HORSE Sport Ireland confirmed they have initiated an independent investigation into allegations that ‘rapping’ poles were apparently used in some of its official training sessions.

Barrister and Sports Law specialist, Susan Ahern BL, is conducting the investigation for Horse Sport Ireland. It’s understood that her report is expected to be completed before Christmas.

The matter first came to light when an anonymous letter, outlining the serious rapping allegations, accompanied by photographs, was sent to Sport Ireland’s HQ at Abbotstown and the matter subsequently then brought to the attention of Horse Sport Ireland.

It’s believed that the rapping fence (in this case allegedly heavy poles with metal attachments) were unwittingly bought by Horse Sport Ireland and brought in as part of a consignment of other legitimate fences which cost a total of €8,500.

‘Rapping’ horses or ponies – basically inflicting pain or discomfort on horses if they touch or knock a pole to ensure that they jump higher the next time – is a disreputable practice that has cast equestrian sports in a poor light in the past.

Acting CEO of Horse Sport Ireland, Joe Reynolds, signed off on the purchase of new fences as part of his duties but had no knowledge any such rapping fence/poles were included in the consignment. “I signed off on the purchase of some new fences in May after being asked for approval to buy some for our training.

“This rapping fence/poles was apparently then brought in with that consignment,” Joe Reynolds told The Irish Field on Thursday.

Acted promptly

A HSI statement said: “Horse Sport Ireland puts equine welfare at the very centre of its role as the governing body for equestrian sport in Ireland. In that context, the Board of Horse Sport Ireland acted promptly and took all necessary precautionary measures following the serious allegations regarding inappropriate training methods.

“The Board nor Management of Horse Sport Ireland would never sanction the training methods alleged to have taken place.

“Following an initial internal review, the Board has appointed an independent expert – barrister and Sports Law specialist Susan Ahern BL – to formally investigate the allegations. Horse Sport Ireland can confirm that the investigation has commenced.

“Separately, Horse Sport Ireland is reviewing the manner in which training is conducted to ensure that all training sessions comply with best practice. Horse Sport Ireland can make no further comment on this matter until the investigation is concluded.”

In plain sight

The Irish Field understands that the rapping poles/fence in question was also left in situ for a considerable timespan – some weeks if not months – before the anonymous letter was circulated to Sport Ireland.

A statement from Sport Ireland to The Irish Field yesterday (Friday) said: “Sport Ireland is aware of the matter and has shared the anonymous communication received with Horse Sport Ireland, which is taking the appropriate action. As there is an investigation ongoing, Sport Ireland is not in a position to comment further.”