I will give a quick overview of the value of the sport horse industry to Ireland. Figures from a UCD report of 2012 show that there were 124,000 sport horses on the island and that the sector was worth €708 million to the economy each year, supporting the equivalent of 12,500 full-time jobs. A number of people in the sector have other income but 29,000 people depend on the sector for part or all of their income, and there are 47,000 regular participants, defined as a breeder or other participant on a fortnightly basis.
Horse Sport Ireland is a relatively new body and became the national governing body for equestrian sport in 2008 as recognised by the international governing body, the FEI, the Irish Sports Council and the Olympic Council of Ireland. In 2010, we were formally recognised by Sport NI as the governing body for equestrian sport on a 32-county basis. All our equestrian teams compete on a 32-county basis. There are some issues to be tied up as regards structures but, by and large, we operate on a 32-county basis.
We brought together equestrian sport, which was previously run by the Equestrian Federation of Ireland, and sport horse breeding which was carried out by the Irish Horse Board.
We were formally allocated responsibility for maintaining the Irish horse register which incorporates the Irish sport horse and Irish draught horse stud books in July 2008. When we started out on this journey, we inherited 16 affiliates from the Equestrian Federation of Ireland but we now have 28 affiliate bodies, including the Northern Ireland Horse Board. We do all the registrations under an agreement with the Northern Ireland Horse Board for all the horses in the Irish sport horse and Irish draught horse stud books North and South, whereas previously they were done in Naas and at a location in Northern Ireland.
I have given a brief summary of our income in the form of unaltered figures for 2014. We received €1.7 million from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, €1.7 million from our own sources, €1.5 million from the Irish Sports Council and Sport Northern Ireland, and last year we got a sports capital allocation of €30,000, bringing our 2014 income to just over €5 million. We were in receipt of a significant uplift from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine last year, which I will deal with later and which will be included in our 2015 income. We do not count the income earned by affiliates, which would probably be between €4 million and €5 million. Such companies include Showjumping Ireland, Eventing Ireland, the Irish Pony Club and the riding clubs.
As a body we interface with Government, we act as national governing body, we maintain the Irish horse register and we issue identity documents for horses, as well as stud book documents. This is an important point which I would like to stress. Our policy, which is enshrined in the new strategic plan, is for all sport horses on the island to be registered and recorded with a pedigree verified by DNA testing. One can obtain a passport for the purposes of identification for a horse but it does not record any pedigree. This scheme was put in place for a very good reason, namely, to mop up a backlog of horses in the country which were not registered, but there are some foals still being registered without a recorded pedigree. That is a huge loss to the sector if the animal goes on to be successful, because the added value for its dam line and its sire is lost. It is something we need to address and there are a number of suggestions in the strategic plan, both for the industry itself and in terms of what help we could get with legislation.
We promote the Irish equestrian industry worldwide and run high performance programmes. We now run the national equine anti-doping programme and, since 2009, all the affiliates have handed over responsibility for dope testing of horses to Horse Sport Ireland. The results come to us, we manage them and carry out all the hearings. It is an issue on which we have made a lot of progress and, touch wood, no horse ridden by an Irish rider in international competition has tested positive for any substance since 2008. It had been a huge problem up to that point and we can never be complacent about it but the maintenance of a reputation on the international stage is something on which we place a very high priority.
We run the national equestrian coaching development programme and operate an online pedigree and performance database for all the horses registered on the Irish horse register. Again, Showjumping Ireland, Eventing Ireland, the Association of Irish Riding Clubs and the international governing body provide us with a link to results in their databases, which is important in helping us give breeders and producers better information about horses.
At the London Olympic Games, equestrian sport was the only sport where Ireland won medals in the Olympic and the Paralympic Games. Cian O’Connor won a bronze medal in showjumping, our para-equestrian team won a team bronze medal and Helen Kearney won two individual medals. This is a sport at which we excel and in which we have huge potential. With further investment, we believe we can make even more progress.
Since 2008, we have introduced new high performance programmes to bring proper structures and training to our teams. The graph shows the under-age medals won by Irish equestrian teams in FEI competitions since 2006.
