Horse Sport Ireland Reports Winning Appeal to Send No Team to Olympics, Hours After Riders Dane Rawlins & James Connor

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Dane Rawlins and Espoire. File photo. © Ken Braddick/

June 29, 2021

Horse Sport Ireland claimed victory Tuesday in its decision not to send a team to the Olympics after a finding by an independent arbitrator against riders Dane Rawlins and James Connor.

“The Independent Arbitrator dismissed the appeal of both Mr Rawlins and Mr. Connor,” Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) said in a statement..

“The hearing offered all parties the opportunity to outline their positions, ensuring that an independent assessment of the nomination decision could be made.

“In his decision, Dermot Kelly SC, referring to the decision of the Dressage High Performance Director (DPHD) stated: ‘The DHPD gave very full and careful consideration to all the factors set out in the Nomination Policy’.

“Horse Sport Ireland will continue to support Irish competitors in the equestrian disciplines as they prepare to compete under unique circumstances at these Olympic Games.”

Dane Rawlins and James Connor released a statement that they said was from their attorneys after the hearing stating the Irish federation would file their scores that met qualifying scores required by the International Equestrian Federation..

Federation (FEI) that the two riders has met the minimum eligible scores required to compete in Tokyo next month.

HSI last week nominated Heike Holstein on Sambuca as an individual. The organization said it based its decision on a recommendation by team coach Johan Hinnemann not to send a team. Subsequently, the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) published the decision by listing only Heike in its list of nominated entries.

Both James, 60, years old, and Dane, 65, had achieved the required minimum eligible score to compete in the Olympics.

Dane, in a telephone conversation with, described the series of events as “bizarre” and a slap in the face for Irish dressage.

Following the initial decision by HSI, overwhelming support was expressed for Dane and James and denunciation of the national federation.

The right for Ireland to send their first dressage team to an Olympics was earned by Heike Holstein on Sambuca, Judy Reynolds on Vancouver K and Anna Merveldt on Esporim at the 2019 European Championships. Since then, however, Judy and Anna were unable to participate for a Tokyo team.

Dane Rawlins said Tuesday that as both James Connor and he had earned minimum eligibility scores as required by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) that governs global horse sports including equestrian at Olympics Ireland should send a team to represent the nation even if it did not include all the top combinations.

“The Olympics are about participation,” he said, “not whether you can expect to win a medal.”

James Connor rode Casino’ Royal, a 16-year-old Oldenburg gelding, while Dane, 65, competed Espoire, a 12-year-old Westfalen gelding, seeking places on the team of three.

In addition to being an international competitor including at the 2013 European Championships, Dane organized Dressage at Hickstead for 27 years until a year ago.

James competed at the 1998, 2002 and 2014 World Equestrian Games and the 2001 European Championships.

Dane is entered to compete Espoire later this week at the Rotterdam CDIO5* Nations Cup.

The 15 nations to have qualified teams are: Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Japan, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Russia and United States.

Belgium is in line to replace Ireland.