The Irish Sport Horse (ISH) (US: Irish Draught Sports Horse), also known as the Irish Hunter, is mainly the result of a cross between the Irish Draught and the Thoroughbred. It has not yet been given recognition as a separate breed, although it is commonly bred from parents who are also Irish Sport Horses, in addition to being bred from the definitive parent breeds.
The Irish Sport Horse is traditionally used for all purposes, from transportation, to riding, and working the land. However, it is becoming increasingly popular as a competition riding horse. Its natural athletic ability and fantastic jumping talents means that it excels in the show jumping arena, as well as competing at the highest levels of eventing. The horse is globally renowned for being one of the best fox hunting mounts in the world, and the Irish Sport Horse studbook regularly tops the rankings for eventing.
Ireland produces a great number of Irish Sport Horses each year, many of them selling for great amounts in the United States and Europe.
For the 13th consecutive year the Irish Sport Horse Studbook has achieved the prestigious title of the leading studbook in the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses Eventing Rankings 2006/2007.
The highest placed Irish Sport Horse in the individual rankings was McKinlaigh (ISH) ridden by Gina Miles (USA). The ISH Studbook finished on 1238 points, over 100 points ahead of the Selle Francais Studbook, which finished in second place.
The Irish Sport Horse receives the sense and honesty of the Irish Draught and the athleticism, speed, and endurance of the Thoroughbred. It has an excellent temperament, being calm, yet lively when needed, and is very tough. Connemara blood is also found in some Irish mares. Due to its sense and strength, it is popular with police forces in Britain and Irelend.
The Irish Sport Horse tends to fall into three types: light-weight for carrying a rider up to about 70kg, middle-weight to carry a rider up to about 89kg, and heavy-weight for riders exceeding 89kg. Carrying a rider according to this classification includes being able to participate in hunting or other strenuous riding activities. Nowadays, most Irish Horses are middle-weights, and it is uncommon to find a true heavy-weight or a Lady's horse (trained for sports in side-saddle, and usually a light-weight).
The horse has an attractive head with a sometimes convex profile (a "Roman nose"). It has a slightly-arched and muscular neck, long, sloping shoulders, a deep but not overly broad chest, a short, compact back, and a muscular croup with powerful hindquarters. The croup is often sloping and long, a trait coming from the Irish Draught, which improves its jumping ability. The high withers of the Thoroughbred are also evident in many cases.
The Irish Sport Horse can be any colour, although it is rare to find piebalds and skewbalds. It ranges in height from 15 to 17 hands.