Irish equestrian community mourns deaths of Grainne Sugars and Riona Finn Naughton

  • 27 May 2022, 10:34

The Irish equestrian community is in mourning following the passing of highly-respected Grainne Sugars and Riona Finn Naughton last weekend.

Grainne Sugars was a pillar of the equestrian community. Beginning as a rider, she represented Ireland on the Junior Eventing team and following this on Irish Endurance teams in the 1990s. Throughout her life Grainne was heavily involved with Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) and with numerous HSI affiliates.

She had an undisputed passion for sharing her knowledge and experience with others and played a significant role in the initial development of the HSI Coaching Programme.

As a HSI Coach Developer, Grainne delivered many coaching courses around the country, imparting her extensive knowledge with all who attended.

She had a passion for education and, for over 40 years, she taught and assessed with the Irish Pony Club, showing equal care and passion for those on lead-reins as those going forward to sit their ‘A’ test.

Owned and managed by Grainne for 30 years, Calliaghstown Equestrian Centre was a hub of learning and enthusiasm for all who passed through, and it was an integral part of the Irish equine industry. Grainne also held the position of Chairman of the Association of Irish Riding Establishments (AIRE).

Grainne Sugars pictured with Linda Young from AIRE, and Jane Bloomer from Brennanstown Riding School

Grainne Sugars pictured with AIRE’s Linda Young and Jane Bloomer from Brennanstown Riding School

Many have taken to social media to share their memories and pay tribute to Riona Finn Naughton who passed away on Saturday 21st May. Riona was a true horsewoman, who was incredibly passionate about both the production of horses and the education of riders.

Riona was an avid supporter of the HSI Coaching Programme and having achieved the Level 1 Apprentice Coach qualification in 2015, went on to complete her HSI Level 2 Coach qualification in 2018. During her Level 2 Assessment Riona was commended for her positive and enthusiastic manner.

Riona was passionate about coaching. She had extensive knowledge, a natural empathy for both horse and rider and with her own unique delivery style – she was an excellent coach. More recently, Riona later went on to pursue a Masters in the University of Limerick while remaining a very active coach.

Through her role at Galway Community College Riona brought to life a programme which most would only have dreamed about. Her vision and determination was admirable and so many young people in the area benefited as a result.

Riona Finn Naughton sadly passed away last weekend

Riona Finn Naughton with her dogs

HSI would like to extend deepest sympathy to both Grainne’s and Riona’s friends and families whose lives were touched by the spark of these extraordinary ladies. These two horsewomen will be sadly missed by all.


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