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Environmental Sustainability in Equestrian Sector

Horse Sport Ireland General News

Minister McConalogue Launches New Report on Environmental Sustainability Within the Irish Equestrian Sector

A major new report on environmental sustainability within the Irish equestrian sector has found that the industry has a unique opportunity to move quickly to becoming leaders in sustainability owing to its advantageous position as the sport of the land.

The Horse Sport Ireland (HSI)-commissioned report, Environmental Sustainability: Equestrianism, Equine Breeding and Equine Sport Report, produced by equine environment specialists White Griffin, was launched at the Dublin Horse Show today (Friday, August 11) by the Minister for Agriculture, Food & Marine, Charlie McConalogue, T.D.

The Insights Report notes that the equestrian sector’s main areas of impact on the environment included a significant dependence on fossil fuels.  These are used to power generators at events and also to fuel horse transportation.  Other impacts include the use of water to maintain ground conditions and protect horse welfare, the use of resources, and the use of the land.

The report finds that horses can be beneficial to land and form an important part of the ecosystem. It adds that there is a financial, legal, operational, and commercial imperative for the Irish equestrian sector to become more environmentally sustainable, particularly if it wishes to continue to operate as an Olympic and Paralympic sport.

The report has a series of 28 recommendations for the Irish equestrian sector and Horse Sport Ireland which include:

  • Supporting organisations within the equestrian sector to gain a better understanding of the risks, challenges and opportunities of environmental sustainability and facilitate an industrywide response
  • Create established standards and practices for equestrians to follow and recognise best practice
  • Devise a strategy to minimise HSI’s own environmental impacts
  • Host an annual event dedicated to sustainability
  • Seek ways to support funding for sustainable measures or incentives for those who make changes
  • Engage all riders on environmental sustainability from youth participants up to the Olympic and Paralympic teams
  • Support research into equine-specific topics
  • Ensure environmental sustainability and the associated risks and requirements are on the agenda at Government level for equestrianism.

The Insights document published today is aimed at enabling the Irish equine sector to begin the process of devising a more strategic response to environmental sustainability.

Launching the Insights report, Minister McConalogue said:

“The protection and enhancement of our equestrian industry across every parish and community, while ensuring that equestrianism plays its part in mitigating climate change, environmental sustainability and social license is a priority for this Government. 
The Irish equestrian industry has a deep-rooted history in our culture, it is not just a source of pride but also a critical contributor to our economy. Exports of sport horses and thoroughbreds were worth more than €400 million to the economy last year, with an estimated €185 million in sport horse export sales.
The insights in this report are the result of dedicated research and collaboration between experts, industry stakeholders, and environmentalists. We must view this report as an opportunity for growth, not as a critique of past practices. We have a responsibility to act decisively, to protect our natural resources, and to ensure that the industry thrives without compromising the environment that sustains it.
The solutions lie in knowledge sharing, collaboration, innovation, and adaptability. Our practices must adapt with evolving times, embracing eco-friendly technologies, promoting sustainable land management, and reducing carbon footprint.
By taking decisive action, we can ensure that future generations inherit an Irish equestrian industry that is thriving, resilient, and environmentally harmonious.”

Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) Chief Executive Denis Duggan said:

“The publication of this Insights report will create additional awareness within the equestrian sector about the challenges and opportunities that we face. 

“It is clear that there is very strong support within the sector for taking action to improve sustainability, and HSI will work with all stakeholders to deliver industrywide change across the entire sector. 

“More than two thirds (68%) of those surveyed for the report said environmental sustainability was “very important to them”, while more than eight out of ten respondents (81%) said that improving waste management and recycling were the most important measures to take. Almost three-quarters (73%) of respondents believe that removing single use plastics will be a very important step to take.

“The Irish equestrian sector already has some fantastic examples of exemplary practices within certain organisations that can help the entire sector gain a better understanding of how to address these challenges; because address them we must.”

The report, which was commissioned by Horse Sport Ireland in tandem with British Equestrian, provides a baseline for the industry, identifying areas of existing best practice and areas of opportunity.

White Griffin was commissioned to undertake a research project into the risks, challenges, and opportunities of sustainability in equestrianism, equine breeding and equine sport.

The project involved six months of research, with the consultants interviewing a wide range of contributors from the worlds of breeding, competing, livery yards, event venues, suppliers, and riding centres. White Griffin also conducted site visits and issued a questionnaire industrywide to obtain the views of the widest possible cross section of the equine community.

The report also includes examples of current best practice within the Irish equestrian sector.

  • The Bray-based charity Festina Lente supports people to achieve their best in the world of horses, horticulture, and community. Therapeutic riding lessons and community allotments are provided in a sustainable manner that minimises waste and encourages an appreciation of limited resources.
  • Coolmore Stud in Tipperary manages its land in accordance with the highest conservation standards and has created an area with extensive woodlands, wild flowers, native hedgerows and a thriving red squirrel community. An onsite nursery grows the trees and plants required on the farm, and a compositing system ensures that animal waste can be spread back on the land.
  • The Equestrian Centre in Tipperary is focussed on environmental sustainability and invests regularly to improve its overall position. Rainwater is used to wash horses, manure goes to a local mushroom farmer, and bedding is delivered to the centre loose, thereby removing plastic waste. LED lighting and windows have also been installed in the arena to reduce energy consumption from unnecessary use of electric lighting.
photo by laurence dunne


Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue, TD with Ruth Dancer from White Griffin and Denis Duggan, CEO of Horse Sport Ireland at the launch of the the Insights Report in the RDS Library

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