Monday 26 September 2016

Celebrating our 'special relationship' with the US

Published 30/03/2016 | 02:30

Irish show jumping is fortunate to have secured some top US owners in recent years to support American-based Irish riders.

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In gratitude Horse Sport Ireland recently hosted a reception in Florida to recognise the contribution made by these owners to Irish equestrian teams and especially to acknowledge the great support that the Irish equestrian community have received in the USA.

It was fitting that the reception took place just hours before the team of Conor Swail, Cian O'Connor, Richie Moloney and Shane Sweetnam lifted the prestigious Nations Cup in Wellington, an event won by Irish riders on many occasions in recent years.

Organised during Nations Cup week for Horse Sport Ireland by Tamso Doyle, who runs HSI's ownership programme, the guest list included prominent owners as Jenji and Diana Mercer of Equinimity (sponsor of Richie Moloney), and Lisa Lourie of Spy Coast Farm, owners of many of Shane Sweetnam's top horses.

Other Irish riders in attendance included Kevin Babington, Paul O'Shea, Darragh Kerins, David Blake and Conor O'Regan.

During the evening Horse Sport Ireland inaugurated a 'Contribution to Irish Showjumping in the USA' Award. The winners were nominated by the riders and a committee consisting of Sarah Kerins, Fiach Byrne, Dianna Babington and Lisa Lourie.

The recipients were Jimmy Doyle and Denis Quinlan, both of whom have been USA-based for decades.

Kevin Babington also gave a Supporters' Award to Waterford man Noel Phelan who travels out to the Nations Cup every year to support the team.

Damian McDonald, CEO of Horse Sport Ireland and host of the event, spoke at the event, saying: "Ireland and the USA have a special relationship. Our histories are intertwined by hundreds of thousands of Irish people who emigrated to America. Today, in Palm Beach, a new special relationship has flourished between our two countries through our shared love of the horse.

"The contribution that US-based owners make to Irish equestrian teams is extraordinary and I want to thank all of those who have provided them with horses and work placements here in Palm Beach."

The Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida is the biggest event of its kind, running from mid-January to early April, and offers over $9m (€8m) in prize-money.

During these 12 weeks Florida is home to dozens of Irish riders competing in classes of all levels, with hundreds more Irish visitors travelling to the Sunshine State to support family members and friends.

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