As the committee can see, we have had unprecedented success in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. A lot of that success is down to the funding that we received from the Irish Sports Council which we appreciate. We would always like more funding, of course. The funding has allowed us to put proper structures in place. All of our teams are now run by professional managers who select the teams. We do not have voluntary selection committees and the selection process is managed. The senior team is managed by Robert Splaine and the team manager for the senior eventing team is Nick Turner. By bringing in those structures and involving proper professionals we have achieved a huge number of improvements.
We are fortunate that the Irish senior eventing team has achieved Olympic qualification for Rio. We have one last chance to qualify in show jumping at the European Championships which will be held in Aachen from 19 to 23 August. We missed qualifying by less than three penalties at the World Championships so Olympic qualification is a crucial goal for us this year. One of the Irish riders is called Bertram Allen. He is 19-years old and is ranked 7th in the world. He won the Longines Global Champions Tour competition at the weekend in Paris. He came up through the under age system and a lot of the medals won at the event were won by him. He is already a global phenomenon. There is huge potential in terms of the glory that this one rider has brought to Ireland. At the moment he is the most talked about rider in world show jumping. He is a great credit to our sport and we will hear a lot more about him.
Two years ago we opened the National Horse Sport Arena on the national sports campus. The National Sports Campus Development Authority has developed an Olympic standard arena and it has the same surface as that found in London. All high performance training for the Irish teams takes place at the venue. We work very closely with the national sports campus to utilise the facility. It is wonderful that Irish athletes can now train in a world class facility. The venue has been a big help to us. We could further develop the arena. The facilities have developed since the arena was built. The venue now has stables but there is potential for an indoor arena and more facilities which would turn it into a world class centre of excellence.
In terms of the spread of the sport, we have 28 affiliates but for the purposes of these statistics we picked out the three Olympic disciplines. Show jumping is the biggest discipline in the country. Our statistics show there were 129,540 entries in show jumping last year. The figure refers to the rounds of show jumping. The discipline has a phenomenal reach. In every village, parish and county in Ireland there are people involved in show jumping in an amateur and professional capacity. The statistics also show that more than 6,000 horses are registered to compete; in eventing there were 8,000 entries and in dressage there were 5,468 entries. The figures do not include activities carried out by the Irish Pony Club, riding clubs, hunts and several other organisations. We have mentioned trotting and polo. All of these categories are part of our organisation and they all have huge participation levels. Show jumping is a sport that people can participate in from the age of five to 85. It is also the only sport in the Olympic charter where men and women can compete on an equal basis. That is another aspect that is unique about our sport. There is very good participation in our sport by males and females.
On the international stage we have 548 FEI registered riders who represent Ireland in international competitions. In 2014, they represented Ireland in 27 countries. The phrase that we often use to describe our riders is that they are ambassadors first and sportspeople second. The level of exposure and media coverage they bring to Ireland is phenomenal. In fact, they probably get more media coverage abroad than they do in Ireland. We believe there is great potential to exploit such media coverage in terms of selling and marketing Ireland abroad.
I will next discuss the breeding side. Members should be able to see on their screens the Irish horse register's foal registration figures. The key message to take from the data is that the number of foals produced in Ireland peaked in 2008 and the number has dropped from a peak of circa 10,000 foals down to under 6,000 foals. The number has held reasonably well in the past four years but there was a substantial reduction from 2008 to 2011. There was an oversupply problem in the sport horse sector in Ireland and in the thoroughbred sector as well.
There has been a significant reduction in the supply of horses. That will help to address some of the problems, including some of the welfare problems that have presented the Irish horse sector in a bad light. There have been some improvements but more improvements must be made. With the reduction in the supply of foals that should be a help in terms of increasing the value of animals, so that we do not end up in a situation where we have a great many animals with no value, a recipe for problems.
We have issues with our rankings on the breeding side. The red line tracks the event horses. We have been top of the world every year since 2004 to 2014, with the exception of two years in that period. That is a significant selling point for Ireland. We are the foremost producer of three day event horses in the world, despite the fact that we are a small country relative to some of the other countries that are trying to produce horses.
