Positive Discussions at the 2017 IPC Annual Conference

A large crowd of more than eighty people, braved the terrible weather conditions on Saturday 21st October 2017 to attend the Irish Pony Club Annual Conference.  The theme of this year's conference was "Finding the Future of the Irish Pony Club".  I think it is safe to say following the excellent debate and discussion last weekend that the future of the IPC is safe in the hands of a dedicated and hardworking membership. 

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our speakers for their fantastic contributions:

  • Lady Carew, IPC Honorary President
  • Mr. Tom O'Donnell, Chairman of Finance
  • Dr. Kate Harvey, Chairman of Dressage and Combined Training
  • Mr. Victor Clarke, Clarke Jeffers Solicitors
  • Mr. Eamonn Egan, IPC Director
  • Elaine and Aoibhin from TRI Equestrian
  • Mr. Tony Ennis, Chairman of Training
  • Mrs. Mary Fitzpatrick, IPC Administrator
  • Ms. Cleo Murphy
  • Ms. Paula Harte
  • Ms. Gaelle Daly

We must not forget to thank you the IPC membership for taking the time to attend the conference and share your views, thoughts and suggestions.  Your insights are valuable and will help to inform decisions into the future.

For those that were unable to attend the conference, we have prepared a summary from each speaker and included the presentation slides where relevant.

Mrs. Barbara Micks - Opening Address

Chairman of the Executive Committee Mrs. Barbara Micks opened the IPC Annual Conference by welcoming everyone and thanking them for making the effort to travel in such bad conditions.  Barbara said she was delighted to announce that we would be introducing a draft of the new Constitution for the Irish Pony Club today.  It was the culmination of many months – years even of work for a number of people within the organisation.   She looked back at some of the high points of the year for our members: International Hunting Exchange when we welcomed two visiting teams from the UK and US Pony Clubs.  They enjoyed a packed 10 days which included hunting, beagling and visits to Ballydoyle, Coolmore, Punchestown Races and Berney’s Saddlery.  Much thanks are due to Paula Hart, Judy Molony and Mary Cross.  All of the Championships were successful and were generally well supported but we could cater for more in the older classes particularly the Open class.  The workload involved in running competitions at this level is taxing and we need to harness the energy and knowledge of some of our young adult members, having watched them at camps and competitions – they are very capable and helpful and they are the future of the Pony Club. Five Mounted Games teams, one Minimus team and two groups of Tetrathletes had successful trips to the UK.  The Meath Hunt Branch Dressage team were placed eighth in the UK Dressage Championships while the Longford Branch Show Jumping team won the UK Pony Club Championships following a very exciting jump off.  Following their trip away they were voted Longford Leader team of the month – a great honour indeed!  Much of this success is due to the dedication and energy of our DCs and their branch committees.  Guiding the younger members and indeed often their parents, getting them quality instruction and not over-facing the children or their ponies is an art in itself.  As the end of 2017 draws closer so does the departure of Mary Fitzpatrick our administrator of almost 18 years.  During this time Mary has worn many different hats on our behalf.  I want to suggest that I may need to distribute these hats amongst a few others in the near future!  A big thank you to Mary for her administration of the office ably assisted by Melissa, Christina and Tara.Finally thank you to the Executive Committee for fulfilling the roles for which you were elected and for which I am eternally grateful.

Finance Presentation
Chairman of Finance Mr. Tom O’Donnell presented the annual accounts for 2016 to delegates.  Despite a further reduction in membership and consequential fall in subscription fees the organisation managed to increase it’s over all income due in no small way to the efforts of the Tetrathlon Committee who ran two very successful Championships; the Minimus (for under 12-year olds who run, swim and ride cross country) and the Tetrathlon & International Tetrathlon Championships (under 23 yrs. who run, swim, ride cross country and add target shooting).  These efforts were followed by a very successful IPC Ball and auction which returned much needed revenue.  The cost of running the organisation also increased with legal costs being a significant factor.  Delegates were advised that dealing with conflict and resultant data protection issues were the principle contributors to this cost.  Appeals were made to officials to deal with issues promptly and if in doubt to seek advice within the organisation as soon as possible.  Tom O’Donnell asked those present to ask why we are losing members; are our competitors providing what young equestrians want in a more appealing way? Are we providing value for money?  As a training organisation are we becoming too competitive?  Is there too much focus within the organisation on competition?  It was suggested the IPC need to look at their marketing strategy.  Tom finished by stating that unless membership numbers increased or some other source of revenue was found an increase in subscription fees of €15 would have to be imposed.

