Bernard Jackman has been appointed Acting Head of High Performance Sport at Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) in the lead-up to the Olympic Games in Paris.
The former Ireland rugby union international, who won a Heineken Cup, Challenge Cup, Magners League and Six Nations medal as a player, has joined the equestrian governing body in an exciting time for the sport, and will work with the Olympic and Paralympic programmes as they gear towards the games this summer.
Ireland’s show jumping and eventing teams having already qualified for Paris and Jackman has been brought in with a focus on high performance, overseeing preparations for the games in a bid to maximise the massive potential of Irish athletes, both human and equine.
With the ultimate goal of bringing medals home from Paris, Jackman began working with the high performance sport team in HSI this week and is thrilled to be on board with the Irish Olympic and Paralympic programmes.
“I’m very excited to have started with the team at HSI as we gear towards the Olympics and Paralympics in the summer,” Jackman said.
“The Irish show jumpers and eventers were the among the first, if not the first teams and athletes to secure a place in Paris last summer – in the 2022 World Championships in Herning and also in Pratoni – so we have been in the unique position to be able to plan and strategise, long term, for a tilt at medals.
“I look at the likes of Michael Blake’s show jumping team and the fantastic results we’ve had in Nations Cups, multiple wins and podium finishes almost every time the team has lined up, including this year’s European Championship silver medal. This has me really excited for what we can achieve in that sphere.
“On top of that, Austin O’Connor and Colorado Blue’s recent five-star eventing win in Maryland – a first for an Irish athlete since 1965 – whets the appetite too. Clare Abbott also had a fantastic recent run with Jewelent, including a superb result at the FEI Nations Cup™ Final at Military Boekelo, which is promising.
“I am fascinated with the relationship between horse and athlete and when I was researching the potential for this role as we build towards Paris I came across the Two Hearts campaign from a few years back.
“It struck me then how special that bond is, and having recently gotten a greater understanding of the relationship between horse and athlete, it has me that bit more excited about the potential for our teams at the games.
“As an organisation, our vision is to have the best horses and riders in the world and I’m hoping to play a part in delivering that vision over the coming months.”
Jackman brings a wealth of high performance experience to the role from his time on the pitch with Connacht, Leinster, Sale Sharks and Ireland, as well as in the dugout with French side Grenoble and Welsh club Dragons.
He has worked as a consultant for companies such as Airbnb, Aviva, Primark, Circle K, Pfizer, EY, SuperBet and sporting organisations like the French Rugby Union on developing a High Performance culture and creating the next generation of leaders.
Jackman was also recently involved in RTÉ’s coverage of the Rugby World Cup in France, providing analysis on the action from France all the way to the final, while he has also written for a number of Irish print publications and currently writes a Sunday Independent column.
HSI Chief Executive, Denis Duggan, said: “I’m delighted to have secured Bernard in the role of Acting Head of High Performance Sport ahead of the Paris Olympics.
“Bernard is extremely impressive and brought a real enthusiasm to the process when we looked into this role – we knew of his potential to excel as Acting Head of High Performance Sport but what we have already seen with his vision for 2024 and the run up to the Olympics is very exciting.
“Bernard joins us at a time when HSI's high performance teams are in a golden era with record medals at all levels, from junior, young rider and at senior level. He has hit the ground running and has already met with key members of the high performance programme to support planning and preparation for Paris 2024. He will continue to do so over the coming days and weeks as we maximise the potential of our teams, athletes and the organisation in what will be a huge year for the Irish equestrian sporting community.”