The northern region of Eventing Ireland (EI) is taking drastic steps to save money after reporting its biggest loss to date after the 2009 season.

At its AGM last week, the region voted to reduce the hours of office staff, increase entry fees and reduce prize-money at pre-novice and intro level classes for 2010.

Regional secretary Paul Johnston said in a statement: “The next season is going to be a difficult one, but the committee is confident of recovery through the prudent stewardship of events and a determination from the membership to resolve the situation through provision of more voluntary time.”

The losses were announced before the region’s AGM on Monday, 7 December. Regional chairman Len Caskey puts them down to the economic climate and poor weather.

“We’ve had a bad season, with a number of cancellations, and we aren’t on our own with that,” he says. “Numbers are down because when people used to run a second or third horse they’re cutting back.”

But although Mr Caskey said the loss is a “serious worry”, he said the committee and members are determined to find ways out of the crisis.

“We will find the ways and means of raising money and will not back away from running a full season of events — 10 or 12 — as we do every year,” he said. “We had a smaller than average turnout for the AGM but everyone was in support.”

Gilford-based eventer Trevor Smith said riders would back the organisation during its difficult times.

“We have some very good events in the north, and some very well-built courses — a lot of people come up from the south to event here,” he said.

The northern region is a division of Eventing Ireland, but run independently.

EI chairman John Wright said the losses “came as rather a surprise”, and were to be discussed at a board meeting on Tuesday (15 December).

“We’ll have a meeting with the northern region’s committee and discuss all aspects of it — finances, membership figures and the number of events,” he said.

Mr Wright admitted that the 2009 eventing season had suffered from bad weather, but said sport is healthy throughout the rest of the country and the losses are not mirrored across the rest of Ireland.

“During 2008 we made a profit of £90,000 and we’re projecting a profit of £60,000 this year, so we’re not doing too badly,” he said, adding: “Eventing is an expensive sport, but membership remains static — we’re not in any trouble.”

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (17 December, ’09)