SPRING is around the corner and the Irish equestrian sector is gearing itself up to get into full swing in what will be a busy pre-Olympic year.

Last Saturday’s SJI Pony Awards saw hundreds of prizes presented to pony riders and their families with 600 guests in attendance and another 150 apparently on a waiting list. Illustrating the phenomenal interest in Ireland’s flying pony sector, those involved in the organisation of this massive event deserve our collective thanks and appreciation. (See also pages 88-89).

Fostering the next generation of young riders and breeders - the bedrock of our future equestrian industry - is essential and needs active support and planning.

Waiting lists

With many riding schools, trekking centres and small yards closing their doors nationwide in recent years, there are waiting lists at some establishments now for lessons. We cannot just simply take it for granted that such grassroots outlets will always be available to us when we want them.

Does our vibrant industry have an active future-proofing strategy in place in this vital area? Can we say that we are doing all we can - or anything really - to ensure the survival and support the basic structures of grassroots equestrianism to ensure it remains open and readily accessible to all?

Aside from certain RDS stalwarts, is this crucial area even on the radars of the industry powers that be?

Food for thought...