Horse Sport Ireland (HSI), the new agency for the development of the Irish sport horse, has launched its first two initiatives.

Representing 15 different organisations, HSI officially came into being in January. Eventing Ireland, the Association of Irish Riding Clubs and the Association of Irish Riding Establishments (AIRE) have already moved to HSI headquarters in Naas, Co Kildare.

The first of its initiatives, the Equestrian Skillnet programme, puts €500,000 into improving training in the horse industry.

Skillnet spokesman Alison Corbally said: “We want to make formal training accessible and more the norm, and provide recognised qualifications.”

Subsidised training and refresher courses will be offered to instructors and competition grooms.

Show jumping and cross-country course-designers will be encouraged to increase their skill to international level, and event management and field steward training will be given to create a safer and more efficient competitive environment.

Health and safety and child protection issues are high on the sporting agenda in Ireland and, under the Skillnet scheme, the Irish Pony Club and AIRE will run courses to ensure trainers and facility providers meet legislative requirements.

Ms Corbally added: “To be eligible for the programme people must be in employment.”

HSI has also launched an “affiliate services unit” to boost administrative efficiency and help foster relationships among the 15 organisations.

“It will free up resources so they can concentrate on developing their own disciplines,” said HSI chief executive Damian McDonald.

Facilities include office space and meeting room rental, and an administrator to deal with mail and calls.

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (24 April, ’08)