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Ireland is to have a new umbrella equestrian body, Horse Sport Ireland (HSI), with former Irish minister for agriculture Joe Walsh as its chairman.

Mr Walsh will head up a 17-member board that includes four representatives from the Show Jumping Association of Ireland (SJAI), five from the Irish Horse Board and two from Eventing Ireland. Dressage Ireland, the Army Equitation School, the Royal Dublin Society, the Irish Pony Club and others will have a single representative.

The new board is expected to meet soon to discuss strategy and recruitment of a chief executive and staff.

Robert Splaine, chef d’equipe of the Irish show jumping team said: “It’s what we’ve been waiting for. It’s got the right man at the helm and will lead to a brighter future.”
The agency has been formed in response to the Connellan Report, which was published in 2003 by a taskforce headed by businessman Liam Connellan.

This recommended establishing a new national governing body for horse sport in Ireland, and a central campus of shared facilities. But there were some worries that Ireland’s smaller equestrian bodies might feel overwhelmed by their larger counterparts in the process.

The SJAI, the largest equestrian body in Ireland, was particularly uneasy, and the decision of the Equestrian Federation of Ireland (EFI) to wrest control of international show jumping from the national body led to further tension (news, 13 October 2005).

EFI chairman Charles Powell recently assured Mr Walsh of the Federation’s support, but he pointed out that the new body will come up for review by the industry in three years’ time.
Leading show jumper Cian O’Connor told H&H riders were fully behind the agency.

“HSI is a major step forward for horse sport in Ireland,” he said. “Consolidating the needs of riders with the interests of breeders is an important aspect and in the medium term it should lead to big improvements.”