DR Sonja Egan has been appointed Head of Breeding, Innovation and Development at Horse Sport Ireland (HSI).
Following an extensive interview process, the board of directors for the national governing body of equestrian sport in Ireland unanimously approved appointing Dr Egan to the role, having held the position on an interim basis since January when she replaced Alison Corbally, who previously held the director of breeding role for 14 years.
Sonja graduated from UCD’s School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science with a PhD titled ‘Exploring the potential of wearable technology to impact equine movement analysis in the applied field’ and has been a member of the HSI team since 2019.
Sharing her vision for the sport horse breeding industry in Ireland, Sonja commented: “I am extremely passionate about supporting Irish breeders through open dialogue and evidence-based innovative breeding practice and I’m obviously delighted that the board of directors have shown faith in me and my vision for the industry in Ireland.
“I hope to combine my knowledge derived from academia and the equine industry to provide a unique skillset which brings added value in shaping the future direction and development of the Irish sport horse industry.
“We have a fantastic tradition and history of Ireland breeding the best horses in the world and it is important for me and the team in the breeding department to maintain that tradition and to provide the supports and initiatives to all Irish breeders and operations, big and small. I’m very excited for the future of breeding in Ireland,” she added.
After joining the breeding department at HSI, Dr Egan applied herself in grant applications and the conceptualisation, design, and delivery of breeding initiatives such as the Fragile Foal Syndrome screening scheme; the X-Ray screening scheme and, more recently, the herd-wide equine transition project from microsatellite (MS) to single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) DNA analysis technology.
These projects have facilitated nationwide spread of Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine (DAFM) funding.
Sonja Egan has implemented several simple strategies to improve project workflow and the incorporation of cost-effective technology efficiencies.
These include the implementation of online form platforms and process automation where possible and has allowed the breeding team to widen their working focus and upskill in many digital applications. They also facilitated greater stakeholder engagement, improved data insights and the standardisation, transparency, and speed of breeding initiative application processing.
HSI CEO, Denis Duggan, said: “We are delighted to appoint Sonja to the management team of Horse Sport Ireland. She has excelled in the role since stepping in on an interim basis and we are excited to see where her vision for the sector takes us.
“In conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine as well as panel members from Mazars and UCD, we conducted a thorough search to fill the role on a permanent basis and Sonja was clearly the most suitable candidate to take our breeding department forward.”
Sonja also plays Lacrosse for Ireland and will be competing at the upcoming World Cup in America.