The other major feature of the latest programme is the provision of training for unemployed people. Many of the courses will have a limited number of spaces reserved for unemployed people. These spaces will be 100pc funded, at no cost to the individual.
Aside from receiving free training, the unemployed individuals will gain from training with those who are currently employed in the sector, giving them the chance to enhance their knowledge of current market trends and improving their potential for employment through training and networking.
The courses on offer at the moment range from show-jumping course design to computer literacy and first-aid training, as well as training for the British Horse Society qualifications.
Some of the upcoming courses are listed in the table (opposite).
As well as those listed, dates and venues are also being confirmed for Equine Anatomy and Physiology (FETAC Level 5), Equine Business Administration, Riding Clinics and Producing and Training the Young Horse.
Next year will see the introduction of some new courses that are currently being developed, such as Cross Country Course Design & Build and Equestrian Event Management.
Prices vary for each course but each course is subsidised and, because price is an ever-increasing factor in the accessibility of courses for many potential trainees, the committee of the Equestrian Skillnet will endeavour to keep the cost of the courses down.
"The idea behind Equestrian Skillnet is to make training more affordable," said David Abbott, chairman of the Equestrian Skillnet committee and AIRC director general.
"We want to provide discounted training and also provide a service that combines the interests of different sectors of the industry.
"For example, the course for showjumping course design will benefit both Show Jumping Ireland and ourselves in the riding clubs."
Mr Abbott claims Equestrian Skillnet trainees come from a wide cross-section of the industry.
"We get people who are running their own stud farms and want to brush up on their computer skills, and also working professionals who are riding club members and want to understand more about producing horses," he said. "We also get people who are interested in knowing more about coaching, for example."
The diverse make-up of the Equestrian Skillnet committee is testament to the fact that all sectors of the sport horse industry are catered for. The committee includes David Abbott (AIRC), Alison Corbally (HSI), Joan Keogh (Dressage Ireland), Mary Fitzpatrick (IPC), Bridget Speirs (Eventing Ireland), Linda Young (AIRE), Tristan Kingston (West Cork Sport Horse Breeders), Liam Murphy (SJI) and Joe Collins (UCD).
Now for a closer look at some of the courses:
- CLIPED -- One of the most successful courses to date has been 'CLIPED' (Computer Licence for Irish Participants in Equestrian Disciplines).
Specifically tailored for the equestrian industry, the Computer Literacy FETAC Level 3 course is aimed at those with basic computer skills, who may have a laptop or PC at home and would like to get more out of it.
The first three days takes participants through Microsoft Word, Excel, the internet and email. After this, participants have a choice of two modules from four options: Microsoft PowerPoint, digital photography, video and build your own website.
Respected dressage trainer and HSI tutor Niall Quirk found the course "absolutely fantastic".
"I had a computer but didn't use it," he said. "I could turn it on and off and check emails but that was it.
"I found the course great for teaching me how to use attachments, copy and paste text -- all little things that mean I can do so much more.
"It really is essential for anyone running any sort of business to be computer literate."
International FEI judge and BHS examiner Faith Ponsonby also completed the CLIPED course.
"I was a complete idiot when it came to computers," she recalled. "But I did all of the options and learned how to get set up with email and even created my own website.
"It was well worth it and I thought the course presenters were super."
- Show Jumping Course Design -- International course designer and Horse Sport Ireland tutor Tom Holden hosts 'Show Jumping Course Design: The Basics'.
Over two days' training, participants will learn about the challenges presented to the course designer. The content of the course covers distances, obstacle variations, safety and the responsibility of the course designer.
The course is not just classroom-based, as participants will have the opportunity to walk and build courses, and watch their own courses being taken on by experienced riders.
- BHS training -- Pre-exam training for BHS Stage 4 management, Preliminary Teaching Test and Intermediate Instructor qualifications are held throughout the year, at heavily subsidised rates.
Claire Byrne, from Avril Lodge Riding Stables in Wexford, took part in Stage 4 training at Kildalton College last year.
"I found it very good, with some very professional coaches from Ireland and the UK," she said. "The facilities were excellent at Kildalton and it wasn't too expensive for two full days of training."
Regular updates on Equestrian Skillnet training courses, dates, venues and fees are available from HSI.
For more information, go to www.horsesportireland.ie/ eqskillnet or contact Cathy Cooper or Enda Hogan on 045 854 514/521.