Robert Splaine (pictured) has accepted the position of chef d’equipe to the senior Irish show jumping team for the 2006 season in a move that the Show Jumping Association of Ireland (SJAI) hopes will draw line under the team selection problems of the summer.
It was unanimously agreed at a meeting of the SJAI Executive on 17 October that Splaine should be offered the job, subject to approval by the Equestrian Federation of Ireland (EFI).
Splaine, who has been acting as chef d’equipe to Ireland’s Nations’ Cup team at a number of shows this season, accepted the offer immediately. Final ratification is due from the EFI on 18 November.
“The decision to appoint Robert came from the riders themselves,” explained Taylor Vard, chairman of international affairs for the SJAI. “One thing the riders all said they wanted this year was one person in charge rather than different people doing different shows – a figure like Derek Ricketts in England, who knows the horses and the riders”.
Disputes over team selection procedures were rife this season, climaxing at the Dublin Show when allegations emerged that Cian O’Connor had told acting chef d’equipe Eamonn Rice that he would not jump unless Irish Army Captain Shane Carey was on the team. “You could say it got messy,” Vard confirmed.
Both Rice and O’Connor categorically refuted the accusations but it was agreed in a meeting of 30 August, hosted by the Show Jumpers’ Club and attended by senior riders and representatives of the SJAI and EFI, that national team selection processes would be altered.
“We have to move with the times,” Show Jumpers’ Club spokesman David Darragh said at the time. “The current structures have been in place for many decades and they are not suitable for the modern times.”
An internal review was launched in conjunction with the EFI to look at the ways structures and procedures within the SJAI’s selection procedures could be improved. Splaine will be responsible for implementing these new structures and Vard is confident that he is an ideal candidate. “Robert has been involved with horses all his life and the riders trust and respect him,” he explained.
Born in Country Cork, Splaine has been a member of many Irish senior show jumping teams and was also successful as a competitor in the Samsung Super League partnering the acclaimed Irish Sport Horse stallion Coolcorron Cool Diamond. “His mileage will be a big advantage,” said Vard, ‘He has stepped straight from top level competing into this role’.