The Grassroots Producer Series with Oonagh O’Brien

The next producer I talk to in this series, is Timmy of T.Doyle Sport Horses. Timmy is another long standing member of the equine community, renowned for breaking and producing horses from his yard in North Cork. With a long line of competition horses to his name, I thought Timmy would be another ideal candidate to get some insight into how Irish Producers are dealing with the current economic climate.

Firstly – tell us who you are and a little bit about what you do and the type of horses you specialize in: My name is Timmy Doyle and I run my own showjumping yard T.Doyle Sport Horses in North Cork. Since I was young, I knew it was something that I always wanted to do. I currently have a number of horses stabled here at my premises in for breaking and riding. My main focus is showjumping and breaking but I also pre train horses and breed mares. Here at home I’m very lucky to have everything I need from stables, walker, arenas and gallop. I ride the horses every day and jump them every second day as I feel they perform better on this routine. Horses including breakers are on walker every day to maintain their fitness.

From primarily researching this series of articles and chatting to different individuals in the equine sector, it seems that horses – just like so many other industries in Ireland are taking a financial hit, money is not as freely available and the cost of living increase seems to be having a detrimental effect – what are your thoughts or insight into this? Yes, I have noticed this as the cost of the raw materials has gone up in recent years. Example shavings, diesel, haulage and hard feed to name just a few. I think there has been a lot more pressure on us as producers as we have to make the call about what we think is a good horse and has to be made sooner rather than later but as we know some horses take a lot more time and might not show their true potential until the horse is 6 or 7. So yes I think the cost of living has affected the horse industry as people don’t want to be spending money on the hope of making a profit especially as it may be a lot less profitable after you factor all the living cost into consideration.

Something I hear a lot of people talk about is the ever rising cost of entry fees on top of the cost of diesel/petrol to get to shows. As a producer of horses, are you noticing this? I would imagine with the number of horses you breed – want to produce or be seen, this effects that?
Yes, I agree the cost of entries, diesel and all considered is increasing. We are lucky where we are located as we are only an hour and a half max away from any good show or centre in Munster. We have some great jumping and facilities in Munster region such as the Connolly’s Red Mills Munster league. As a production aspect we always think a show is as good as six weeks work at home. But with the rising cost we are doing a lot more schooling shows before taking the young horses to a show.

Have you seen a change in potential buyers? Is the interest in Irish bred/produced horses still there with the opportunity to sell abroad in particular? I think the influence of social media, videos and the help of international riders the world has become much easier access, as videos of horses can be seen from a world wide platform. With the help of international riders wanting to ride Irish produced horses and promote the Irish produced horse is a great help.

Would you say that the price and value on horses has changed in recent times?
The price and value of the horses have improved a lot in recent years and rightly so. Producers and owners are now getting well paid for the risk taken in making a horse. The price paid for a horse has a knock on effect as it goes back onto the economy as an owner with go down the same route with another horse and as producers will put it back into the yard such as improving facilities and making the comfort of horses in our care a priority.

How is the cost of living increase affecting you – if at all? Do you find yourself forced to pass incurred costs to your clients and if so – do you feel it is a risk to your business? The cost of everything is on the increase but luckily all our suppliers have been with us a long time and my owners are horse people and understand that costs have to rise and understand. I try to keep my price increases to the minimum but sometimes that’s inevitable. I am lucky as I don’t have to pay a groom as my family and siblings all fall in and help around the yard and at the shows so that is one cost I don’t have to be passed on. I also like and try to have horses going 100% before they get the cost of going to a show and a space in the truck as they would have competed at training shows locally.

Has the type of horse that your clientele are looking for changed at all?
Yes, it has I try to have a horse that will be dual purpose i.e. that it could go the eventing route or the showjumping route. I think the horse that looks well, has a good step, and shows potential jumping will always sell.

Do you have concerns for the industry going forward unless things improve? I do, horses like every business is not easy. I think if things keep going it will revert back to like it was years ago where only the rich had horses – as the ordinary equestrian and rider simply won’t be able to afford to keep them, let alone compete.

How do you feel Ireland compares to the rest of Europe and the UK for people like yourself – in terms of opportunities and facilities/competitions for the horses? Ireland I think is in a great situation when it comes to facilities and competition. Our facilities are run by people in the horse industry that know the ins and outs of ground, course building and safety of horse and rider. We also have the richest young horse class in the world at the Irish Breeders Classic.

Is there anything that bodies like Horse Sport Ireland/Show Jumping Ireland or even the Government could be doing to help the equestrians of Ireland in your opinion? I think we should be given a lot more funding the we are allocated. Horse producing is a business and worth a lot of money to the economy you only have to look at the roads every weekend and you would see the amount of horses on the move going to shows, events, hunter trials or schooling shows is evidence. HSI should be treated the same as Horse Racing Ireland as it’s an industry, it provides full-time employment. It also keeps the farrier, physios, grooms, bedding and shaving and haylage to name a few turning money.

Finally – if you could change one thing in the Irish Equine Industry – what would it be and why? The people in power ie. government would realise the amount of work, sacrifice, time, blood, sweat and tears that goes in behind the scenes. Everyone sees the one minute or two that you’re in the ring but no one thinks of the hard work, dedication, long hours and expense that makes up the rest of the week. Horses get fed and looked after before ourselves and the equestrian industry is certainly more than just a hobby – generating a huge amount of money for the economy and I feel that there should be some form of grant, or leeway for those of us who are career horsemen and women.


The Grassroots Producer Series with Oonagh O’Brien

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