John Ledingham hints he may throw his hat in ring for Irish manager job

Former Army rider Comdt John Ledingham hinted yesterday that he is likely to again apply for the Irish senior show jumping manager’s job when the post comes up for review after the Olympics.
John Ledingham hints he may throw his hat in ring for Irish manager job

Robert Splaine has held the position since 2006 and, while his tenure coincided with Cian O’Connor winning Ireland’s first show jumping Olympic medal, Ireland has not qualified a team for three Olympics.

Ledingham, 58, has been the chef d’equipe to the Irish junior, young rider, and children on horses teams for approximately 10 years, but has been among a number of people to vie with Splaine for the senior post, including after the London Olympics.

Yesterday, when asked if he intended to apply again, he was initially cool, but then warmed to the idea.

“I don’t actually know. it is a huge commitment. It’s a big business and it has a lot of travel involved, so if you take it on, you have to take it on 100% and deliver. We haven’t qualified for three Olympics, which for a country of our talent and the standard of riders that we have is a shame. We were unlucky, but we probably have the best team of riders and horses we’ve ever had. it’s really strong, so it would be a really good time... if you wanted to be involved, you couldn’t be involved at a better time. Fabulous horses, good riders, great prospects.”

He pointed out that the job hadn’t been advertised yet, but added “I might put my name in the hat”.

Ledingham is in Millstreet this week leading his charges in the European Championships for juniors, young riders, and children on horses.

Last year, he was named coach of the year and, under his guidance, riders have won a host of European medals, including last year, the children on horses individual gold, junior team silver and young rider team bronze. This weekend, he hopes to see them add to that pile, particularly with the young rider team of Michael G Duffy (Felix XXVIII), Matt Garrigan (Contino 56), Max O’Reilly Hyland (Ahmed Du Calvaire), and Gavin Harley (Understone van de Kapel) sharing first place with Belgium on a score of zero going into today’s second round.

“You would have to say, the young riders gave an exhibition. They were absolutely brilliant over what was a difficult, big, technical track. Just 18 clears from 76 horses, so very demanding. It was the same as a four-star nations cup. That was the standard and they were absolutely brilliant. Now, if they can turnaround tonight and do the same tomorrow, they will be European champions.”

The venue was buzzing yesterday, with 280 riders from 28 countries present. The championships comes after the success of the European Pony Championships at the Cork venue two years ago. Next year, it will host the European Young Rider and Junior Eventing Championships and it has tendered a bid to stage the 2019 senior eventing championships.

Live streaming of the championships can be found on

* Felicity Ward leads the Irish challenge in the CIC three-star at Camphire International Horse Trials, lying third overnight after dressage on The Illusionist. Ward scored 51.9 penalties, with leader Emma Dougall, from Australia, riding Fernhill Tabasco, on 46.1pens ahead of second-placed Tom Crisp of the UK on 47.5pens with Coolys Luxury.

Dressage continues today at the Waterford event, followed by cross-country and show jumping across a number of classes tomorrow and Sunday.

* The RDS reiterated yesterday that nothing untoward had occurred regarding competitors to result in its amendment to a competition at Dublin Horse Show that saw a horse owned by Corkman Bob O’Keeffe demoted from first place.

The horse Shanagore Jenga, ridden and produced by Felicity Ward, knocked two fences in the show jumping phase in the final of the five-year-old event horse class, but this was not officially recorded. When the horse was declared the winner, Mr O’Keeffe said he assumed its marks in the other phases were good enough to ensure victory.

He said that hours later it was brought to his attention that social media was showing the result had been amended.

“The way it was handled was a disgrace. We knew we knocked two fences, it came up on the screen. We were bit surprised to win, but we felt our marks in the other areas, from dressage, to trot up, suitability as an eventing horse, etc, well we felt we held our scores in those areas which had kept us up there,” said Mr O’Keeffe.

“We knew nothing of the change in the result until 20 minutes to nine and we saw on social media that another rider was claiming the win. We checked the results and we saw that they had been altered.”

A “clarification” issued by the RDS said that, following an objection, video evidence had been reviewed and the result amended, which it said did “not reflect in any way upon the integrity of any of the competitors”.

The clarification continued: “The basis of this objection was confirmed after a review of the video evidence of the Show Jumping Phase of this competition and was related to a human error which resulted in the incorrect calculation of a final score. The RDS regrets any distress caused to the competitors in this class and has acted as swiftly as possible to correct the record after it was brought to our attention.”

Ultimately, a meeting was set up, with Mr O’Keeffe’s son Peter, a barrister, flying over from London.

“They seemed to be under the illusion we were claiming we had a clear round, but not so. We were protesting on the basis that the word had gone out we had won and now people felt we had done something wrong.

“They disclosed that there had been no proper objection to us. They said they were operating under their own rules. I asked if a judge’s opinion stood and could things change based on video evidence hours later,” said Mr O’Keeffe.

FEI rules regarding a protest state that “for official video recordings to be accepted... they must be presented to the President of the Ground Jury within 30 minutes after the official results are announced”.

However, Mr O’Keeffe said that the RDS had said its “rules state that an objection can be filed up to half an hour after the last competition of the day”.

He said that, in fairness to the RDS “they couldn’t apologise enough” for what had happened and he had accepted their offer of the equivalent of the first prize of €2,000, plus €1,000 for the horse being a home-bred mare.

Yesterday, a spokesman for the RDS agreed that the competition was operating under Dublin Horse Show rules, while international competitions are governed by FEI rules.

He stressed that there was never any suggestion that the integrity of anybody involved was in question.

“Hearing by social media is not ideal, but we did try to contact the exhibitor by phone,” said the spokesman. “We will do our utmost to ensure this does not happen again. Most importantly, and we reiterate what we said in our original clarification, the amendment to the result does not reflect in any way upon the integrity of any of the competitors in this competition.”

Mr O’Keeffe said: “We do not intend to take this matter any further. We appreciate that the RDS publicly acknowledged that they handled this matter badly.”

* Ireland show jumping manager Robert Splaine has named the following team to contest the Furusiyya Series nations cup in Hickstead today: Bertram Allen (Molly Malone V), Billy Twomey (Diaghilev), Anthony Condon (Aristio), and Shane Breen (Golden Hawk).

Ireland has been drawn first to jump, but are not among the nations vying for Furusiyya Series points.

Corkman Twomey got Ireland off to a good start yesterday, winning the opening contest on the nine-year-old gelding Thomas.

* Blackrock Charity Show takes place at Ballindenisk next Monday. There will be three arenas in operation, beginning at 10am. The Chillax National Young Pony League contests will be the big attraction on the day. Enquiries: 087-2514215

The National Amateur Outdoor Championships take place in Ennis, Co Clare, on Sunday and Monday. Enquiries: 087-6530156.

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