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ESNZ chief handinig over the reins

Former Gisborne woman Dana Kirkpatrick is calling time as chief executive of Equestrian Sports New Zealand.

“I have loved this job, the challenges it has posed and the successes we have all celebrated together,” said Kirkpatrick, who is now based in Hawke's Bay. “But I feel it is now time for someone else to take up the mantle.

“It is time for a different perspective, for a new leader in this sport to build on the stable and sustainable platform that ESNZ has become.”

Kirkpatrick began with ESNZ in 2014 as the jumping director.

She remembers her first meeting being a special general meeting called due to unrest about how the jumping board had operated.

In 2016 she became the national operations manager alongside her role as jumping director.

She moved up to chief executive in November of that year.

Her first job as head honcho was to find a sustainable financial model for the organisation to work from.

Kirkpatrick tipped her hat to the “incredible” team she has worked with at ESNZ and their passion for equestrian sport.

She also thanked her family and friends for their support.

“The role has been demanding and challenging for my entire extended family and friends,” said the mother of two.

“They have stepped in for me at school prize-givings, sports days and emergencies when I couldn't be there, and kept my home under control. There are no words to thank them enough.”

Kirkpatrick is extremely proud of what has been achieved during her time as chief executive.

“ESNZ is a credible contributor to the New Zealand sporting landscape and can celebrate increased financial and management performance.

“We have exceptional relationships with key stakeholders, a strong high-performance pathway and are considered a leader in integrity issues, judicial procedures and delivery.”

Much of this had been made possible through the “magnificent” community of staff, volunteers, organising committees, sponsors, area groups, officials, board members, riders, coaches, and partners, including Sport New Zealand, High Performance Sport New Zealand, the New Zealand Olympic Committee, New Zealand Pony Club Association and the Royal Agricultural Society.

“I am proud to have made a difference with the Change the Rein campaign, which has definitely changed how people behave in our sport, and we have been delighted with the take-up by other organisations who have come on board to share the principles and messaging.

“I am pleased that major decisions in the sport have been executed with transparent membership consultation and input, even when it's been a tough call.

“And the ongoing focus on safety through human drug and alcohol testing, helmet tagging, blue cards, concussion standards and our incident reporting have set a good platform for continued focus.”

ESNZ board chair Lynda Clark says Kirkpatrick has established a reputation for being “fair, straight up and delivering solutions in challenging times”.

“Her proactive handling of the Covid pandemic on the sport was clear and concise, and we have bounced back better than we could ever have hoped.”

During Kirkpatrick's time, a complete membership review started the rebuild of the central organisation, followed by a rewrite of the judicial section of the rules, interschools development with Australia, strong financial management, the instigation of drug and alcohol testing, and the successful Change the Rein campaign, which had been her brainchild.

She managed significant issues and problems and always put ESNZ first.

More recently, she has been part of the sport sector group who worked on the HPSNZ Blueprint to 2032, Sport New Zealand sector wide Future of Sport workshops and was a member of the 2018 Sport New Zealand executive leaders cohort.

“I have seen the highs and lows of sport, the best and the worst it brings, but I have also seen enormous passion, respect for the horse at all levels and a sport that has stood the test of time.”

She thanked everyone who had helped through her tenure and applauded those who continued to give to equestrian in New Zealand.

Kirkpatrick will not be stepping away completely from equestrian. She is likely to pop up as a volunteer or official in the not-too-distant future.

Her last day on the job will be at the end of March.

‘TIME FOR A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE': So says Dana Kirkpatrick, who has resigned as Equestrian Sports New Zealand. Kirkpatrick, formerly of Gisborne but now based in Hawke's Bay, is pictured out at the Larsen Sawmilling Equestrian Championships at Showgrounds Park yesterday. Picture by Paul Rickard