Para-equestrian riders forced to dip into their own pockets

Para-equestrian riders had to dip into their own pockets, after expected funding for the Paralympics did not materialise, according to their chef d’equipe.

The riders only discovered a month before next week’s London showcase that they would not be getting the money, amounting to approximately €30,000, which was earmarked for expenses.

Ireland Para-Equestrian Team chef d’equipe Dara Kearney was reluctant to discuss the shortfall, saying that while the riders were disappointed, they understood resources were limited.

“We have received €60,000 from the Irish Sports Council for 2012, and we are more than thankful, as it is double what it was last year... and we understand they are stretched to their limit,” she said.

“We had an expectation that we would get individual funding for the selected athletes to help with their training and their expenses and it didn’t materialise. We only found out about a month ago.

“It was a disappointment to us, and the riders would have budgeted for it.

“We had to help the riders with some of the expenses for London, which would amount to approximately €7,000 per rider.”

An Irish Sports Council (ISC) spokesman said “a commitment of €110,000 was agreed by Paralympics Ireland and Horse Sport Ireland to support the para-equestrian team in 2012”, of which €60,000 came from the ISC through Paralympics Ireland and the remainder from Horse Sport Ireland (HSI).

A HSI spokesman said equestrian athletes were not part of the ISC Carding Scheme, but pointed out the level of funding had doubled in 2012, in recognition of the para-equestrian athletes securing qualification for the Paralympics.

“The reality is that the para-equestrian programme was never been better funded and every penny received from Paralympics Ireland/Irish Sports Council is spent directly on the programme. There are no administration costs,” he said.

Paralympics Ireland did not return calls yesterday. Kearney said the focus now was on maximising the team’s potential. “The mood is very positive and there is a tremendous camaraderie. I would expect the riders to reach their potential, and to achieve their personal best is all that can be expected. Only Eilish Byrne has been at a Paralymics previously, so it is a bit of unknown territory for the others.”

London 2012 is the first time for Ireland to qualify a team for the Paralympics, with riders competing in dressage. The team consists of Eilish Byrne (Youri), James Dwyer (Orlando), Helen Kearney (Mr Cool), who won a bronze in last year’s para-equestrian European Championships, and Gerry Savage (Blues Tip Top Too). Competition takes place in Greenwich Park from August 30 to September 4.

Meanwhile, it emerged yesterday Tipperary show jumper Denis Lynch has acquired the ride on Wonderboy III, who placed 62nd at the London Olympics with Syria’s Ahmad Saber Hamcho.

In a part-exchange deal, Denis’s talented nine-year-old stallion Contifex (Cornet Obolensky/Coronino) has gone to 19-year-old Ahmad.

“I’m gutted to lose a horse as good as Contifex, but that’s the nature of the business,” Lynch told Horse and Hound magazine. Wonderboy, a 13-year-old son of Flamenco De Semilly, was ridden by Britain’s Ben Maher until 2010.

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