The recently-formed Irish Event Riders’ Club has “disassociated” itself from its own survey of riders regarding their experiences with the Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) high-performance programme.
The survey was undertaken ahead of the Nov 27 riders’ meeting with HSI, as the governing body prepared to advertise the Irish manager’s job currently held by Ginny Elliot.
However, the riders’ club de facto chairman Declan Cullen this week maintained there were serious flaws in the handling of the survey, which elicited some positive response, but also suggested rider dissatisfaction with Elliot.
Cullen, the equine feed consultant to HSI, said in an email: “The survey was not professionally handled nor independently managed and was open to major contamination as we discovered, as we could not clearly be sure who was involved. Any information provided by this format can’t be attributed to any Irish riders due to the unsafe means of participation of the answers and the absence of others from it.
“The questions were only used [as] a guide to a successful meeting with HSI recently and the results had no bearing for the meeting.
“So to use the survey would be very unsafe grounding of information, very suspect evidence and I totally disassociated any of the findings from myself and the Irish Event Riders Club.”
Cullen confirmed HSI were aware of the survey.
HSI declined to comment, as did Elliot. The English legend, with four Olympic medals, three European Championships and a World Championship title to her name, has said she intends to apply to retain her position. Next Thursday is the closing date for applications for the post.
* Understandably, Ireland show jumping team manager Robert Splaine has described the sale of Cian O’Connor’s Olympic bronze-medal-winning horse Blue Loyd as a blow.
As reported in the Irish Examiner on Wednesday, the 12-year-old gelding, owned by the show jumper along with Barbara and Charlie O’Reilly-Hyland, has been bought by Austrian-Canadian auto-parts magnate Frank Stronach and is destined to be ridden by a family member.
Splaine said something needed to be done quickly to encourage the retention of such horses.
“We were lucky to have Blue Loyd, which is all thanks to Cian’s eye for spotting a good horse. He brought us our first Olympic show jumping medal and the horse is a big loss to the team.
“You cannot blame owners for seeking a return on their investment, but unless there is a system in place to encourage owners, the loss of such good horses is likely to continue,” said the Corkman.
He said the previously mooted syndication of horses should be reconsidered.
“The Dutch have a system, where they set up a non-political organisation that has invested in the purchase of top horses to be available for the riders, with the Olympics specifically in mind. This should be considered here.”
It’s worth pointing out that, Blue Loyd featured in no less than seven nations cup contests this year: Florida, La Baule, Rome, St Gallen, Rotterdam, Aachen and Dublin.
“I only began riding Blue Loyd in November of last year and what an amazing 12 months it’s been,” said O’Connor, adding that “if there’s one thing I have learned, it is that you have to enjoy the good times”.
“I am very happy also for the owners, the O’Reilly-Hylands. They have been unwavering in their support.”
O’Connor has a habit of giving his horse owners a quick return on their investment. Examples would be Temple Road (12th in the Olympics), as well as Larkhill Cruiser and K Club Lady, both Olympic reserve horses.
There is a also a certain consolation in his ability to pinpoint replacements.
“I am always looking for new horses and I am lucky to have the strongest group of owners I’ve ever had. They are happy to support me in my bid for the Rio Olympics and I will be on the lookout for good prospects,” said the 33-year-old, who is based at Meath’s Waterside Stud, but is planning a centre of excellence, “hopefully, within the next year”.
“Obviously, I would love to keep horses like Blue Loyd for myself and the country, but I need to develop my business and there is no support mechanism for keeping such horses for the Irish team,” said O’Connor, who was on his way to England, ahead of next week’s festive World Cup show at London’s Olympia.
lIt may be four years away, but Cmmdt John Ledingham feels teenage show jumper Bertram Allen is showing the potential to win him a place at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
The German-based 17-year-old from Wexford has made a habit of winning grands prix on the continent in recent months, while he also claimed a two-star speed class on Molly Malone — owned by his mentor Billy Twomey — in Paris recently.
“Any young man that wins grands prix with such regularity at international shows is a force to be reckoned with,” said Cmmdt Ledingham. “He would be a live candidate for the Olympics in Rio.
“He’s so talented that he can ride a range of horses and being trained by Billy Twomey, who is at the top of his sport, is a bonus.
“He is the consummate professional and it wouldn’t surprise me if the Olympics is his goal. He already has championship form, winning team gold at the European Championships at Junior level, the first team gold ever won by Ireland at that level,” said the Cmmdt Ledingham, who acted as chef d’equipe to the team, and is a possible contender for the senior show jumping manager’s post.
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