Marguerite Kavanagh: Not Sending Irish Team to Tokyo is a National Embarrassment

Fri, 07/16/2021 - 09:58
Marguerite Kavanagh, chair of Dressage Ireland

Guest columnist of this week is Marguerite Kavanagh, chair of Dressage Ireland. She addressed the members of Dressage Ireland after the turbulent Irish dressage went through when the Irish equestrian federation - Horse Sport Ireland - decided not to send a team to Tokyo. Many members felt disillusioned and lost their confidence in the efficiency, motivation and support from the national federation. Kavanagh touched upon these topics. 

On the Non Selection of the Irish Olympic Dressage Team

After one of the most turbulent periods in Irish Dressage, I would like to assure you, our members, that I, with the full support of the Board of Dressage Ireland were always fully supportive of an Irish team going to Tokyo. What ensued has been a national and international embarrassment for our Irish athletes and you the members. Unfortunately key information was not made available to both the Dressage High Performance Committee and the Board of Horse Sport Ireland. Had the information been made available the outcome may have been different negating the need to have our athletes go through the ordeal of two appeals.

Ireland was only one of eight countries worldwide that had three teams qualified for the Olympics; showjumping, eventing and dressage. What a remarkable achievement for such a small country with a proud history in horsemanship. It has taken 32 years for Dressage Ireland to qualify a team for the Olympics. We sincerely hope that Irish Dressage can arise from this travesty and qualify again for The Olympics in Paris in 2024.

Dressage Ireland, being attuned to the frustration and disappointment of the membership, communicated our concerns to Horse Sport Ireland relating to the possible impact of not sending the first ever Irish Dressage Team to Tokyo. It is heartbreaking our voice was not heard and even more so the impact of such an incomprehensible decision has had on you as members and on our sport.

You can be confident going forward that Dressage Ireland will take steps to continue to stand up for and support our athletes and ensure fairness and good governance is adhered to into the future.

Albeit members have expressed their disillusionment and de-motivation you have in true Irish style picked yourself up, dusted yourselves off and come out in droves this weekend to support your sport, like true sportspeople, with entries this weekend alone totaling 576 from Friday to Sunday. A huge Thank you at all the regional committees and volunteers who made this possible and the riders for turning out to support the shows.

On the International front we were delighted to see Irish athletes perform well over the weekend. Alex Baker, Carolyn Mellor, Belinda Brerton and Katie Williamson competed in Hartpury CDI in the UK and Vicky Campbell competed at the Young Rider European’s in Spain. We are proud of how hard you all have worked and on your achievements to date. Congratulations also to Michael Murphy, Katie Reilly and Tamsin Addison the Irish Para Riders who also competed with great success in Hartpury.

We are of course delighted to have Heike Holstein on her Irish home bred mare Sambuca represent Irish Dressage in Tokyo. We wish her safe travels and the very best of luck. We look forward to seeing her wearing the Irish flag among all the nations world wide. Congratulations Heike, your hard work and your performances throughout Europe in the last two years at an enormous cost has earned you the World Individual Ranking that has ensured this slot. We are so proud of your achievement, well done and the very best of Irish luck to you!

- Marguerite Kavanagh

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