HORSE Sport Ireland has defended its distribution of public funding to affiliate bodies to a joint committee of the Oireachtas tasked with probing the challenges facing the sport horse industry.

In a letter sent to joint committee chairman Christy Haughton, and sighted by The Irish Field, HSI CEO Denis Duggan addressed a “number of inaccuracies and omissions that were made” by affiliates during an earlier hearing of the committee.

At that hearing, the letter stated, affiliates made statements that they were not in receipt of any grant funding from Horse Sport Ireland.

“This is factually incorrect,” Mr Duggan’s letter read. “Each of the bodies has, in the past number of years, been in receipt of significant amounts of taxpayers’ monies,” he said, providing details of all recent funding clearly set out (see tables).

In addition to Covid-19 Grants, the tables show additional supports from 2020-2022 including participation grants, previous affiliation grants and general sponsorship and marketing supports.

“Since 2021, Horse Sport Ireland has administered €2.135 million to the sporting affiliates for operational losses, return to sport programmes, and increased participation projects. The final round of investment to the amount of €285k will be distributed by the end of Q4 2023. This brings the total amount to almost €2.5 million.

“The two largest beneficiaries are Eventing Ireland and Show jumping Ireland, which were funded to the amounts of €583,732 and €553,000 respectively.

Additional funding

“Outside of the Covid Scheme, Horse Sport Ireland has, year on year, administered €100k of funding to the affiliate bodies to deliver on key participation projects within their disciplines. This grant scheme was also omitted from the bodies’ acknowledgement of funding.”

In an opening statement to the committee last week, Mr Duggan went on to say: “These figures do not account for the €950,000 that has been invested by HSI this year alone (funded by DAFM) in breeding and production classes in showing, jumping, eventing and dres sage events around the country. Of this amount, more than €500,000 is allocated to over 60 rural shows the length and breadth of the country, along with €420,000 in a suite of Studbook and Development Series events in Jumping, Eventing, Dressage and combined training for horses and ponies.”

The letter went on to explain that Sport Ireland’s funding for high performance athletes used a two to one matching model, whereby a €1 contribution to HSI from an affiliate enables Sport Ireland to match that with €2. If the affiliates, as the holders of the memberships, don’t contribute, the funding lapses.

With regard to claims HSI’s communication with affiliates was poor, Mr Duggan said HSI has “never refused to meet with any stakeholder or affiliate. The organisation remains open to meet with all our interest groups, stakeholders and affiliates”.

Mr Duggan also defended claims of HSI not offering capital funding to family-run equestrian centres, clarifying that there is no HSI capital budget for any industry stakeholders.

“HSI has over the past number of years contributed to events within many of Ireland’s equestrian centres in the form of prize money support and sponsorship under the DAFM supported Breeding Grant Scheme,” he said.