HORSE SPORT Ireland (HSI) has opted to send the full complement of six horses to compete in the eventing competition of the Alltech World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, USA.
It announced its decision yesterday, as high performance manager Ginny Elliot confirmed the following squad will carry Irish hopes: Mark Kyle (Step in Time), Elizabeth Power (Kilpatrick River), Michael Ryan (Ballylynch Adventure) and his wife Patricia (Fernhill Clover Mist), Camilla Speirs (Portersize Just a Jiff) and Sam Watson (Horseware Bushman). Reserve riders are Jayne Doherty (The Only One) and Captain Geoff Curran (The Jump Jet).
HSI had named the six in June, with the intention of dropping one ahead of the competition, which begins on September 30.
The prohibitive cost of shipping the horses was cited at the time for the decision to only send five.
However, yesterday HSI said that “following discussions between the management team and the riders, the space on the plane has been re-configured to have three horses travelling in single stalls and three in wide stalls.” Elliot said six horses provided a vital cushion against injuries, particularly as the main aim will be to secure qualification for the 2012 London Olympics, for which they will have to finish in the top five, excluding the Olympic hosts.
“I am delighted that we can bring six riders,” said Elliot. “While flying the horses to the USA is hugely expensive and bringing five horses did provide one team reserve, it was still a concern, as it is so easy for horses to pick up an injury or be unwell on the day of the competition. Bringing six gives us more breathing space.
“While the World Equestrian Games are hugely important in their own right, they also represent the first chance to secure Olympic qualification and it would be great if we could achieve this. London 2012 represents a huge opportunity for Ireland, with no travel burden on our horses and climatic conditions in our favour” she said.
Ms Elliot said that the six selected combinations had all performed at four-star level this season and had performed solidly since. Michael Ryan placed 17th at Luhmühlen, Germany, in June, producing jumping clears in the cross-country and show jumping, while Patricia’s cross-country clear saw her finish 14th
The remaining riders on Elliot’s list impressed at Badminton in May, with Carlow’s Watson finishing 13th, one place ahead of Kildare rider Speirs. Wicklow man Kyle placed 20th while Power and Kilpatrick River were 31st.
The six competed in the advanced competition at Highclere Castle in England on Monday and Elliot was pleased with their performance.
“Team vet Marcus Swail assessed them at the cross-country finish line and we examined all the horses again on Tuesday morning and they were in good shape” she said.
The squad will undergo a further three days of training, starting on September 13, following which the horses will leave for Liege in Belgium to board the plane for Kentucky on September 17, with the competition commencing on September 30.
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