Horse Sport Ireland, the Governing Body for Equestrian Sport in Ireland, and the centralised national body for the sport horse industry (breeding & sport) has delivered a comprehensive submission to Government, aimed at ensuring that considered protocols and procedures can be put in place to allow an incremental resumption of equestrian activity when current Covid-19 restrictions are lifted and it is deemed safe to do so by the Department of Health and An Taoiseach.
Horse Sport Ireland has been engaging with government and has advocated the uniqueness of equestrianism in the context of safe sport return.
Speaking about the submission, Horse Sport Ireland CEO Ronan Murphy said:
“In anticipation of some relaxation in the lockdown controls, we have 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. 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.
The focus of this submission is on the Irish Sport Horse industry, which is worth over €816 million per annum to the Irish economy and directly supports over 14,000 full-time jobs. Like all other sectors it has been severely impacted by this global pandemic. The proposal is aimed at ensuring that the relevant Government authorities have a detailed plan in place from the sector, in order to assist them in making a fully informed decision.
In order to deliver succinct proposals to Government, Horse Sport Ireland engaged in the first instance with its Olympic disciplines – Showjumping Ireland, Eventing Ireland and Dressage Ireland and the equestrian venues to understand the readiness to return. This proactive engagement will serve as platform for all equestrian disciplines to resume when it is permissible to do so.
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 14 April 2020. The guidance sets out the key issues and mitigation options to consider when planning sporting activities.
Mr Murphy said, “Horse Sport Ireland is committed to partnering with stakeholders and Government bodies to ensure a safe and responsible return to activity in compliance with all National Health guidelines. 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. 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 “We have put forward robust operating procedures 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”.
Horse Sport Ireland now await feedback on the submission and ask that all stakeholders continue to adhere to the Government guidelines and restrictions currently in place.