IN her New Year report, Marguerite Kavanagh, Chairperson of Dressage Ireland wrote:
“AS the year 2020 draws to a close, it’s fair to say that it’s been a challenging year. It has impacted on each and every one of us psychologically, physically, financially and my sincere condolences to those of you who have lost loved ones during this difficult year.
“Despite the fact that the planned Winter and National Championships were derailed due to the various lockdowns, our sport did continue. Dressage Ireland and the regions collectively ran 63 shows with over 4,600 tests ridden. This has been no mean feat against the background of ever-changing guidelines as the sport faced National and regional lockdowns, varying guidelines and restrictions. Credit goes to the regional committees, the board of Dressage Ireland, the judges and volunteers who gave of their time to make this happen. Thank you!
“International results from Irish riders from the Team in Green; Kate Dwyer, Heike Holstein and Anna Merveldt kept our spirits and inspiration up. The performances of The Irish Pony Dressage Team of Rachel Carr, Martha Jobling Purser, Oscar O’Connor and Cillian Curran at The European Championships in Hungry was another particular highlight. Posting personal bests at such a prestige event was a testament to how hard they worked to produce such quality work and promising results. The cancellation of The Tokyo Olympics was a notable disappointment; however, it doesn’t take away from how proud Dressage Ireland is of having an Irish Dressage Team qualified for The Olympics and we are hopeful for 2021. Even though dressage throughout Europe has been impacted, Irish Dressage continues to impress, with Judy Reynolds remaining in the top 20 in the FEI world rankings.
“Members’ interest was reignited after the first National lockdown by The Leinster Dressage in The City three-day festival. Again, after the second regional lockdown, the South Eastern Region ran the Spruce Lodge two-day Classic and The Northern Region another two-day festival. These festivals took a tremendous amount of work from the dedicated committees and their efforts helped maintain the motivation of our members. Other regions embraced technology and took to providing webinars and live sessions, so members could view and learn from their living rooms. Other regions grabbed the opportunity between lockdowns to provide training clinics, so members could upskill and consolidate their training to a new level.
“At Board level, we have been working hard on the shortcomings of our current website and database. We have produced an extensive scoping document and, after discussions with several IT companies, we are now ready to embark on a new website and database tailored to our needs. It is forecasted to be ready for the end of March. It is envisaged that this will be much more user-friendly for regional secretaries, to put up notices, schedules and results, take entries and adjust entry fees. Memberships will be streamlined and points on horses updated after each show. With the advent of a new database, a sub-committee is currently reviewing the rule book and a new members’ information pack is in the pipeline. In the meantime, we are working the horse registration process, whereby photocopies of passports for renewing registrations may no longer be required for 2021.
“We also have worked with Regional committees to ensure that all regions had uniform access to banking, PayPal and accounting techniques. We have secured the help of a bookkeeper to ensure regional and central accounts are kept up to date – the new bookkeeping system will ensure that accounts are filed in a timely manner avoiding the cost of auditors going forward.
“Throughout the year, the board of Dressage Ireland have applied for several grants and funding projects. All these applications entail detailed proposals, and I am delighted to inform you that our efforts have been rewarded. Dressage Ireland were approved for an €8,000 Horse Sport Ireland sponsorship of The Go Try Dressage Days for under 18s. These days were offered to each region and to date have been oversubscribed in all regions, with some regions rolling out two days. Additionally, we have just received news that another €5,000 HSI Participation grant application for 2021 has also been successful. This project will be similar to The Go Try Dressage Days but will cater for adults.
“The Horse Sport Ireland sponsored Autumn Development Series was a very welcome initiative at the end of a testing year. Through detailed negotiations with the HSI team, Dressage Ireland secured a sponsorship package of €25,000 prize fund, which has reinvigorated the sport, keeping riders and horses alike in competition mode.
“The insecurity of how the virus will evolve is a factor of how we plan our lives going forward. We have all had to cancel or postpone plans and try new things, in order to stay ahead of Covid. With this in mind, we have had to rethink the Winter Finals for 2021. To avoid the possibility of potential restrictions, the Winter Finals will run over three different days in three separate locations. The board recognises that category 1, 2 and 3 riders have different levels of experience and, to accommodate that, Category 1 riders will have a championship test at the start of the level they are competing at; Category 2 a championship test mid-way through the level and Category 3 the championship test will be at the higher end. This is a new departure, in which the board of DI are trying to accommodate the rider’s needs, ensure the continuity of competitive dressage, whilst navigating around Covid with realistic plans. One qualification score for The Winter Finals can be taken from any show from July 2020 onwards. More detail on qualification scores, dates and venues will be communicated shortly via the DI website and DI Facebook page.
“As dressage evolves in Ireland and more senior and junior teams compete for Ireland internationally, the need to financially support our athletes also increases. In 2019, Dressage Ireland gave a significant contribution towards High Performance, that together with the adverse impact of Covid on our sport, has resulted in Dressage Ireland funds taking a hit. To aid our finances, Dressage Ireland have put a very significant submission to Horse Sport Ireland in relation to accessing funds under the Sport Ireland Covid relief fund for sporting organisations. This submission took colossal effort. However, we have been informed by HSI that the DI submission was one of the most professionally produced submissions they received and has resulted in our application being successful. This is a very welcome development, as it is essential to the sustainability of DI and our ability to provide quality standards for Dressage into the future.
“New Covid protocols are now near completion and will be posted on our website in the next few days. Some regions have training / shows planned in January, so the Covid checklist for members and organisers will be a useful reference. Recent interventions by HSI have resulted in our sport being put on a par with Horse racing and, even though there are restrictions and guidelines to follow, it does allow for more opportunity to compete and train behind closed doors. The popularity of the HSI Development Series has tempted Dressage Ireland into discussions with HSI regarding the possibility of a HSI Spring/ Summer series, which would be a great way to start 2021.
“In these difficult times, our sport is important to us and it plays an integral part in our overall health. Even though Covid is difficult to predict, our Sport is in a better position going into 2021. Better protocols are in place for Covid and HSI have worked hard to ensure that our sport continues in a safe manner. Memberships for 2021 are already coming in, the DI office reopened on January 2, so that those who want to compete and train have their memberships processed. However, please note that this is a busy time of year and memberships can take up to two weeks, albeit every effort will be made to process them quicker.
“The board of Dressage Ireland are working hard as a group on your behalf. I feel privileged to have such a dedicated bunch of people, who volunteer day in day out to ensure that members can train, compete and enjoy their sport. On their behalf and mine, we wish you all the very best for 2021, one in which we can all remain safe but still enjoy our sport.
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