JOE Reynolds has left his position of Chairman of Horse Sport Ireland. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, this evening announced four new ministerial appointees to the board following a turbulent two weeks which saw seven board members resign.

Michael Dowling takes over as the chair, effective immediately. The other appointees are Zoe Kavanagh, Professor Niamh Brennan and Dr Kevin Smyth.

Joe Reynolds was appointed to the board of Horse Sport Ireland in 2016, and he was appointed Chairman by the DAFM in 2018. He took over as interim CEO in September 2020 following the departure of Ronan Murphy and resumed his position as chair in January 2022 when current CEO Denis Duggan took office.

In a statement this evening, Joe Reynolds said:

“I have worked throughout my six years with Horse Sport Ireland for the good of the horse sport sector, and, at all times, I have tried to protect and enhance the sector.

“In recent months, deep divisions have arisen at Board level, and it has not been possible to build a bridge between the differing parties. These divisions related to a wide range of core issues, some of which were personality driven, while others were linked to historic issues within some affiliated groups.

“Matters came to a head recently when a number of Directors voted in a favour of a motion at a Board meeting against specific legal advice. The course of events led directly to the ongoing Board issues becoming irreconcilable.

“I have been liaising closely with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in recent weeks in relation to the issues at Board level.

“Ten days ago, I met the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and I offered to stand aside, given the schism at the Board. He requested that I remain in my position, while the Department took steps to make changes to the Board.

“I agreed to do so and have continued to work closely with Department officials in recent days and kept them fully informed of developments.

“I have now decided to step aside, as the Minister is ready to appoint a new Board with a clean slate. I would like to thank the Minister and his officials for their support and assistance.

“Throughout this difficult period, the staff and executive of Horse Sport Ireland have worked tirelessly on behalf of the horse sport sector, and I would like to thank them for their efforts. Our 52 staff are exemplary professionals across a range of disciplines, who are hugely committed to our partners in sport across the entire horse sport sector. Despite the difficulties at Board level, HSI staff have continued their efforts on behalf of the sector.

“Irish equestrian sport is currently thriving, with our teams and riders competing and winning internationally on a regular basis. We are fortunate to have some of the world’s best riders, owners, producers and breeders in Ireland and it has been an honour for me to represent them and to work on their behalf.

“One of the highlights during the difficult Covid period was the staging of the Horse Sport Ireland Showjumping Masters, which was shown live on RTÉ, and drew very strong support from Irish riders based overseas, and from sponsors. The recent Horse Country documentary series, which was sponsored by HSI, and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, also showcased the huge role that our sport and industry have in the social and recreational fabric of Irish society.

“The Irish breeding sector is also performing at record levels. Foal numbers are all the highest levels ever, sales have been strong and at very good prices. Irish horses are currently in the top position in the World Breeding Federation of Sport Horses (WBFSH) standings in the disciplines of Eventing and Showjumping.

“The provenance of horses on the Irish winning team at the recent Nations Cup/Aga Khan Trophy competition provided further evidence of the health of the breeding sector, as three of the horses in question were Irish.

“I was appointed HSI Chairman shortly after the 2017 Indecon consultants’ report, which called for a significant overhaul of the structures relating to the organisation. Many of the necessary reforms that were recommended in that report have been delivered since I took over as Chairman, but there is still more work to be done in this area and that will be a key task for the new Board.”