Horse Sport Ireland today advertised for a new Chief Executive Officer to replace Damian McDonald, who has left for a job in the agricultural sector.

McDonald, who was active between 2007 and 2016, has been replaced by an interim CEO, former High Performance Committee Chairman James Kennedy, whose own background was in Polo Ireland.

However, the search for a permanent CEO to steer Horse Sport Ireland through the next period of its development must be treated as one of its most serious undertakings, given the number of people whose careers and livelihoods are reliant upon a modern and efficiently run governing body.

To use HSI’s own terminology in the advertisement, the new CEO should be able “to implement the changes necessary to deliver on its strategic objectives so that resources can be deployed effectively and efficiently in support of current and future needs of the Sport Horse sector”.

The advertisement, which appears on the HSI website today, is almost 350 words long, and sets out a shopping list of qualities that applicants must possess.

No indication of a salary is mentioned, though, which some may find strange, given that Horse Sport Ireland receives substantial government funding.

Nor is there any mention of management issues regarding the role of the Chief Executive as raised in the Deloitte report on Horse Sport Ireland of April 2016, which recommended that a Director of Sport be appointed to let the CEO “deal with more strategic areas”, and also suggested that “more people were needed in senior executive positions”.

HSI meeting with Michael Creed TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine
Michael Creed TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine

February sees the publication of the long-awaited Indecon review of Horse Sport Ireland’s activities, commissioned by Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed.

It might possibly have recommendations on foot of the Deloitte report, which aside from management issues, categorically stated: “Make breeding the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture and allow the sports disciplines to develop further.”

But if the new CEO of Horse Sport Ireland is being asked to deploy resources in support of  the “current and future needs of the Sport Horse sector” one wonders if there is any appetite at all for separating sport from breeding, something that many people in the industry feel is a fundamental flaw in the governing body’s current status.

Colin McClelland