Equestrian Sports New Zealand chief executive Dana Kirkpatrick has called time after six years with the organisation.

“I have loved this job, the challenges it has posed and the successes we have all celebrated together, but I feel it is now time for someone else to take up the mantle,” says Dana. “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.”

Dana began with ESNZ in 2014 as the jumping director and recalls her first meeting was 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 and in November 2016 stepped into the chief executive role. The first job there was to find a sustainable financial model for the organisation to work from.

She 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.

“The role has been demanding and challenging for my entire extended family and friends – they have stepped in at prize givings, sports’ days and in emergencies when I couldn’t be there and kept my home under control. There are no words to thank them enough.”

Dana 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 Dana established a reputation for being “fair, straight up and delivering solutions in challenging times” during her time leading the organisation.

“Her pro-active handling of the COVID pandemic on the sport was clear and concise, and we have bounced back better than we could ever have hoped,” said Lynda.

During Dana’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 has always put ESNZ first.

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

“I have seen the highs and lows of sport, including 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 in all sorts of ways through her tenure and applauds each and every person who continued to give so much to equestrian in New Zealand.

Dana has no plans of stepping away completely from equestrian though and is likely to pop up as a volunteer or official in the not-too-distant future. She will finish her role as chief executive at the end of March with the search for a replacement set to begin immediately.