HSI selection criteria: terms and conditions apply

Show jumpers buying into possible Olympic participation will be struck by Horse Sport Ireland’s selection criteria: Terms and conditions apply.

Its four-page document is detailed on procedure and brief on performance targets, with just two sections outlining what is required in the arena to justify selection for London.

In some respects, you can understand why HSI should be unequivocal in laying down the law to riders harbouring ambitions to fill the two Olympic slots won by Denis Lynch and Billy Twomey for Ireland. Nobody needs reminding that the Olympics and Irish show jumping together spell controversy, and chairman Joe Walsh has taken a number of opportunities to warn against a repeat.

But this message is not just for riders, it is without doubt also geared at the Olympic Council of Ireland, a HSI effort at reassurance that it is putting riders on guard. For example, one only has to look at page one of the criteria document to find that the horse/rider combinations proposed for London “shall be subject to approval by the OCI”.

This may be standard procedure for all sports, but HSI feels the need on page two to point out that “athletes must co-operate fully with HSI and the OCI and comply promptly with any reasonable requests” in relation to the Games.

Strict rules are laid down in terms of the treatment of horses and, in fairness, if HSI did not do this, everyone, myself included, would fault it for being lax. No such chance though. For example, it states that “HSI can request that a horse be made available for inspection by the team vet at any time”, while riders “must notify the team manager and team veterinarian of any change in their horse’s health status or veterinary issues immediately”. Also, riders in contention for selection must keep a log book for horses, recording all products and treatments used on or given to their horse from May 1. The team vet can view the log at any time or “can ask for the log to be transcribed into a document with a signed declaration that contains everything given to the horse within a specified timeframe”. The vet can take a blood or urine sample from a horse at any time to test for prohibited substances or to assess its well-being.

And, in case there was any doubt, the document states that “HSI must be satisfied that any combination selected for the Olympic Games will be disciplined and cooperative and will not bring Ireland into disrepute”. “An athlete who is being considered for selection shall be required to attend a meeting of the OCI/HSI Monitoring Group to address any concerns in this regard, which the group may have or which are referred to it concerning that athlete. If the group is not satisfied with the explanation provided or commitments given by the athlete, they can deem the athlete ineligible for selection.”

While an officer will handle appeals relating to the selection decisions, the strong message is that any rider who does not toe the line will harm or end their chances of selection.

And so, to the competition requirements for riders hoping to make the grade. They are broad in their sweep, focussing on performances in the forthcoming FEI Top Level Nations Cups, in addition to the track record of horse/rider combinations in the same competitions for the previous two years, last year’s European Championships and the 2010 World Equestrian Games. Another criteria in determining the two Olympic participants will be “the suitability of the likely conditions for the horse and athlete”, including “the surface on which the competition is taking place, the size of the arena, the proximity of the arena to other activities that could affect concentration and other factors that can affect jumping conditions”. This conjures up a myriad scenarios.

As for those in contention to win a place in London, Lynch and Twomey would be to the forefront, but more so Twomey, who has proven form at championship level with Tinka’s Serenade.

But results will matter most and Cian O’Connor would have been heartened by his double clear in last weekend’s US nations cup with his new horse Blue Loyd, though there will be a greater onus on him and the likes of Shane Sweetnam, Niall Talbot and Shane Breen to prove they have a realistic chance to win a medal. Undoubtedly, the nations cups will filter out those with false pretensions. It should make for an interesting season.

* I thought this might be an early April fool’s joke, but a HSI spokesman yesterday said publication of the Sia Group report into last year’s poor performance in the European Championships “may not now be made public until after the Olympic Games”.

“The Horse Sport Ireland board was briefed on the report at its last board meeting. However, in view of the fact that two riders are now going to the Olympics we want to keep all the riders and management focused on this. The issue will be discussed at the next board meeting of Horse Sport Ireland and while aspects of the report will be implemented immediately the full report may not now be made public until after the Olympic Games. The reality is that a lot of the recommendations will relate to how the next Olympic cycle is approached. However, the decision on when the report will be published will ultimately be a matter for the board to decide,” he said.


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