Our chairperson Clare Fitzsimons is no stranger to most. Clare is seen here on her first horse Goldie with List 2 judge Michael Moore. Many regional and national members will know Clare as a committee member and dressage judge but may not know the history behind Clare’s current role.
Clare has always been involved in Dressage Ireland from the start back in the 80’s when the now company was an organisation called IHTDS (Irish Horse Trials and Dressage Society) and when it was known as the Irish Dressage Society. Clare has been on and off the Leinster dressage committee many times over the years holding roles such as vice chair and chair and she took over again as Chairperson from Sarah Mellor for 2021.
Clare was introduced to dressage by Jacki Doherty a List 2 Dressage Ireland judge. Clare credits Jacki as her mentor in her dressage and judging career. Jacki organised many shows and trained Clare how to do this while also encouraging Clare to steward and then to judge.
Clare has been a judge now for 35 years. As a judge Clare’s belief is to reward riders for what they do right. When judging riders rather than believing that riders must earn marks, Clare’s ethos is that every rider starts every movement with ten possible marks and it is up to the rider to keep as many of those marks as possible by riding well. In this mindset, Clare believes that riders keep and lose rather than earn marks and therefore they always have the opportunity to keep more and lose less the next time through reflection and systematic training.
Clare has enjoyed spending time as a breeder as part of her equestrian career and as a result Fresian horses are still a passion of hers. Having become acquainted Thomas Clancy, the man who first brought Fresian horses into Ireland ,Clare enjoyed riding one of the stallions. Clare then purchased her own Fresian mare and bred six of her own Fresian horses.
Throughout her long and varied career in dressage in Ireland Clare has enjoyed some notable highlights. The shows she most enjoyed organising took place in very prestigious surroundings – one in the Phoenix Park polo grounds and another in McKee barracks. Another show that invokes great memories for Clare was the riding club dressage championships which took place at the time in the RDS. Clare along with fellow judges Michael Moore and Maire Quinlan Pluck and Helen Mangan who was AIRC chairperson at the time were key orchestrators in getting a riding clubs dressage championship off the ground. Ashbrook riding club were the first to win this championship and the associated trophy making this a memorable event.
When asked about her feelings on Dressage Irelands achievements to date Clare had no hesitation in responding that the “Green Team” dressage team is the pinnacle of what she and so many others worked for over the past 40 years. To see Irish dressage evolve from its roots where a show consisted of one 20*40m arena often on grass to a team of Irish riders excelling at the highest international level has been the realisation of many dreams and aspirations.
Leinster Dressage has hit the ground running with Clare at the helm this year already with delivery of a full schedule of shows and several online training programs from international online dressage training to rider specific physio. Clare is not stopping there and looks forward to getting more people back riding in 2021 and aiming to encourage people to be brave and push their limits in order to transition up through the levels.