Redirection of high performance money may alter HSI plans

SENIOR rider Michael Ryan says Eventing Ireland must have good cause if it chooses to redirect the money it annually allocates for high performance.

In this column last week, Eventing Ireland chairman John Wright said it was possible the organisation’s board of directors may have to spend the funding in other areas, such as on a salary for a new manager, an IT system and on improving venues around the country.

Last year, Eventing Ireland channelled €75,000 through Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) for high performance, but Ryan, a stalwart of the Irish squad for many years, said: “I’m sure most of the money in high performance is spent on training, but I presume if the board decides not to support this, they would have good reason.”

There have also been suggestions that ShowjumpingIreland is considering a major redistribution of funding normally earmarked for international participation, following the ending of a three-year agreement with HSI in 2010. The issue was due to be discussed last night at the first meeting of the SJI’s new management and finance committee. Last year, SJI gave€250,000 to HSI, with €225,000 spent in 2009 and €200,000 in 2008.

High performance money is directed at achieving success at the top level and a decision by Eventing Ireland and ShowjumpingIreland to spend its allocations elsewhere could force HSI to radically alter its plans, particularly in light of the reduced funding for equestrian sport announced last week by the Irish Sports Council.

Last year, the Irish eventing and show jumping teams failed in their goal at the World Equestrian Games to achieve qualification for next year’s Olympics, but get a second chance at the European Championships in the autumn.

Ryan’s wife, Patricia, was a member of the WEG team in Kentucky, but saw her mount, Fernhill Clover Mist, suffer a career-ending injury. Neither of the Bandon, Co Cork, couple are on this year’s high-performance long list.

Both, however, are in Portugal on a three-week stint with six promising horses and Michael is confident they will prove their value to the Irish squad.

“I’m confident three of the horses will be up to scratch by the time selection for the European Championships comes around,” said Ryan, who is leading the one-star class with Ballylynch Sky High in Vale Sabrosa after day one of dressage.

- HORSE SPORT IRELAND (HSI) yesterday announced details of its high-performance show jumping committees for 2011. The structure was agreed between HSI, the Irish Sports Council and ShowjumpingIreland in 2008, though responsibility for team selection rests with the team managers.

This year, the senior European championships take place in Madrid (Sept 13-18), where there are three Olympic qualification places available for those who have not already qualified. The European Championships for ponies take place in Poland (July 26-31), while the championships for children on horses, juniors and young riders are in Comporta, Portugal, from July 4-10.

Senior show jumping — chairperson: Bernie Brennan; team manager: Robert Splaine; SJI nominee: Taylor Vard; HSI nominee: James Tarrant.

Children on horses, juniors, young riders —chairperson Heather Coyle; team manager: Comdt. John Ledingham; SJI nominee: Liam Murphy; HSI nominee: James Kernan.

Ponies — chairperson: Mark Bolger; team manager: Tom Slattery; SJI nominee: Katy Saunders; HSI nominee: Keith Griffin.

- BILLY TWOMEY was, appropriately, this week named the 2010 Irish Field Senior Show Jumper of the Year. In December, Denis Lynch garnered the Showjumpers Club International Rider of the Year accolade and, while both riders were regularly at the top of result sheets last year, Twomey’s achievement as the Irish standard bearer in the World Equestrian Games, when placing 11th, put him ahead in the eyes of many people.

Aoife Clarke was accorded the Irish Field senior eventer title, while awards also went to Anna Merveldt (dressage), Bertram Allen (junior eventing) and Sarah O’Brien (junior eventing).

Pony rider Allen had an amazing year, claiming individual gold at the European Show Jumping Championships in England, on Acapella Z, while he was crucial in the Irish team securing team silver.

O’Brien and Ice Cool Bailey claimed individual bronze at the European Pony Eventing Championships.

- WEEK seven of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida began with an Irish victory, courtesy of Shane Sweetnam.

The US-based Kanturk rider took a 1.45m class with Little Emir, one of Sweetnam’s most solid horses. Last year, he won a 1.50m Classic at the festival, placed second in the Palm Beach derby and fifth in the derby in La Baule, France, where, unfortunately, the 13-year-old German-bred gelding was injured and then out for most of the year.

“He’s been back jumping two months,” Sweetnam said. “This was his first proper class since he’s been back, so it’s nice to get the win.”

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