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Irish Polo Foundation Scheme Offers New Pathways for Ex-racehorses

The Irish Polo Foundation (“IPF”) have announced plans to scale up their ‘Irish Thoroughbred Programme’, a pilot scheme that aims to increase the number of polo horses in Ireland to progress the development of the game and the wider industry. The overarching role of the Irish Polo Foundation is to raise funds to assist with encouraging the growth of Polo in Ireland – especially amongst women and children – and the Irish Thoroughbred Programme is part of a wider remit, which also includes providing subsidised coaching and equipment.

The pilot Irish Thoroughbred Programme encompasses a two stage grant payment to those who agree to train an Irish thoroughbred to be sold into the Polo industry.

The pilot programme operates as follows:

(i)             a polo horse trainer who purchases an Irish thoroughbred submits an application to the IPF at the point of purchase for a grant of €500. Each application must be accompanied by the IPF’s template application form, setting out details of the trainer and the horse’s breeding/passport number, and a copy of the horse’s passport; and

(ii)           once the polo horse is sold to a “polo future” (i.e. into the polo industry), the trainer applies to receive a second grant of €500.

“We designed the two stage process in order to initially mitigate the upfront cost of acquiring the horse, but also further incentivise the onward sale of the horse into the Polo industry”. James Kennedy, Chairman of the IPF

Irish Polo currently has around 500 horses playing (mainly thoroughbreds) and, in a normal year, Kennedy estimates that approximately 100 Irish thoroughbreds are acquired to be retrained as Polo horses. However, he is optimistic that there is a potentially untapped export market, and believes this could grow to 300. “We know that horses are already exported to the UK, Spain and Germany and we have also received interest from India to export Irish thoroughbreds for polo. We think there is definite potential for growth in this area and we are open to discussions/suggestions on how best we can work with the thoroughbred industry to pursue what we see as a common goal. We also recognise that an effective audit and oversight function is fundamental to the success of any initiative relating to the re-training of Irish horses and our committee will be auditing the process carefully”. Kennedy is seeking donors to support and grow the initiative further.

 

Former Joseph O’Brien-trained SPIRIT OF TIME was provided grant funding.  The 8yo mare by Zoffany was retrained in Ireland and is now played by an Irish professional polo player based in the UK.

This is good news for the Thoroughbred industry and offers further opportunity for ex-racers up to 16hh.  Irish thoroughbreds are now playing polo globally and, given the their speed, stamina and strength, they are adapting to the game very well and are widely sought.  Mares in particular thrive in the environment.

The Irish Polo Foundation are now receiving high levels of interest from a number of Irish polo horse trainers based in Ireland and the UK who are looking to participate in this programme going forward.  Should you wish to contact James, please email him at: jameskennedy@irishpolofoundation.ie

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