fact that this Bill will be of considerable interest to the small breeder, the majority of whom are practical farmers, it is vital that the farming organisations, in particular, should be consulted and, in fact, should get representation on this board. When the Committee Stage of the Bill comes before the House I certainly and many of my colleagues from this side of the House will be watching very carefully the Minister's approach to the appointment of the members to this new board.

There are other aspects of this Bill which should not be lost sight of. Hunting is an activity which has considerable attraction for certain categories of tourists.

Debate adjourned.