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2012 Review and Round Up


What a year it’s been for Para Equestrian Ireland! From the amazing success of our Paralympians, to the continued hard work and efforts by all involved in the organisation, and the increasing awareness and interest in the sport 2012 can most certainly be deemed a great year, and everyone at Para Equestrian Ireland is looking forward to more of the same in 2013.

  • 2012 got off to a great start with the now annual Para Equestrian Ireland party where all involved get together for a social night, catching up, and toasting the continued success of the organisation and the riders.
  • The first training camp of 2012 took place in Kildalton with judge Hanneke Gerritson, where all the riders were beginning preparations for London in earnest.
  • James Dwyer started off 2012 with a bang as he stole the show in the CPEDI*** in Florida, winning six of his six classes with his beautiful mount Orlando.
  • There is great excitement in early Febuary as an Irish Para Equestrian team has qualified for the games for the first time. The Irish squad worked tirelessly in 2011 to achieve this, and four riders will be set to fly the flag for Ireland. Tributes poured in, with HSI chairman Joe Walsh commenting that it was a ‘hugely significant achievement’ and noting particular praise should be given to previous Chef d’Equipes Avril O’Byrne and Naomi Donaghue, as well as current Chef Dara Kearney, team coach Donie MacNamara and Para Equestrian Ireland chairman Lt Colonel Gerry O’ Gorman.
  • The OCS Irish Paralympic awards were officially launched on Monday 30th January, to take place in December after the games.
  • Another training camp in Kildalton – this time with renowned Dutch trainer Peter Strijbosch.
  • The team that would go on to compete in the games was announced in July. The selected combinations were Eilish Byrne – Youri, James Dwyer – Orlando, Helen Kearney – Mr.Cool (ISH), Gerry Savage – Blues Tip Top Too with Rosemary Gaffney and Aldham Mill Dubloon taking up the reserve spot. Obviously a dissapointing time for the riders who didn’t make it,  but as it was so close beween those who did and didn’t make it this could be used as greater motivation for the next games!
  • The team travelled to a 3* show in Hartpury College in the UK in preparation for the games, posting very impressive scores. It was their last chance to compete at international level before travelling to London.
  • The games came around very quickly, with the dressage competition running between August 30th to September 4th.
  • SUCCESS!!! Helen Kearney kicked things off by winning a silver medal with a score of 76.70%. After the rest of the team posted equally incredible scores the team earned a bronze medal. Helen then went on to clinch individual bronze in the Freestyle final. Eilish Byrne was narrowly beaten into fourth place in her final. The success of the riders at the games was a truly memorable achievement for all involved.
  • Celebrations commence at home! Busy schedule of appearances with their medals, and the riders are swept up in the after-glow of their immense results, with praise coming in from all corners of Ireland, including the Taoiseach and President.
  • Eilish Byrne, Helen Kearney and Geraldine Savage were all honored at theIrish Tatler Women of the Year Awards with the Special Achievement Awards.
  • The whole Irish Paralympic team were honored at the inaugural OCS Irish Paralympic Awards.
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Bluegrass Horse Feeds Winter Series 2012


Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) and Bluegrass Horse Feeds teaming up for Winter Workshops and presentations, which is open to all Pony Clubs, Riding Clubs and Associations of Ireland. Presented by Declan Cullen of Bluegrass, it is hands-on informative presentations on general feed planning and horse care and welfare over winter. Please contact Declan Cullen on 00447710883088 or or contact their office at 00442837548276 if you wish to book a place or to find out more information. 

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Success in Hartpury


Ireland’s riders posted good results  at the  FEI CPED3* in Hartpury College ( July 4th-6th)  The show provided a final opportunity for the riders to compete at international level before travelling over to London for the 2012 Paralympics. The Irish  combinations included Paralympics selected combinations ; Eilish Byrne(Youri), James Dwyer (Orlando), Helen Kearney( Mr. Cool ), Gerry Savage( Blues Tip Top Too) along with reserve rider Rosemary Gaffney (Aldham Mill Dubloon). One of Ireland’s younger riders Kate Kerr-Horan was also selected to travel to Hartpury.  The riders will have little time to rest as they continue their intensive preparations for London. 


FEI CPED3* , Hartputy College, Gloucestershire. 