Finance Presentation

New Governance Structure

Dr. Kate Harvey, Chairman of Dressage and Combined Training made a presentation on the new governance structure planned for the Irish Pony Club.  This was the result of nearly five years of consultation and discussions amongst various committees within the IPC.  The new Constitution will be very much more inclusive and give the power within the organisation to the District Commissioners who represent the parents of members and thus back to the grass-roots.  Each Branch will now elect one DC to be a Member of Company (not to be confused with the children who are members of the Branch), these DCs will attend the AGM of the IPC CLG and among the other usual rights of Company Members/Shareholders they will vote to elect two District Commissioner-elected Directors.  Furthermore, the DCs will be represented on the Board of Directors by one Area Representative, who will be elected by the Area Reps from the nine geographic Areas of the country.  They will also have a voice on the Board via the Chairman of Discipline-elected Director (elected by the five discipline Sub-Committees namely; Show Jumping, Eventing, Dressage, Tetrathlon, Mounted Games).  The Board will be further made up by the Chairman of Equestrian Executive Committee, the Training Chairman, the Finance Chairman, the Treasurer (to be appointed by the Board) and five ‘Sitting Board Members’).  Mr. Victor Clarke (Clarke Jeffers & Co. Solicitors) was present and he explained that the ownership of the Company is now in the hands of the District Commissioners who will make up the majority of the Members/Shareholders of the Company.  While the principles of the new Constitution have been agreed there are a number of legal issues to be ironed out e.g. Shareholders Agreement which each DC & Member of the Company will have to sign, the new Audit and Nominations Committees and Treasurer to be appointed.  It is expected all of this will be in place for the 2018 AGM of the IPC CLG.

New Governance Structure Presentation

Changes to Insurance Requirements

Mr. Eamonn Egan (Director IPC CLG) chaired a discussion and presented information on the various insurance policies the IPC take out to protect members, officials and instructors.  The principle and essential policy being the Combined Liability Policy which protects members, landowners (whose land/premises are used for official IPC activities), officials and instructors should they be sued and found negligent.  The Member’s Personal Accident Policy offers limited medical, dental and hospital cover along with more substantial benefits should a member sustain more serious injuries.  There is cover for officials and staff working at Area Qualifiers and Championships and a Directors and Officers Liability Policy.  Finally, the Branches have cover for their property e.g. show jumping, portable cross-country fences, marquees, guns, mounted games equipment etc. and Personal Accident cover for Branch Officers and Instructors while attending / working at official Branch activities.  The new accident report form was circulated to delegates, this must now be sent directly to the IPC brokers and copied to IPC HQ, whenever someone (adult or child, member or official or member of the public) is injured e.g. when they require any medical assistance.  All Branch Activities must be notified to IPC HQ.  In order for a branch activity to be covered under the IPC Liability Policy, it must be notified to the IPC office on the official spreadsheet provided.  This must include information about the instructors / trainers used and officials present to supervise.  Branch Property & Personal Accident Policy- branches are asked to send information regarding the property they own or hire for which they require cover to IPC HQ.  A valuation should be put on the property each branch owns, this should be the current value (purchase value minus depreciation) and must be noted in the branch annual accounts.  Cyber Liability- the IPC have requested a quotation for cyber liability insurance.  This would cover the IPC HQ and Branches against the risk of a data breach in which the organisations members, officials and instructors' personal information, such as date of birth, address and email address is exposed or stolen by a hacker or other criminal who has gained access to the organisation's electronic network.  Should a data breach occur the organisation is required to notify those affected of a data breach by post – a process that could be very expensive.  Cyber Liability insurance would provide cover for the following costs; legal fees and expenses, notifying customers about the breach, recovering compromised data and repairing damaged computer systems.  Depending on the cost, the IPC Finance Committee will decide if this cover will be added for 2018.

General Data Protection Regulations 2018 (GDPR)

Mr Victor Clarke informed delegates of the impending European Legislation due to come into force on 18/05/2018, which in his opinion will pose a big challenge for all organisations including the IPC.  All information held about children is classed as ‘sensitive information’, as a consequence all information obtained by the branch DC, Secretary, Treasurer, Minimus Trainer, Mounted Games Trainer or other official must be fairly obtained for a specified and lawful purpose, must be kept in a safe and secure manner.  It must be kept accurate and up-to-date, it must be adequate and relevant and not excessive and not retained for longer than is necessary.  The person about whom you hold this information is held is entitled to access it.  Thus, everyone must be diligent about what is recorded about members, their parents and other people with whom the branch inter-act.  Every individual, upon payment of €7 will be entitled to a data access order i.e. they will be entitled to a copy of all information / data held about them or in which they are specifically named.  Thus, great care must be taken about what is recorded in minutes of meetings, and reports where people are named even email and text messages, including ‘What’s App',’ Viber’ and all Social Media.  Words of warning to all concerned: “If you think it don’t say it, if you say it don’t write it, if you write it don’t be surprised” [if you are sued]! 


Inspirational Member Award was presented to Billie-Mae Geoghegan from the Laois Hunt Branch for her courage in the face of adversity and her dedication to her training and horsemanship over the last few years.

