The need for a radical shake-up in Ireland’s high performance strategy – particularly with regard to international show jumping – has been highlighted several times by this website in recent months.
Today’s news that some of the country’s top riders have now approached Horse Sport Ireland to demand a top level meeting to discuss this serious issue comes as a welcome and much-needed development.
Failure to qualify a team at three consecutive Olympics, and the lack of medals at other team championships all point to serious flaws in the existing structure, given that Ireland consistently produces some of the world’s most successful individual riders, with wins and rankings out of all proportion to its population base.
The meeting will take place at Dublin airport on November 14, and Horse Sport Ireland will hear the views of Ireland’s top 20 riders in the world rankings, as well as riders who have featured on teams at top-level nations cup shows.
Offaly-born Daragh Kenny told the Irish Examiner today: “We have so many talented riders and top owners. We want to figure out what we need to do to qualify a team for the Olympics. More importantly, we want to figure out why we are not winning medals at championships.”
Kenny, who is one of the world’s top 50 riders, added: ““It’s about developing a formula to ensure Ireland is successful as a team at championships. It’s about getting ideas from riders.
“We went to the high performance committee with this. They were very receptive and they want to see the same thing: to make Ireland more successful as a team. I see this as a hugely positive development.”
It is believed that subjects up for discussion include long-term planning, better communication, a fostering of team spirit and the role of the manager.
While the initiative is to be welcomed, it is instructive to note that it came from the riders, and not the sport’s governing body, which is in itself perhaps indicative of Horse Sport Ireland’s lack of dynamism in this important area.
Nor should it be forgotten that the organisation is currently under scrutiny by the Department of Agriculture, which is conducting an assessment of HSI’s governance, and also by Sport Ireland (formerly the Irish Sports Council) and, more confusingly, by itself, in an “internal review”.
So far no date has been given for publication of the results of any of these investigations, but their findings will no doubt be eagerly awaited by Ireland’s equestrian community.
In the meantime, the riders have given us a date – November 14 – and they should be applauded for taking hold of the reins to move this matter forward at an appropriate speed.