In September 2013, 10 Young Riders were given an opportunity of a lifetime to travel to America for a Training Bursary with 10 Irish International Riders who were based in Florida.
Riders received the bursary through certain Championships throughout the year with a further three Wildcard Selections made available and selected by the Young Rider Committee of ShowjumpingIreland.
Several of the Young Riders have completed their training and many of these were invited to remain in Florida to further their training and given the opportunity to compete while they are there.
This Rider Placement Programme was the brainchild of Michael Blake, Young Rider Committee Chairman and the Clare native worked very closely with the riders while in Florida. Blake kept in contact with the Trainers and promoted the Bursary with the Riders in America and was highly praised by the International riders in Florida for the work he has done.
Blake was also instrumental in securing sponsorship from both Connolly’s RED MILLS and Horse Sport Ireland which reduced the costs for each of the Young Rider travelling to America while the Trainers in Florida offered their time free of charge in order to support the initiative.
Blake, from county Clare, commented; ‘’This Placement programme was a huge success. It was extremely well received and we had several other International Riders commenting on the obvious talent of our Young Riders. The whole experience exceeded anything we could have envisaged for it and it caught everyone’s imagination.
‘’Each of the 10 Young Riders are a huge credit not only themselves but to their families and to the SJI for the way in which they conducted themselves while they were in Florida. They performed well when given the opportunity to compete and they all worked very hard, the riders were fantastic. All of the Trainers were extremely happy with their rider and they are all very positive for this to become an annual programme.’’
Former National Champion Michael Duffy, Sophie Dalm, Darragh Ryan, Tom Foley, Kellie Allen, Stephen Moore, Cathal Daniels, Philip McGuane, Hayley Dunne, and Mayo’s Michael Duffy were the 10 successful riders that were given this once in a lifetime opportunity.
The trainers were Darragh Kerins, Richie Moloney, Conor Swail, Cian O’Connor, Kevin Babbington, Darragh Kenny, Ronan McGuigan, Paul O’Shea, Conan Conway, Andrew Bourns and David Blake.
One of the riders was Mayo’s Michael Duffy who spoke very highly of the experience; ‘’ ’I thought it was a brilliant idea for ten of us to get the opportunity to travel to Florida. I learnt an awful lot, not even in riding but in the management of yards. We were all with Irish Riders so the riding and training of horses was very similar but the way the horses are looked after was completely different. The care was amazing, it was great to see it.’’
Sophie Dalm was the overall winner of the Ulster Region Grand Prix League and as a result of that, she gained the bursary and spent time with Kevin Babbington while in Florida; ‘’It was a really good experience. Kevin was a great help, he let me jump in a few competitions and it was great to learn about the different markets over there. Most of the horses I rode were quite big horses, easy to ride, very comfortable, which are ideally suited for the market that they are aiming for in America.’’
Nations Cup winning rider Richie Moloney spoke very highly of the Bursary commenting; ‘’This Bursary is something I would definitely encourage, it’s a great opportunity for the Young Riders and it’s a great initiative for the sport back home. Tom Foley was with me and he got on very well. He was very keen to learn and he’s a very good rider. The standard of Young Riders is very strong and this programme is something that will always benefit them.’’
The Young Rider Placement Programme is now hoped to become an annual prize for Irish Young Riders.