You could say 2022 was a very good year for Irish show jumping and equestrian sport in general.
Ireland won the Aga Khan Nations Cup at the RDS for the first time in seven years and the Irish show jumpers have also secured their place already at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
But those summer achievements seem a long time ago now. As the year-end approaches, the equestrian community is still coming to terms with the recent implosion of the entire Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) board and wondering what’s going to happen next.
There was good news last week when the Department of Agriculture confirmed it would not be withholding any allocated funds from HSI, and it was also significant to hear that HSI has dropped its legal challenge against the Department’s controversial decision to award a major marketing contract to the Irish Horse Board instead of HSI.
Irish Horse Board chairman Tiernan Gill has extended an olive branch to HSI and that’s something to build on.
But there was another little announcement last week which could lead to more in-fighting and bad feeling next year.
The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine plans to look into the “recent events in relation to HSI and the public and stakeholders’ concerns regarding these events.”
Nothing wrong with that, in theory, but Irish horse racing was the subject of one of these ‘hearings’ in June 2021 and it didn’t really get to the bottom of anything.
The hearing was meant to be about the use of illegal drugs in racing but it ended up being more of a golden opportunity for those with grievances to hide in the shadows while using their political contacts to fire pot-shots at those in the dock.
Writing in The Irish Field at the time, after attending one of the Committee sessions, Leo Powell wrote: “The ‘performances’ of some of the politicians on the Joint Committee were astonishing, levelling unfounded, and anonymously fed, rumours and mistruths against the authorities.
"Each one was individually denied. Our sport deserves better than to be constantly fending off such allegations, mostly made by unnamed sources.”
Looking ahead to the sport horse hearings, it’s easy to imagine a scenario where HSI chief executive Denis Duggan will be in the hot seat, facing hours of grilling from TDs and senators who are reading out questions on a myriad of topics supplied to them by constituents with an axe to grind.
It will be free to watch on Oireachtas TV, unless Netflix buys the rights in the meantime.