Top coach Sally Corscadden has spoken of her “relief” to have been cleared of rapping following drawn-out proceedings lasting 21 months.
Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) released a summary of the findings of Justice Frank Clarke’s investigation involving Ms Corscadden, in her capacity as Irish eventing high performance director, on 20 September.
Justice Clarke found that “it could not be said that Ms Corscadden sanctioned a breach of the rapping rule in the course of training taking place under her control”.
Ms Corscadden told H&H she welcomes “the eventual publication” of the findings.
“I cherish my reputation for being ever vigilant as regards horse welfare. I passionately believe that you need a happy and confident horse to perform to its full abilities and the trainers I used share my beliefs,” she said.
“I abhor the practice of rapping and condemn it outright, so, imagine my shock and hurt, when it was alleged that I had overseen coaching sessions that could even [have] been construed as rapping.”
Justice Clarke was engaged by HSI to investigate whether or not a metal bar training practice “adopted by, or at least under the control of” Ms Corscadden amounted to a breach of FEI rules and as such a breach of her employment contract with HSI. This practice involves placing a metal bar on top of a showjump.
“The sessions delivered by an internationally recognised coach were designed to increase the focus and concentration of the horse jumping the fence by aural means with zero consequence of anything injurious occurring for a horse,” said Ms Corscadden.
“Of course, I appreciate that an imperative for Horse Sport Ireland is to ensure any allegations regarding horse welfare must be investigated, but how it took 21 months to complete the investigations is difficult to fathom, but I am relieved the matter is now closed and I have been cleared.
“I fully and unreservedly accept all the findings of Justice Clarke including his finding that I should have advised HSI about the format of these sessions. I would never, ever engage in anything that would bring the sport I love, eventing, into disrepute.”
She added: “As this matter is now officially closed, and the FEI has stated I should face no further investigation on this matter, I look forward to Horse Sport Ireland advising all of us in the sport of eventing how we now move forward.
“Though I am officially reinstated as the high-performance director, eventing; Horse Sport Ireland has yet to officially inform me that the restrictions it imposed on me are lifted and I expect that will now be an urgent matter for HSI.”
This investigation followed a previous one by Susan Ahern, a barrister who specialises in sports law, which concluded last summer and in which Ms Corscadden was also cleared of rapping.
Justice Clarke’s report focused on two main points. The first was the “central allegation of rapping”, where Justice Clarke found that “it could not be said that Ms Corscadden sanctioned a breach of the rapping rule in the course of training taking place under her control”.
“It was not sufficiently clear that the practice was rapping to justify a finding of breach of contract,” added Justice Clarke. “It is important to emphasise that the substantive report concluded that the evidence that the practice would cause unnecessary pain or discomfort to a horse was inconclusive.”
The second picked up on the Ahern report, and looked into whether or not Ms Corscadden was “in breach of her contract of employment by not drawing the attention of HSI to the fact that the metal bar training practice was also in use, when an investigation into not entirely dissimilar training methods was in train”.
Justice Clarke considered “that to have been a breach of her obligation of trust and confidence,” but added that “the breach concerned was not at the most serious end”.
In a letter H&H has had sight of, Ms Corscadden’s legal team notes that this was not an intentional decision, rather that she did not appreciate its relevance in the context of an inquiry into a specific allegation of rapping.
Justice Clarke concluded: “I am not of the view that Ms Corscadden can be held to have been in breach of her contract of employment with HSI by reason of permitting breaches of FEI rules to take place during training over which she had general control.
“I am, however, of the view that Ms Corscadden was in breach of her contract of employment by not drawing the attention of HSI to the fact that the metal bar training practice was also in use, when an investigation into not entirely dissimilar training methods was in train. I consider that to have been a breach of her obligation of trust and confidence.”
He recommended a written final warning as an appropriate sanction.
H&H has approached HSI for comment.
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