Peace talks fail to materialise

A MEETING between Show Jumping Association of Ireland (SJAI) chairman Charles Hanley and Equestrian Federation of Ireland (EFI) president Charles Powell aimed at smoothing relations between the two bodies failed to materialise yesterday, following the leaking this week of a letter written by the SJAI interim chief executive Liz Pottie.

Ms Pottie’s personal missive, sent by email to Mr Powell last week, reproached the EFI for the federation’s “derogatory tone” in a recent letter which stated its intention to withhold the SJAI’s allocation of Irish Sports Council funding.

The appearance of Ms Pottie’s communication in the media was viewed by the EFI as another example of the SJAI’s inability to maintain confidentiality. In her personal note to Mr Powell, Ms Pottie is reported as saying the EFI letter has soured relations between the two bodies when “over the past few years a much greater harmony existed”. The letter, she says, has “caused possible irreparable damage ... as if a sledgehammer has been driven between us. Instead of building bridges, a chasm has been formed”.

Yesterday, neither the EFI or SJAI would comment.

The planned meeting between the two leaders was designed to be on an informal basis. While both sides are conscious of the need to discuss matters, it is felt time constraints could defer any meeting until after Christmas. Ultimately, however, the willingness to meet is evident and it is an imperative.

Meanwhile, Eventing Ireland chairman Joe Savage says the situation must be brought under control for the sake of all horse sport.

“On a personal basis, I would be available to help in brokering a resolution to the current dispute,” he said. “I feel it is up to the SJAI to get its house in order and it is unfortunate the EFI have to become involved at this level. I urge all parties to get involved in talks as soon as possible to sort out this crisis, which is casting all equestrianism in a bad light.”

* JESSICA KÜRTEN picked up her first World Cup points this season at Geneva last weekend, but felt she could have done better.

The German-based rider finished eighth with Quibell after 10 made the jump-off, a gamble on the approach to the fourth fence proving costly. Nevertheless, she earned nine points in her second outing.

“I took a risk, and decided to go for one stride less,” she said yesterday from Olympia in London. “But, it didn’t work out and it left Quibell with too much to do.”

Austria’s Thomas Fruhmann picked up the top points on The Sixth Sense and, while Kürten rues last weekend’s aberration, she is determined this weekend to improve on her joint 38th place on the Western European League and make April’s final in Kuala Lumpur.

“I have been waiting 15 years to go to Olympia,” said Kürten. “When I was 19, I came and watched and it has always been a dream to compete here. It’s a fantastic show.”

The Antrim-born rider continues her quest in Mechelen, Belgium, the week after Christmas, before heading to the world’s richest show in Dubai. She is also pencilling in World Cup slots in Florida in the spring.

Geneva also saw Kürten ride Castle Forbes Libertina to ninth place in the Rolex World Top 10 final, notching up four faults in each of two rounds. She was not overly disappointed, however, saying: “It was a very big track and Libertina proved she has the potential to be a true championship horse.”

The plaudits went to Athens Olympic gold medallist Rodrigo Pessoa, the Brazilian and his ever reliable Baloubet Du Rouet providing the only double clear.

Kürten, meanwhile, confirmed yesterday that she is party to a lawsuit taken by Pessoa on behalf of riders awaiting receipt of their prize money from the Las Vegas World Invitational.

The suit was initiated by Pessoa on behalf of all the riders, after the $1m prize fund for the mid-October show was not paid out.

“I am extremely annoyed,” said Kürten. “Especially with the FEI (Federation Equestre Internationale). Riders pay them so much money and they used to guarantee that the national federation should pay for the show. But they stopped this. It’s a proper rip-off,” said Kürten, who won €55,000.

Kürten also said there had been no discussions on the decision by the owner of her top horses, Lady Georgina Forbes, not to put the horses forward for nations cup selection in 2006. “There has been no meeting, so I am just enjoying doing my own thing,” she said.

* A MOTION that the election results of the committee for the SJAI’s Leinster Region be declared null and void has been deemed invalid.

Regional chairperson Patricia Furlong said last night this was the view of the SJAI's solicitor. The motion was passed at last week’s regional annual general meeting after it emerged the November 22 deadline for the election’s postal votes was extended by three days without members being fully notified.

Members at the meeting decided this contravened best practice and voted to re-run the ballot.

The election deadline was extended ostensibly due to a postal strike or the prospect of a strike.

Furlong pointed out last night that she had offered to adjourn the meeting for a week to seek legal advice but this had been rejected.

* BILLY TWOMEY produced the only Irish victory abroad last weekend, doing it in style in the grand prix at the two-star show in Lier, Belgium.

The Cheshire-based Corkman had almost a second-and-a-half to spare when jumping the winning double clear on the 14-year-old dark brown Dutch gelding Whinnie Jackson.

Best of the rest in the 68-strong field was Belgium’s Jill Smits on Qualite after 14 made it to the jump-off.

Twenty-eight-year-old Twomey also rode Whinney Jackson to sixth place in Friday's 1.45m jump-off competition.

* CIAN O’CONNOR raced to victory in a speed class at the three-star show in Frankfurt, Germany, yesterday.

The 26-year-old was aboard Zanoubia, the 11-year-old mare that has proved so efficient in recent months for the Meath-based rider.

Last weekend, the pairing were pipped in a speed class “without saddle” at Geneva.

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