Mrs. Mavis Murray was presented with a Carew Award by Lady Carew for her many years of service to the IPC as a Branch Secretary and DC and eventually as an Area Representative.

Kildare Hunt Branch (Tanya Doyle, Jt. DC and Anne Marie Cullen, Jt. DC) were presented with the Lillingston Cup as the Branch who achieved the highest number of points for success in Championships throughout 2017.

United Hunt Branch (Sally Kandalaft O’Herlihy, DC) was presented with the Carroll Trophy as the Branch with less than 60 members who achieved the highest number of points for success in Championships throughout 2017.

Longford Hunt Branch (Ann Marie McLoughlin, DC and Teresa Sheehy, Secretary) were presented with the Tommy Brennan Memorial Trophy as the Branch who achieved the highest number of points divided by the number of members, for success in Championships throughout 2017.

Mary Fitzpatrick who is retiring after almost 18 years as Administrator of the IPC,  at the end of the year, was presented with a beautiful piece of Cavan Crystal and a bouquet of flowers on her retirement.

TRI Equestrian Presentation

The afternoon began wisely with a very interesting presentation by Elaine and Aoibhin from TRI Equestrian on the hat and body protector standards for 2018 and the correct fitting of same.  In summary, approved hat standards for 2018 are:

  • PAS 015:2011
    • with BSI Kitemark (UK)VG1
    • with BSI Kitemark (UK)ASTM
  • F1163
    • with SEI Kitemark
  • (American)Snell E 2001
    • with official Snell Label

Change to Body Protector approved standard:

From 1st January 2018, body protectors must carry the (British Equestrian Trade Association) BETA Level 3 2009 standard (must be 2009 or later – more recent).  DCs should advise parents to have hats and body protectors fitted by a BETA trained fitter.

Training Update

 Mr. Tony Ennis presented a training report to the delegates at the conference.  The 2018 Instructors Register is now open for applicants to renew, upgrade or complete the process for the first time.  All instructors on the IPC database with e-mail addresses have been notified.  The criteria for inclusion on the IPC register is is as follows:

  • Attendance at Instructor Training organised by one of the following
  • Attendance at Instructor Training organised by one of the following:
    • The Pony Club, The Irish Pony Club, HSI, BHS or FEI affiliates. 
  • 2 CPD points to be attained each year.
  • Certificate of attendance at a Sport Ireland, Safeguarding 1 Course.  From January 2018, this will have to be within the last three years.
  • Letter of acceptance from the Garda Vetting Bureau, within the last five years.
  • Up-to-date First Aid Certificate
  • Payment of €20 fee for inclusion on the Register
  • The Registration Fee of €20 can be paid online from Its Plain Sailing.  https://itsplainsailing.com/club/ipc 
  • All certificates and evidence of CPD points should be sent to the Irish Pony Club Office.

There are two opportunities coming up during November where instructors may get 2 CPD points:

  • Area 3 Training Evening on Wednesday 22nd November at the Ballyrafter Centre, Lismore, Co. Waterford.  Beginning at 6pm, speakers include Anne, Waistell, Peter O’Donnell, Peter Ponsonby and Aisling O’Brien.
  • HSI Conference on 28th November at Cavan Equestrian Centre.

Tony continued his report by congratulating all of those who have completed tests during the year.  Two candidates, Cleo Murphy from Beara Branch and Hannah Wentges from Bray Hunt (Honours Certificate), successfully completed their A Test while nineteen candidates passed the H Test, three with honours - Jade McClafferty and Sarah McCloughan from East Donegal and Viola Callaghan from Longford.  A further ten candidated have successfully passed their B+ Test.  Due to the high volume of applicants this year, a further two B+ Tests will be held in Gurteen College on the 3rd and 4th of November.  Sixty candidates have passed their B Test thus far in 2017, across areas 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 9.

There will be a number of changes to the Training Committee Selection Process.  With Effect from 2018/2019, it is proposed that the Training Committee to be made up as follows:

  • The Current Training Committee elect six members to become the sitting Training Committee members.
  • Each Area then elect one representative to sit on the Training Committee, thus there would be a Committee of 15.  They elect their Chair, each year, who represents them on the Equestrian Executive Council and the Board of Directors.

Tony continued to outline the requirements for eligibility for selection to the training committee, the details of which are located on the presentation slides below. 

Finallly, plans for the training committee for 2018 were discussed.  It is proposed to hold:

  • A Senior Examiner/Instructor Training Day in early Spring.
  • A Junior Examiner/Instructor Training Day, also in early Spring.
  • The week of the 25th June - Friends Camp at Gurteen College.
  • H Test Tentatively - 23rd August 2018
  • A Test Tentatively - 30th August 2018

The timeframe has not been confirmed for the Senior Camp or the B+ Tests for 2018.  These activites are under discussion at the moment to try to identify suitable dates.  Tony closed his presentation by announcing the details of the "Friends of the Pony Club Lunch" which will take on place on Wednesday 22nd November in the Maldron Hotel in Portlaoise.  All are welcome to attend.

