The HSI Debacle: Industry Unity Amidst Dominance and Suppression

The HSI Debacle: Industry Unity Amidst Dominance and Suppression

The equestrian community in Ireland is facing a significant moment in its history. Horse Sport Ireland (HSI), the national governing body, has taken an attitude of dominance and suppression, alienating its affiliates and galvanising them into unified opposition.

While HSI's "divide and conquer" approach has traditionally been the modus operandi, this time it seems to have backfired. The industry, led by key affiliates and stakeholders, has rallied under a single voice to challenge these drastic changes.

HSI’s Controversial Changes

In January 2024, HSI enacted sweeping changes to its Constitution and Articles of Association without input from the affiliates or grassroots equestrians. The changes included removing the definition of "affiliates," eliminating the "Powers and Duties of Directors" section, and reducing transparency around the Board's structure and decision-making process. Crucially, the new Constitution positioned HSI as the "National Federation with sole and exclusive jurisdiction in respect of national equestrian affairs." This authoritarian claim effectively undermines the affiliates’ input and their role in the governance of the sport.

Furthermore, the shift from the previous Council structure to new Advisory Forums has been widely criticised. While HSI claims the new model provides inclusivity and engagement, the reality is different. With major bodies like Showjumping Ireland (SJI), Dressage Ireland (DI), the Army Equitation School, and the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) voicing strong opposition and refusing to engage, it is clear that HSI’s assertion of broad acceptance is flawed.

The widespread dissatisfaction among HSI affiliates stems not just from the sweeping constitutional changes, but also from the perceived lack of meaningful communication and consultation. Despite the significant impact these changes have on the governance of the sport, affiliates have reported that their feedback and concerns were largely ignored, if not outright dismissed.

This disregard has not only strained relationships but has also called into question the legitimacy of the decision-making process at HSI. Affiliates feel sidelined in a sport where their contribution is vital for both development and execution at all levels—from local competitions to international representations.

Industry Shock and a Galvanised Response

The lack of response from the new board at HSI, has added to the shock and disappointment within the equestrian community. Many expected their leadership to address these concerns with transparency and openness, but their perceived absence has further alienated the affiliates. Instead of fostering collaboration and support, HSI has found itself at odds with a coalition of equestrian organisations and stakeholders.

In the face of these challenges, a historical outcome has emerged: the equestrian industry has come together with a united voice. Affiliates and stakeholders have come together for a transformational meeting, drafted a joint statement on the future of the equine industry, and called for a comprehensive overhaul of HSI’s structure. This collective resolve reflects the deep frustration with HSI's governance and the urgent need for a system that is truly representative.

Equitas Changemaker Conference: The Hot Topic

This Friday, the Equitas Changemaker Conference at Barberstown Castle will feature a "Hot Topic'' segment that promises to be a pivotal discussion. The conference, focused on Showcasing real changemakers, Empowering women and Inspiring change in the equine industry, will give the stage to Shane McCarthy, our CEO here at Equitas, and Chris Byrne, the Spokesperson for the Equestrian Competition Venue Owners Alliance (ECVOA) and owner of CoilÓg Equestrian Centre. Their conversation will address the HSI debacle head-on. 

The "Hot Topic" segment will delve into the contentious changes made by HSI, explore the unprecedented unity among affiliates, and discuss the future governance of equestrian sports in Ireland. Both McCarthy and Byrne are poised to challenge the status quo, advocate for transparency, inclusivity, equity and underscore the importance of a governance model that represents all levels of the sport.

An Opportunity for Reform

This conference segment offers an important opportunity to educate the wider community, to ask questions, to have open and public dialogue and in some way understand a pathway towards huge reforms within HSI. It is a chance to reiterate that a governance structure dominated by government appointees and excluding grassroots voices is not fit for purpose. 

Supporting the affiliates collective resolve, we want to discuss a vision of governance that genuinely includes all affiliates and stakeholders, ensuring a system where every organisation, from grassroots to national level, has a seat at the table. The unified voice of the affiliates signals a refusal to be sidelined and an unwavering commitment to representation. It is a powerful reminder that dominance and suppression cannot silence a community that knows its value and strength.

The Equitas Changemaker Conference serves as a pivotal moment for this movement, providing a platform for affiliates to make their voices heard and push for transformative change. Their call for a new system rooted in transparency, collaboration, and accountability reflects a fundamental belief that equestrian sports in Ireland can only thrive when all stakeholders are treated as partners, not adversaries.

In light of these concerns, the affiliates have taken a firm stance, stating that the existing HSI governance is untenable and must be overhauled. If HSI truly wants to lead the equestrian industry forward, it must listen to its affiliates and work with them to create a transparent and inclusive structure that reflects the needs of the entire sport. 

The message is clear: adapt or be replaced.

You can book your tickets here:



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