Horse-mad Chinese poaching our top equestrian coaches
IRELAND'S top equestrian coaches are being headhunted by the Chinese, as interest in show jumping and eventing grows in the east.
Equestrian sports now rank fifth in the sporting interests of the Chinese super rich, who have €12m or more in assets, behind swimming, golf, mountain walking and yoga.
Horse Sport Ireland is currently seeking a new high-performance coach, after its pony eventing coach Sue Shortt was poached by the Chinese to train a provincial team there.
Kildare-based Shortt had been Ireland's pony high-performance coach since 2005, and delivered several international teams medals during her tenure.
Under her stewardship, the Irish pony riders won gold, silver and bronze medals, culminating in a team gold medal at the European Championships in Fontainebleau, France, last year.
She is now based in China, having been appointed as team manager for the Yulong, Shanxi province eventing team.
"Ireland is recognised as a country with a long history of horsemanship and as a producer of horses," she said.
"The Chinese want to develop all aspects of their equestrian industry and Irish coaches can help them to do that. Racing is becoming extremely popular here and the other disciplines of showjumping, dressage and eventing are growing." Former Irish international showjumper and Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) coach Jack Doyle was also headhunted by the Chinese last year. The Kildare-based trainer was recruited to coach the Inner Mongolian showjumping team for the China Games.
He was approached by a number of Chinese buyers to consider coaching the team when they travelled to Ireland to buy sport horses last year.
"I went over six times in all, and I would stay for between 10 days and a month at a time, to get the team qualified for the China Games," he explained.
The former Irish showjumper delivered on his coaching potential in September when his Inner Mongolian team jumped to victory at the Games, taking the team gold medal and individual bronze medal in showjumping.
"It's an amazing spectacle, the China Games are an exact replica of the Olympic Games in terms of size and competitor numbers, except the games are between 37 teams from 32 Chinese provinces," he explained.