The United States equestrian federation has just announced that celebrated Olympian David O’Connor has been appointed as Eventing Technical Advisor for their team during 2017 and 2018.

Celebrated US Olympian David O’Connor

This follows a three-month review process of the USEF Eventing High Performance programme after the US did not complete a team at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. O’Connor has already made his first presentation to the country’s high performance riders.

At the same time the German federation has released the names of its eight-strong elite squad in show jumping and also details of its B squad, ahead of the European Championships in Gothenburg in the summer of 2017.

Germany has also announced its dressage elite squad and B squad for the coming year.

Switzerland’s federation revealed its 2017 elite show jumping squad as far back as October of this year.

The pace is hotting up as all over the world the national equestrian federations prepare for the year ahead, with one eye on the 2020 Olympics.

Daniel Deusser, named as part of Germany’s elite rider squad for 2017

In Britain there’s a new performance management plan, utilising a  partnership with an emphasis on sports science and tailored coaching. The British Equestrian Federation recently revealed that Richard Waygood will become the  world class eventing performance manager, an announcement  that follows news of former German coach and British citizen Christopher Bartle being appointed to the newly created role of performance coach.

Oh, and before we forget, in Britain UK Sport funding for the four-year Tokyo cycle sees equestrian sport awarded a total investment of up to £19,635,180, representing up to £15,361,769 for Olympic sport and up to £4,273,411 for Paralympic sport.

So….how prepared are we in Ireland?

The answer is – not at all, really.

There appear to be gaps in the federation’s management ranks. Show Jumping has no High Performance Manager. Nor does Eventing.

Horse Sport Ireland’s Show Jumping High Performance Committee also seems to be in a state of flux. Without a Chef d’Equipe in place it should have a Chairman, but that’s also the Chairman of Horse Sport Ireland, and we know he’s about to leave, so presumably they’re looking for a replacement. No announcement has been made about this yet, though.

There’s a seat for the Chairman of the Show Jumping Association of Ireland, so that’s probably OK, but then we have another seat for the CEO of Horse Sport Ireland, so that looks like James Kennedy’s; remember – he’s the man who’s just been named as interim CEO because the last one is leaving and the job has to be advertised (like, as if the vacancy took everyone by surprise).

The next seat on the High Performance Committee goes to….well, it says “The Chair of the International Show Jumping Management Committee”, but last time we looked that was also James Kennedy, so does that mean he’s now wearing three hats?

Finally the last seat goes to “a nominee of Sport Ireland”. (That’s the old Irish Sports Council, by the way.) Does anyone know who that person is? Have they nominated anyone yet? Do they know they’re supposed to nominate someone?

The first two show jumping Nations’ Cups of 2017 take place within nine weeks, in Al Ain UAE and Ocala, Florida.

But listen, let’s not panic.

Other nations may have nominated their elite squads in various disciplines and may already be well embarked on performance plans and even funding for next year and beyond, but Horse Sport Ireland is not letting the grass grow under its feet. On the question of replacing, for instance, the Senior Show Jumping Chef d’Equipe, they have recently announced: “We have started the process of engaging a recruitment company to assist us with the process of appointing a new Show Jumping High Performance Manager and we hope to advertise the role nationally and internationally shortly.”

Come on now, that’s pretty dynamic, you’ll have to agree. They have “started the process”. Not of appointing a new Chef d’Equipe, but a recruitment company. Who will assist them. In the process.

We can all breathe a sigh of relief. The professionals have the situation well under control.

Roll on Gothenburg. Roll on Tokyo. Team Ireland is ready for you.

Colin McClelland