Training Presentation

Children First Act 2015 and the Role of the Branch Children’s Officer

Mary Fitzpatrick, Administrator for the IPC spoke on the implications of the commencement of the Children’s Frist Act 2015 for branches.  The IPC are currently in the process of writing / updating a Child Safeguarding Statement.  This will emphasise the responsibility the IPC and its officials have to keep children safe from harm not only in physical terms but also emotionally, sexually and safe from neglect.  We must manage the risks identified e.g. the need for supervision – never leave one adult alone with one child or in charge of a group of children.  We must select and recruit instructors, officials and volunteers carefully including the satisfactory completion of Garda Vetting and attendance at the relevant Safeguarding course and provision of references from known sources.  Mary went on to remind officials that it is an offence to engage someone to do relevant work with children on a regular basis if they have not satisfactorily completed Garda Vetting. 

Children First Act 2015 and the Role of the Branch Children's Officer Presentation

The Branch Children’s Officer (BCO) plays a vital role in ensuring that children in our care are safe and enjoy their sport.  The BCO should:

1. Ensure that members can talk freely and have a voice in the running of their Branch.

2. Be available for children, parents or other sports leaders who have concerns.

3. Promote awareness of the IPC Safeguarding Statement within the Branch, among members and their parents.

4. Influence policy and practice within the Branch in order to prioritise children’s needs, reporting regularly to the Committee, giving children a voice in their Branch.

5. Pass any concerns relating to child protection in accordance with reporting procedures on to the Branch Designated Liaison Person (DC) or to the National Designated Liaison Person.

6. Be an advocate for children in a complaints disciplinary procedure to ensure the environment is safe and the process fair for children.

7. Monitor changes in membership (renewals) and to follow up on any unusual dropout or Branch transfers by members, officials or sports leaders.

8. Operate with and encourage a strict code of confidentiality within the Branch including any matters concerning a child occurring outside the Branch environment.

9. BCO contact details must be easily available for all members e.g. Branch Website, Notice Board.

10. BCO must have attended Safeguarding 1 and 2 (repeated every 3 years).

11. BCO must have satisfactorily completed Garda Vetting (within 5 years).

Soap Box Section

To finish off the day, officials and instructors were invited to speak on a topic of their choice for two minutes.  We had three speakers Cleo Murphy (Pony Club A Test Graduate) from Beara Branch, Gaelle Daly DC of The Kingdom Branch and Paula Harte from the Kildare Hunt Branch and local co-ordinator of the International Hunting Exchange 2017.

Cleo Murphy asked the IPC to consider removing the age limits on members competing at particular heights of competition e.g. to allow 17-year olds jump at 75 and 90 cm as many of them do not have a pony or horse capable of jumping the 1m. height now assigned to anyone over 15 years of age (anyone over 14 years of age in show jumping must jump over 90 cm.).

Paula Harte spoke of the benefits of hunting to members in terms of learning about wild life, flora and fauna and generally getting a better understanding of country life including understanding farming and how climate and nature impact on farming.  Paula went on to say they learn about courtesy, good manners, about friendship and comraidre and in particular about good horsemanship and courage.  She said more of our members would be better prepared to ride cross country if they experienced hunting, she encouraged branches to arrange inter hunt exchanges.

Gaelle Daly loves the Pony Club and what it has to offer members but she feels there is too much emphasis on competition and in particular too much energy and thus money expended on Championships.  The Irish Pony Club is a training organisation and should keep its emphasis on training.  Gaelle would like to see more training available at regional level, more fun leagues run for the ordinary member.  She agreed with Cleo and said IPC needs to review its competition structure.  Also, the ones that are run should be more centrally located, everything should not be Leinster based.  Gaelle suggested IPC consider a Stablemanagement Competition run in conjunction with Championships which would be open to all members.


Before concluding delegates asked the Chairman of Finance if the increase in subscription fees was going ahead.  Many felt that if the fee goes above the €100 barrier, we will lose further members, they asked for a membership drive and suggested that the Championships entry fee should be raised as those people benefit more from IPC services.  Many people supported this idea and asked for an Under 12 Eventing Championship.  Tom O’Donnell stated people’s views would be taken into account but the organisation could not budget to trade at a loss.

Closing Address

Lady Carew brought proceedings to a close by stating she was heartened to hear peoples’ views and opinions and she felt it was a very informative and constructive Conference.  The Board of Directors and Executive Committee will consider all points raised and they will decide what is best for the organisation.  She thanked everyone for making the effort to come out in such difficult weather conditions and wished everyone a safe journey home.

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