Team Tests:

Grade IV :1.Sophie Wells 2.Sophie Wells 3.James Dwyer 4.Rosemary Gaffney 

Grade II: 1. Natasha Baker 2.Erin Orford 3.Eilish Byrne 

6th Kate Horan 

Grade Ia: 1.Sophie Christianson 2. Ann Dunham 3. Ann Dunham

5th Helen Kearney 6th Gerry Savage

 Individual Tests:

Grade Ia:  

5th Helen Kearney(69%) 6th Gerry Savage (66.8%) 

Grade II:  

3rd Eilish Byrne (69,3%) 7th Kate Kerr Horan (61%) 

Grade IV: 

3rd James Dwyer (69.7%) 4th Rosemary Gaffney (65%)

Freestyle Results 

Grade Ia :  5th Helen Kearney

Grade II: 1. Natasha Baker 4th Eilish Byrne

Grade IV: 1. Sophie Wells 3rd James Dwyer 4th Rosemary Gaffney

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HORSE Sport Ireland has confirmed that the horses and riders to represent Ireland at the Paralympic Games in London have been ratified by the Paralympic Council of Ireland.

This will be the first time Ireland has qualified an equestrian team for Paralympic Games. The selected combinations in alphabetical order are:

Eilish Byrne/Youri
James Dwyer/Orlando
Helen Kearney/Mr. Cool (ISH)
Gerry Savage/Blues Tip Top Too

Rosemary Gaffney/Aldham Mill Dubloon

Speaking after the announcement Dara Kearney, Chef d’Equipe for Team Ireland Equestrian's Para Equestrian team, said that the riders were really looking forward to the games.

“Obviously it is very disappointing for the riders who did not make the team and it was a very close call with some riders missing out very narrowly. The team will be going to the three star competition in Hartpury in the UK next week as part of the preparation for the games which will be an ideal dry run for London” she said.

"On behalf of the whole squad I'd like to thank everyone who supported us on our journey to this milestone," she added.

The Para Equestrian dressage competition takes place in Greenwich Park London from August 30th to September 4th

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Renowned Dutch trainer Peter Strijbosch, who, amongst others, trains the 2011 double European gold medallist and World Cup champion Adelinde Cornelissen, is conducting this weekend's para equestrian training clinic in Kildalton College (March 2nd-4th) which is being attended by riders Breda Bernie, Helen Kearney, Rosemary Gaffney, Kate-Kerr Horan, Eilish Byrne, and Angela Lyons.

“This is a great opportunity for the squad as they prepare for London and the international competitions that precede it,” their nominated London team manager Dara Kearney said this week. “It is thanks to Liam Moggin that Peter is in Ireland this weekend and we are thrilled to have him here,” she added.

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The OCS Irish Paralympic Awards were formally launched on Monday 30th January at the OCS Head Office in Dublin by Mr. Michael Ring, T.D. Minister of State for Tourism & Sport.

The inaugural OCS Irish Paralympic Awards will take place on December 7th following the London 2012 Paralympic Games. The OCS Irish Paralympic Awards will be the first of its kind in Irish Paralympic Sport, honouring the achievements, successes and contributions of the Irish Paralympic team and its support network over the London cycle.

Speaking at the launch event Mr. Michael Ring, T.D. Minister of State for Tourism & Sport stated: “I am delighted to launch these awards which provide a great opportunity to recognise Irish Paralympic Sport.  Last year was another remarkable year for Ireland’s Paralympic athletes and I wish all the team continued success at the London 2012 Games later this year.”

Speaking at the launch event Mr James Gradwell, President Paralympics Ireland, stated: “The recipients of these first formal awards conferred by Paralympics Ireland will have displayed great athletic prowess at the second biggest sporting event on the planet this year, the London 2012 Paralympic Games.  It is highly appropriate that we honour and celebrate the success our elite athletes bring to Ireland.  We look forward to a wonderful night of celebration with our OCS and the Irish Paralympic Family.”

Speaking at the awards launch Cecil Ryan, Regional Managing Director OCS Europe, said: “OCS are delighted to be associated with the Irish Paralympic Team in the lead up to the Paralympic Games as the athletes strive to realise their sporting dreams in London”. The athletes are a great source of inspiration for all of us and we are very pleased to support and be associated with them.  We look forward to celebrating the achievements of the Irish team and its wonderful support staff, at the inaugural OCS Irish Paralympic Awards post London 2012, which will undoubtedly be an occasion to remember.”

Ms Mailo Power, Awards Committee Chairperson outlined details of the awards and the categories including the OCS Irish Paralympic Sports Awards, OCS Irish Paralympic Media Awards and the OCS Irish Paralympic Merit Awards.

