On the road from Kinnegad to Birr there are two large billboards that for decades now have announced the date of each year’s Tullamore Show. I recently travelled that route and saw a huge red sign slashed across each of them reading CANCELLED. For me, these symbolised the year just past.
Once more I was reminded of this fictional story: A teacher in the distant future instructing a history class says: “We are now finished with year 2018. Now let us turn to 2022.”
A hand goes up and a young voice says: “What about 2020 and 2021?”
“Listen you little troublemaker,” the annoyed teacher replies, “we do not speak of those years.”
So really what I am reviewing is the year that “was not” as the equestrian world battled the double whammy of COVID-19 and Brexit. Shows were cancelled, travel was made all the more complicated and yet hopes were expressed that things could get better.
As the search for a new Horse Sport Ireland chief executive officer faltered, acting CEO Joe Reynolds soldiered on and had some upbeat things to say: “Olympic medals are not beyond possibility.” His advice to breeders was: “It costs the same to breed a good horse as a bad one.” He also expressed high hopes for the creation of a high-performance centre at Greenogue in west Dublin.
Also giving us words of hope were our Olympic team managers in show jumping and eventing, Michael Blake and Sally Corscadden. The usually ebullient Michael was measured as he said: “We have selected a squad of excellent riders, but I do not want to overstate our prospects.” At the same time, the world data base Hippomodo, installed Ireland as favourite for show jumping gold. Sally Corscadden, for her part, looked at the change of rules that allowed just three riders per team with no dropped score. “It may work in our favour,” she said and added, “despite COVID we will find a way of getting there.”
As the year chugged on, objections were being raised about Greenogue. The Irish Shows Association for the second time in a row had to announce the cancellation of all its affiliated agricultural shows. But they continued to have discussions about running All-Ireland Showing Championships at year’s end. Balmoral looked to be going ahead, but the RDS had to once more abandon its international jumping. They did, however, manage to make €167,000 available for national championships in both jumping and showing.
There were other hopeful things to report as well. Early sales at both Cavan and Goresbridge proved very lively and five figure prices were being realised. And there was a call for compromise between the plans for Greenogue and the needs of the Equestrian Competition Venue Owners Alliance.
So it was not all doom and gloom as we looked forward to seeing how it would all pan out in the second half of the year that “was not”. I will talk about that next week.