We've been home now for two weeks following our American stint and all the horses are enjoying some down time. We take a few easy weeks here before building up to travel to France at the end of the month. I plan to jump at CoilÓg on Easter Monday and then the following weekend at Horseware Ireland’s show in Dromiskin. Robert Splaine named the La Baule team last week and I'm thrilled to be a part of it. On paper it looks like the strongest team of riders we have had together in a long time for the opening leg of the Nations Cup series. I join Denis Lynch, Billy Twomey and Cameron Hanley for the French fixture and all are performing well, so I'm really confident that we can repeat our 2011 victory there!
Horse Sport Ireland, Teagasc and the RDS have completed 4 regional forums which were attended by the Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to try to develop a brief that could strategically guide the sport horse industry forward. This initiative should be supported and complimented. Holding open forums to any interested party in the current climate of shortage of funds and decline in the industry nationally over the last number of years was a brave move. The Chair of Horse Sport Ireland, Professor Patrick Wall, chaired the meetings and did an excellent job in allowing everyone have their say and managed well to co-ordinate all comments into structured headings. Some years ago I recall my grandfather saying to us calmly when people were arguing, "everyone is entitled to their point of view!" And that is just the issue - everyone sees the situation from their own goldfish bowl and if we are to move forward, there must be give on all sides and cohesiveness on some common points that will better the whole industry.
I was shocked at the request by many looking for handouts and demanding the government fixes their problem. If I buy a horse that is not as good as I thought I sometimes end up selling for a fraction of what I paid. New money buys new goods. This is a business and should be run as such rather than the romantic notion of bring your mare to the closest stallion and hope for the best. Drastic times require drastic measures and it’s up to all of us to cut our own cloths to measure and in my view the government support that should be given to the industry must concentrate around excellence and development rather than passports and culls. People must look at the situation with a 10 - 20 year plan.
It bothers me that those who are at the top of this sport are often referred to as elite. I don't see it used as a word to describe the top rugby players. Prejudice is always irrational. Those at the top fly the flag around the world and promote Ireland on the world stage. I'm not just saying that the best in their profession should be supported but rather anyone in the industry who is forward thinking and crucially, striving for excellence. It could be a school set up to educate grooms or identifying top mares and supporting their breeders, or supporting those who open new markets for trading Irish horses. We have an abundance of talented horse people in Ireland and if we could all pause and look to the big picture, we have the ability to create great changes. It is always the talent not the money that counts in the end.