THE war in Ukraine was first mentioned in the pages of the Irish Horse World in the issue of March 5th when Judith Faherty reported on the FEI cancelling all affiliated events in Russia and Belarus from its calendar and prohibiting Russian and Belarusian athletes from competition.

The following week, the same writer informed readers of the safe evacuation from Ukraine of leading stallions Cornet Obolensky and Comme Il Faut. That was the good news, the bad being the anticipated shortages of grain being exported from the country.

IHW editor Isabel Hurley reported in the issue of April 16th that 300 Ukrainian refugees were to be ‘temporarily accommodated’ at the Duggan family’s Green Glens arena in Millstreet. The international events and show were to go ahead and they did.

The arrival of the first group of refugees was covered in the pages of April 23rd, just below a report which started: ‘The deliberate acts of cruelty towards horses by the Russian Forces in Ukraine is “hard to understand”, said David Rendle, president elect of the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA).’ Ways to support equine welfare in Ukraine were highlighted in the Pony Tales column of the December 3rd issue of the IHW.

The first international event of the season at Millstreet took place in June when the refugees were well settled into life at the Co Cork venue. IHW reporter Sally Parkyn wrote: ‘In a somewhat surreal scenario, neither sector appeared to be aware of the other, although, having been briefed in the safety protocols, many of the Ukrainian families enjoyed watching the competition unfold.’

Greenogue plans pulled

‘Increases in raw material costs because of the war in Ukraine,’ were cited as one of the main reasons that, in July, Horse Sport Ireland pulled its highly controversial plans to relocate to Greenogue Equestrian where it had hoped to establish a Centre of Excellence. A business review into the plans, initiated by HSI CEO Denis Duggan, chiefly identified spiralling costs across the board and the relocation plans were subsequently scraped.

Having attended HSI’s pre-Budget submission event in Dublin, Isabel Hurley wrote the main news article for September 17th: ‘Horse Sport Ireland outlined an ambitious and strong case to Government, lobbying for over €33 million for the sport horse sector as Budget Day looms.’

Well, there’s no harm in lobbying but ‘twas for nought as Hurley and Judith Faherty wrote on October 1st. ‘The sport horse industry was left bitterly disappointed this week following an allocation of €5.2 million from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) in Budget 2023, announced on Wednesday. The funding indicates no increase on last year at a time when “rising costs and inflation are running 10% at least ahead of last year”.

‘“For an industry that generates almost €1 billion annually into the Irish rural economy and supports 14,000 jobs this has been a disappointing budget,”’ commented HSI CEO, Denis Duggan.

New Horse Sport Ireland board

More controversy was to hit Horse Sport Ireland at the back end of the year when the board resigned amid discontent over corporate governance issues as well as high legal costs incurred at the Naas-based HQ. A new board of four was subsequently appointed by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue. In place now at HSI is the new board of Michael Dowling (interim chairman and author of The Dowling Report), UCD Professor Niamh Brennan, Dr Kevin Smyth and Zoe Kavanagh, CEO of the National Dairy Council.