Farm Ireland

Thursday 22 February 2018

London success the target for equine team

Damian McDonald

The London Olympics represent a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Ireland's equestrian teams to compete in climatic conditions that suit them and without any travel burden on our horses.

We have set an ambitious target of winning two medals across the four disciplines.

The Alltech World Equestrian Games take place in Kentucky in September and, while this is a massive sporting event in its own right, our main goal will be to try and secure Olympic qualification for our showjumping and eventing teams.

From this year, Irish teams -- in all disciplines -- will compete under the 'Team Ireland Equestrian' logo.

In tandem with this, Horseware Ireland will launch a new 'Team Ireland Equestrian' line, which will be on sale to those who want to support our teams and riders. Other official suppliers are also coming on board, with Blue Grass Feeds appointed as the official feed consultants to our squads.

Last year, more than 480 riders represented Ireland in international competitions. We have riders representing our country every weekend. Despite a small number of unfortunate incidents in the past few years, they have brought huge credit to Ireland.

It is time for Irish people to get behind our teams, riders, horses and Team Equestrian Ireland. You can keep up- to-date with competitors and their results on

The main issues for Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) this year will be the implementation of a new breeding policy and the establishment of the Team Ireland Equestrian brand.

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While we have had great success in breeding event horses, the same has not been the case with showjumpers. We need to get back to the top, and the new policy is the first step in what will be a long, slow climb back to the summit.

HSI's Irish Draught Taskforce published the first draft of a new Irish Draught policy recently and we have received more than 30 submissions. An overhaul of Irish draught breeding strategy is long overdue. We expect the new proposals to be approved early this year.

Training and education is also a key component of our strategic plan and we will continue to develop our world-recognised coaching programme. We also hope to continue our well-received Skillnet programmes, which are run in conjunction with our affiliates.

Most people participate in our sector for pleasure. Thousands of people, young and old, are out every weekend enjoying horse riding in riding centres, pony clubs, riding clubs and the IPS. These are the heartbeat of the sector and must not be forgotten.

This year looks like it will be an exciting one for HSI and the industry. The big challenge, of course, will be funding. However, with so many of the equestrian organisations now based with HSI at Millennium Park, efficiencies can be gained to lessen the impact cuts will have on the sector.

Our industry is worth more than €400m to the Irish economy and is integral to the rural community.

With co-operation, and by keeping the right focus, we have a sport and an industry that can buck the trend.

Irish Independent