OCS Irish Paralympic Awards Categories:

OCS Irish Paralympic Sports Awards:

Outstanding Male Performance

Outstanding Female Performance

Outstanding Games Debut Performance

Young Paralympian of the Games

Outstanding Member of the Irish Paralympic Team (Non-Athlete)


OCS Irish Paralympic Media Awards:

TV Broadcast

Radio Broadcast

Photographic Image

Written (Print or Web)


OCS Irish Paralympic Merit Awards:

Hall of Fame

Irish Paralympic Order

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THERE have been great celebrations amid the para equestrian community, and beyond, after it was officially announced that Ireland will be represented at the Paralympic Games in London by a full team of riders for the very first time.

This is a fantastic achievement and one which will gather much interest from equestrians all over Ireland, as this is the only full equestrian team which has qualified.

Throughout last year the Irish squad worked tirelessly to gain qualification, and achieved fantastic results across Europe, culminating with Helen Kearney winning Ireland’s first ever medal (bronze), at the European Para Equestrian Championships in Moorsele in September. More recently James Dwyer won six classes back-to-back in Florida, USA.

Now, the hard work has finally paid off as four riders will get to line out and fly the Irish flag in Greenwich Park from August 30th to September 4th.

They will compete in their respective grades from Grade 1a through to Grade IV, in three different tests – team, individual and Freestyle.

Commenting on the good news, Horse Sport Ireland Chairman Joe Walsh congratulated the team on what he said was a hugely significant achievement: "I want to thank Paralympics Ireland and the Irish Sports Council for their support and our affiliate Para Equestrian Ireland for their tireless work over a number of years to build up the para equestrian discipline in Ireland,” he said.

"I would also like to acknowledge the roles of Avril O'Byrne and Naomi Donoghue who were the Chefs d'Equipe over the last few years, as well as team coach Donie MacNamara.

"Dara Kearney has recently been appointed as Chef d'Equipe for the team by Horse Sport Ireland and as Team Manager for London by Paralympics Ireland. Dara has been a real driving force for para equestrian in Ireland and I want to wish her and Donie well with the preparations.”

Lt Colonel Gerry O'Gorman, Chairman of Para Equestrian Ireland said: “I would like to acknowledge the huge work that has gone into this great achievement. I would also like acknowledge the contribution of Para Equestrian sponsor Denis O'Brien who has been a very generous supporter of the team along with Horseware Ireland, Bluegrass Horsefeeds and TRM.”

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IT was indeed a fairytale few weeks for James Dwyer in Florida – six classes, six wins and steady scores throughout to complete his campaign as the one of the most-talked about riders.

Last week's action kicked off on the Thursday with the team test, where James claimed the first class of his second treble within a fortnight. Here he scored 69.63%, which was one percentage higher than that achieved in the same class the previous week. It was no mean feat as Dwyer, from Mooncoin, Co Kilkenny, was competing against riders who had the advantage of having two horses at their disposal.

On Saturday, James again dominated the individual test, this time on a score of 70.53%. In front of judges Katherine Luckeschi (ITA), Carlos Lopes (POR), Marc Urban (BEL) and Hanneke Gerritsen (NED), he and Orlando demonstrated impeccible half-passes, and an exact free walk to earn 69.63%. Sunday's Freestyle was a treat to watch and, to the sound of Riverdance, James gave the performance of the day to score an untouchable 73.33%.

"I know I have stuff to work on, but we are going in the right direction," he said afterwards. "In Europe, I would like show them that we are also competitive against them as well as winning here. The judges showed all week that they are not giving away scores. I think they are pretty much saying to me you are doing the right thing and I hope when we arrive in Europe we will hopefully keep that consistency. The fact that last weekend and this weekend we have stayed fairly level in our scores, even going a little bit higher, that is what I was looking for. The horses are so tired after these two weeks, and it has been a tough two weeks, and for him to give me what he just gave me out there, I couldn't ask for more, He was just amazing."

The USA won the team competition ahead of Canada. It is now a case of waiting as the scores are calculated to see which countries have qualified for London. The deadline is January 31st.

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CONGRATULATIONS to high-performance squad member James Dwyer who completed a fantastic treble at the CPEDI*** in Florida over the weekend. Riding his own gelding Orlando, James picked up his first win on Thursday when scoring 68.75% to see off 22 other riders in the team test. After a break on Friday, James was back in action on Orlando to win the individual test the following day with a score of 70.75%. On Sunday he landed the Freestyle with a truly impressive 74%.

"I am thrilled with the horse," he said after his treble at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center in Wellington. "It was tough as most of the other riders had two horses each – I had just one. Now I hope I can repeat it this weekend at the same venue."

After two weeks in Florida James will take a short break before heading to Europe with Orlando to compete in France, Belgium, and Germany.

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