Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) has released the findings of an investigation surrounding a metal bar training practice associated with Eventing High Performance Director Sally Corscadden. Conducted by Justice Frank Clarke, the investigation looked at whether a metal bar was used in training sessions overseen by Corscadden in her capacity as HPD and chef d’equipe of the Irish eventing squad amounted to a breach of FEI rules and possibly a breach of her employment contract with HSI. She has held the posts since 2017.

The training practice in question involves attaching a metal bar to the top edge of the uppermost rail of a showjumping fence which makes a noise if struck with the hooves, intended to “sharpen a horse’s focus.” This is different than the practice of ‘rapping’ in which a hand-held pole is raised to strike the horse’s forelegs over the fence. The latter is forbidden by FEI Jumping rules, which state, “All forms of cruel, inhumane or abusive treatment of Horses, which include, but are not limited to various forms of rapping, are strictly forbidden.”

The report noted that “the definition of rapping is, for understandable reasons, expressed in general terms … the conclusion reached was that the metal bar training technique was not even closely connected with the specific examples given in the rules … it followed that it could not be said that Ms. Corscadden sanctioned a breach of the rapping rule in the course of training taking place under her control.”

The investigation did find a breach of confidence between Corscadden and HSI, however, noting that Corscadden should have communicated to HSI that use of the metal bar in training was ongoing, as a separate investigation into training methods was underway.

Justice Clarke summarised his conclusions in the Substantive Report, remarking, “I am not of the view that Ms. Corscadden can be held to have been in breach of her contract of employment with HSI by reason of permitting breaches of FEI rules to take place during training over which she had general control. I am, however, of the view that Ms. Corscadden was in breach of her contract of employment by not drawing the attention of HSI to the fact that the metal bar training practice was also in use, when an investigation into not entirely dissimilar training methods was in train. I consider that to have been a breach of her obligation of trust and confidence.”

It was recommended that “the appropriate sanction to be imposed would be a written final warning to the effect that any further material breach of the duty of trust and confidence could well result in dismissal.” Justice Clarke took “into account the fact that Ms. Corscadden’s previous record does not suggest any adverse disciplinary findings,” and that this was “a factor to be taken into account in an overall assessment of all of the relevant circumstances for the purposes of determining a proportionate sanction.” Justice Clarke did not feel that dismissal would be a proportionate sanction to apply in this case.

Read the entire HSI statement here.