Ireland pushes for horse sport to be among “first wave” of post Covid-19 competition

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Team Ireland celebrates its win on the podium at Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona in 2019. From left, Paul O’Shea, Peter Moloney, Chef d’Equipe Rodrigo Pessoa, Darragh Kenny and Cian O’Connor.
Team Ireland celebrates its win on the podium at Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona in 2019. From left, Paul O’Shea, Peter Moloney, Chef d’Equipe Rodrigo Pessoa, Darragh Kenny and Cian O’Connor. © FEI/Lukasz Kowalski

Ireland’s equestrian governing body has made a proposal to government that it allows horse sport to be one of the first sports permitted to resume when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

The comprehensive submission by Horse Sport Ireland, the centralised national body for the sport horse industry (breeding & sport), stressed that the Irish Sport Horse industry is worth more than €816 million per annum to the Irish economy and directly supports more than 14,000 full time jobs. Like all other sectors it has been severely impacted by this global pandemic.

Horse Sport Ireland CEO Ronan Murphy said the organsation had developed an initial protocol to address the public health threats due to Coronavirus that could present at an equestrian venue when training sessions or competitions are taking place.

“Our sport is unique given that it is deemed low risk, it’s a non-contact sport, it’s largely outdoor in its activity which does not enjoy large spectatorship, and as a result of that and the mitigation measures which we have outlined in our submission, we would like our sport to be considered as one to trial in the first wave of sports permitted to resume in a limited fashion,” Murphy said.

“I have no doubt that when equestrian activity is permitted to resume that the sport horse community will be ambassadors to other sports in the context of vigilance and compliance.”

The submission emphasises the intrinsic link between the breeding and sport elements of the sector which requires breeders, producers and athletes to have access to regulated activity to ensure the timely production of horses in the crucial stages of the training and development cycle.

Horse Sport Ireland consulted the World Health Organisation Interim guidance for sports federations/sports event organiser in the context of COVID-19, which was issued on April 14, 2020. The guidance sets out the key issues and mitigation options to consider when planning sporting activities.

“The impact of Covid-19 on the Irish Sport Horse Industry has been dramatic and it is important that we resume activities in a safe and controlled way at the earliest permitted opportunity,” Murphy said.

“Like many industries, the economic impact has been significant, and the industry is keen to rebuild the losses and protect it into the future. Our Stakeholders are facing catastrophic losses and it is imperative that we do all we can to support and assist the Irish Sport Horse Industry to restart, rebuild and recover.”

Horse Sport Ireland Chairman, Joe Reynolds said robust operating procedures had been put forward to enable a return to activity for the Sport Horse sector when it is safe to do so.

“Horse Sport Ireland is one of the few Governing Bodies with responsibility for both the breeding and sport sectors of our industry and this gives us a unique perspective to present proposals for a resumption of activities in our industry. It is important that the Sport Horse Community unite behind these proposals and speak together with one voice on this topic,” Reynolds said.

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