Orla’s Armchair Show Jumping evening on Friday got the weekend off to a good start. Held in the Milford Inn, attendance was excellent and the subject matter was intriguing. Orla had made the most of one of the Inn’s dance floors to cleverly build a scale model of one of the Derby courses from last year’s championships at Mullingar. With this as an interactive demonstration tool, she delivered all sorts of excellent information on the inner workings of the course builder’s mind, on techniques for warming up and then riding a course, and some details of equine engineering and physics which explain what to expect when we ask our 4-legged companions to jump over man-made obstacles.
The evening of theory set everybody up nicely for the opening leg of the Northwest League on Sunday. Despite a truly miserable morning, the day faired up and conditions in the outdoor warm-up were perfectly pleasant for everybody. Attendance from all three Donegal clubs was excellent while Finola Murphy flew Sligo’s Benbulben flag and Paul Hughes travelled from Tonabrockey. Entries for both competition and training classes at every height were well into double figures.
As anticipated, there were plenty of fresh roly-poly horses and red-faced riders after the difficult winter weather but performances were pretty good, all things considered. It’s always dangerous to pick out highlights but Damien’s two rounds on his young mare really caught the eye and show the rewards that consistent work and a patient approach will bring. It was good to see Martina back in action on Smuggler. Sharon Lee was out on Ozzie with John and baby Pippa looking on. Enda, sporting a dapper pair of elegantly tailored black breeches, began his competitive riding career in the care of veteran Teldel.
All of our Advanced Intermediate riders jumped particularly well on the day with Nadine and Marina making the jump off and Marina winning the class. The league accommodates all sorts and it was good to see Rachel using the opportunity to introduce her young thoroughbred-in-training, Bruce, to an alternative future career as a show jumper. If there was ever an advertisement for the value of the hunting field for bringing novice riders along, it was surely the performances of Mick and Leo. Using their hallmark “warm up as a pair” method (oddly enough, this wasn’t mentioned by Orla on Friday evening!), the two of them jumped well at their 80cm competition height before blowing everybody away with impressively competent training rounds at 90cm. Maybe we should invite Valerie to the next leg of the league!
Thanks to everybody who helped in any way. From our club’s point of view, particular thanks to volunteer foreman, Francis. The League is a wonderful example of cross-club cooperation. Roll on 20 February!