ADAPT or die is the clear message from an alliance of equestrian sport heavyweights in relation to various failings it has identified within Horse Sport Ireland


At an unprecedented meeting of over 30 industry representatives held on Wednesday of this week in the RDS, widespread concern was raised over recent changes made by HSI to its Constitution and Memorandum and Articles.

Those present agreed that HSI has fallen short of achieving its goal of representing and unifying the sector, and has instead done the opposite.

They also asserted that recent constitutional amendments were made without input from industry stakeholders and were a step toward excluding them from strategic decision-making within the state-funded body.

Those present also agreed that a total overhaul to the structure of HSI was needed. This would include a board largely populated by representatives of the affiliate organisations, one that would also be answerable to those affiliates.

Joint statement

A joint statement from those present stated: “It was agreed that the significant modifications to the role of affiliates in the new Constitution has direct implications on the representation of the grassroots of the industry.

“These changes will affect how the grassroot perspective is incorporated into the governance and the strategic decision-making processes of HSI and will ultimately impact on how it serves the Industry.

“The affiliates and stakeholders present agreed that there are a series of shared challenges for the industry, across social, educational, economic, high-performance and breeding programmes.

“A service-led organisation that addresses those shared industry challenges, which it was noted was the original concept behind HSI, received widespread support.

“Such a unifying organisation could enhance the impact of the affiliates, who are industry facing and ensure the industry reaches its full potential.

“The meeting called for an overarching body, which provides accountability to the industry, increases stakeholder engagement, uses industry resources efficiently and engages stakeholders in strategic planning.

“Consensus was quickly reached in terms of the required structure; it should be answerable to the affiliates, hold an AGM where its Executive and Directors report to the affiliates, have a Board of Directors largely populated by representatives of the Affiliate organisations.

“The role of the Government Departments, who control the funding of programmes, was recognised as a necessary part of the governance structure, and therefore it was concluded that the Ministries for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, should have one appointment each on its Board of Directors, with the Northern Ireland Sports Forum taking another.”

Next step

The next step for the stakeholders will be to request a meeting with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Mr Charlie McConalogue TD, the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Ms Catherine Martin TD, and the Minister of State for Sport and Physical Education, Mr Thomas Byrne TD to address the matter of HSI and its failures in serving the industry.

The affiliates and stakeholders represented at the meeting were:

Royal Dublin Society, Showjumping Ireland, Eventing Ireland, Dressage Ireland, Irish Horse Board Cooperative Society Ltd, Northern Ireland Horse Board, Warmblood Studbook of Ireland, Equestrian Competition and Venues Owners Alliance, Association of Irish Riding Clubs, Connemara Pony Breeders Society, Irish Pony Society, Irish Shows Association, Para Equestrian Ireland, and the Army Equitation School.

HSI responds

With regard to the suggestion that affiliates were being excluded from HSI’s decision-making, CEO Denis Duggan said: “Nobody was excluded. The public consultation, which opened in June 2023 and closed after the RDS Horse Show in August 2023, offered an opportunity for all affiliates and members of the wider equestrian public to input into the changes proposed. Within company law, only the Directors of a company can approve changes to a company’s own constitution. On this basis, we consulted widely with the industry in advance of making any changes.”

Asked whether there was any intention within HSI to exclude affiliates from the decision-making structure, Mr Duggan said: “Absolutely not. This is a false claim that is utterly baseless and ignores the fact that 34 organisations (affiliates and industry stakeholders) are now included within the Advisory Forum structure. Regrettably, some affiliates have chosen not to participate thus far, but the vast majority have done so.”

Asked whether the board or CEO took any responsibility for allowing relations with the affiliates to deteriorate to the extent that they were seeking ministerial intervention, Mr Duggan said: “The vast majority of affiliates do not share or support this position. Most affiliates have engaged fully with the new Advisory Forum process. Our door remains open.”

Asked if the united front of dissent from affiliates represented a threat to future viability of HSI, Mr Duggan said: “The notion that there is a united front is a myth. The vast majority of affiliates have fully engaged with the new Advisory Forum process. For their own reasons, six affiliates, which do not represent a majority of organisations or indeed a majority of equestrians, have thus far decided to remain outside the process.”

Mr Duggan concluded by saying: “HSI continues to serve the industry and affiliates to the best of its endeavours, and continues to make strides to improve service delivery, especially in areas such as e-passporting, which will be seen this registration season.”