However, the picture is not as positive for show jumping and there are issues which we have been addressing in our new strategy. There are further recommendations in the new strategy on how we address this problem. The Irish sport horse stud book shows that we are in the 12th rank for producing show jumping horses. That must be addressed. There have been some very positive signs in terms of the performances of our young horses at the world championships in recent years. That measures the six top horses from the studbook each year. They tend to be aged between 12 years and 15 years. Our hope is that the next generation of five, six, seven and eight year old horses will be better. If we implement this strategy we would hope the next generation again, will be better again if we can improve our breeding strategies for show jumping horses.
The chairman has mentioned the industry's strategic plan - Reaching New Heights. We may have circulated a copy to the members but I can recirculate a full copy of the document after the meeting. The document was launched earlier in March of this year. Professor Pat Wall has already touched on the main themes, improving herd quality, which is to improve the breeding of our horses, improved education and training structures, marketing and sales capacity, increasing participation, improving horse health and welfare and improving institutional capacity. As the chairman said it took about a year to develop this strategy, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Coveney took a particular interest in it and attended a number of the regional meetings. He increased the allocation to Horse Sport Ireland in 2015 by €600,000. We have utilised that funding in three key ways - first, as prize money, which we have distributed to an innovation fund for innovative classes around the country, for young horse classes, for mare classes and for foal classes. We have a new foal championship which will commence in the coming weeks and will take place in five regions. The Northern Ireland Horse Board has funded a regional qualifier event in Northern Ireland. One of the challenges we have as a sector is that while on the sports side there is funding coming from Northern Ireland, on the breeding side, there is no funding from the Northern Ireland Government. While we operate on a Thirty-two county basis, the funding is all provided by the Government in the Republic. That is a point the Minister, Deputy Coveney has been making, to try to draw in some additional funding from Northern Ireland for the breeding side. As of yet, that has not been successful. That is a key issue that needs to be addressed. I know there are similar issues on the racing side.
We have set up a new international marketing division within Horse Sport Ireland and we ran a new series called Jumping in the City, under which we brought show jumping to greyhound stadiums. We had one event in Cork, one in Limerick with the final one in Shelbourne Park. The goal of that initiative was to try to increase the profile of our sport and by bringing show jumping to the city to try to get new people to come and look at it. Our new international marketing director, Ms Elaine Hatton, joins us from Irish Thoroughbred Marketing and has been in situ for approximately one month. That is an exciting development for us. Irish Thoroughbred Marketing has been very successful in marketing the Irish Thoroughbred on the international stage and basically we are trying to replicate that by having a sport horse marketing operation within Horse Sport Ireland, which Ms Hatton is heading up.
When she is settled in, I sure she will be happy to come and give an update on how we are doing in international markets and outline what her strategies will be. She is developing a programme in that regard.
The Jumping in the City series was one of the initiatives we funded from the extra resources received from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. It was very successful in that there were huge crowds in each of the stadiums. Obviously, there are lessons to be learned from it for next year. On 21 July we will make a presentation to the board on the outcome of the series to see how we can proceed. It involved good collaboration with the Irish Greyhound Board and it has great potential to continue with it. We hope we have demonstrated, as an organisation and an industry, that we have delivered real value for the extra €600,000 provided. The sector is still dependent on voluntary effort, but we can leverage a good deal. Even for an event such as Jumping in the City a huge amount of the work that goes into it is done by people on a voluntary basis. The same applies to shows all around the country. There are 159 shows run all around Ireland, largely and almost exclusively through voluntary effort.
We can give good value for money with an increased investment in the sector. We are aware that the thoroughbred sector receives in excess of €45 million each year; the greyhound sector, circa €12 million, while we receive €3 million. Our argument is that in our sector we have more horses and more people and that we make a major contribution to social capital all around the country. With further investment the sector could deliver much more. We have many more initiatives, some of which are outlined in the strategy, that we would like to implement. For many reasons, for a long period the sector was not as well organised and we fell behind in the funding stakes. That there is no betting is a fair point, but given the amount of money contributed by the Government, even excluding betting tax revenue, a case can be made for an increased allocation.
We are delighted to have an opportunity to outline what the sector does and to take whatever questions committee members may have. I have covered the sector briefly. If anybody wants to receive more detailed information, we will be happy to provide it. I again thank the committee for giving us the opportunity to make this presentation.