The Swiss-based Young Riders' Academy is proving a gateway to international success for Irish showjumpers
Since its inception in 2014 the Young Riders' Academy has seen an absolute wealth of talent pass through its doors.
Aimed at up-and-coming showjumpers aged between 18 and 23, the Swiss-based initiative has previously nurtured such international superstars as Wexford-born Bertram Allen in its first year, with fellow Irishman Jonathan Gordon a graduate from 2015.
While Allen needs little introduction having proven himself as one of Ireland's most talented riders in the past five years, 22-year-old Gordon is also on the rise, having last autumn secured a position with the high-profile jumping yard, Ashford Farm, in Germany. This is owned and run by Galway native Enda Carroll.
Run under the patronage of the European Equestrian Federation (EEF), with the co-operation of the International Jumping Riders Club (IJRC) and the support of Rolex, the 2017 YRA has been equally exciting.
Three Irish riders are among an elite group to have recently graduated after what they described as 'a life-changing year' working alongside many of the leading lights in the sport of showjumping.
"For me it definitely changed my life for the better," commented Galway-born Michael Duffy. "Between the educational programmes and coaching sessions, it was invaluable," the 22-year-old added.
In the spring of 2016 Duffy was among a select group of young international riders to be nominated by their respective equestrian federations. Joining Duffy from Ireland was Jack Dodd from Co Mayo and Clare native Eoin McMahon.
Along with a small group of riders who had also qualified using their results at European Championship level, the Irish trio had to undergo an interview and riding assessment in front of a panel which included show jumping legends Otto Becker, Emilie Hendrix and Dirk Demeersman. In the end, just 12 riders from across the globe earned a place in the year-long programme.