President Higgins has told horse trainers who refuse to use female jockeys to “cop on” and that “women can ride horses just as well as men can”.
The popular politician was spending a day at the world famous Galway Races, and was happy to chat and mingle with the crowds.
Mr Higgins made the comment after female jockey Bryony Frost narrowly missed out on winning the iconic Galway Plate, after a loose horse blocked her chances of running Black Corton to victory.
He was quick to recognise the talents of female jockeys, and warned they will soon become just as successful as their male counterparts.
The 78-year-old said: “There’s a very good piece of research in the papers that shows, I think, some of the female jockeys get nine per cent of the races but 14 per cent of the wins and I think it’s about 46 per cent trainers don’t use female jockeys.
“People should cop on and realise that it’s the strength of your ability to control the horse and be kind to the horse that counts.
“And with people like Rachel Blackmore and others, new ground has been broken and you’re going to see far more trainers getting converted to the obvious — which is that women can ride horses just as well as men can.”
Higgins was attending the racecourse with his wife Sabina who said: “It is a wonderful time of year in Galway, the event is a real high point of Galway life.
“It has always been a wonderful occasion for the people of Galway themselves, they have always been the mainstay of it, and then for the visitors as well, of course.”
President Higgins showed he has an expert eye when selecting his horses too, as he backed the first winner of the evening.
He then spent time chatting with the racegoers before making his way to the stables. He said: “When I came to Galway first, I was 19. In that time, people who had emigrated from Galway would come home for the races.
“The main point about it is to spend more time with people. The more people you meet, the better it is and the less money you will lose. But the races are very important for the local economy. It’s worth about €54m.”