STAFF numbers at Horse Sport Ireland have risen from approximately 39/40 last summer to 52/53 this year amid an acknowledged difficulty by CEO Denis Duggan in finding and retaining suitable staff.

Declining to comment on the current tender process over the ISH Studbooks, Mr Duggan said that HSI was no different to other companies trying to source staff.

“We are no different to the breeder in the west struggling to find a groom or a stable hand. There is a war on talent across every sector. I had the benefit of being at a conference in Croke Park on recruitment, over 150 companies were there, every sector was reporting the same type of problems when it came to finding staff.

“Part of the response is that we are looking at a journey. A transformation has to be done. Trinity College Professor Richard Keegan is looking at this for us, how to make our jobs more attractive to individuals. We are hiring a new HR manager next week, a new role we have created, we did not have one before. We are offering blended working to staff.

“The other challenge we have in retaining staff, when we discuss with exiting staff, is that they cite lack of respect and dignity to them on the phone. The fact is that nobody sets out to delay people with their passports and most delays are caused by people not having their paperwork in order for us. The staff are doing their best to get passports out to people and they get ate by some of them on the phone. Unfortunately some people believe it is appropriate to shout for what they want and it can be disruptive for staff morale,” said Duggan.

Exciting initiatives are coming up at HSI to attract suitable staff offering a career pathway at the organisation.

Additionally, HSI is working with Skillnet Ireland to provide workplace training across the equestrian industry in areas like digital transformation and climate change.

The HSI CEO said that he and Horse Sport Ireland enjoyed what he termed “excellent relationships” with both DAFM Ministers Charlie McConalogue and Martin Heydon as well as Minister for Sport Jack Chambers.

Breeder Schemes

It’s understood that in the next two/three weeks, HSI will be opening its Breeder Schemes for 2022. Details are being finalised with DAFM and the application forms will then go live.

A UCD research programme is due to conclude this year on the genetic evaluation of Irish sport horses, under a DAFM funded initiative. “It’s highlighting some very interesting data of how the Irish Sport Horse studbook compares to international studbooks. It might prove to be a scientific roadmap to show us how to rise up the rankings internationally,” remarked the CEO.

Live coverage boost

The recently announced live coverage of several of Ireland’s Nations Cup outings on RTÉ was described as ‘fantastic’ by Mr Duggan who pointed to the importance of live television coverage in sparking and feeding future interest in a particular sport.

It’s emerged that later this summer, ‘positive news’ is expected by Horse Sport Ireland on the televisation of a new six-part half-hour documentary series, commissioned by HSI, on the multi-faceted Irish sport horse industry.