Going to the AIRC national hunter trial championships is always a treat, but getting to go to it this year amid all the uncertainty of events occurring was even sweeter. Just three competitors and two heroic grooms made the journey to Flowerhill Equestrian Centre this year but with all three riders taking home rosettes (or perhaps I should say taking home the promise of a rosette, as there was no prize-giving on the day) I think its safe to say that Letterkenny can hold its head high and the club retains its very noble record at this competition.
Starting the day for the club was Suzanne aboard Dubai Flyer. This combination paired up with the Donegal Gaeltachts Liz Potter, on Clyde, to tackle the advanced-primary pairs course. Flawless jumping and a steady pace resulted in the pair finishing 23 seconds off the optimum time of 6’0, giving them 13 time penalties and zero jumping penalties. This was good enough for fourth place and gave Suzanne’s green mount an excellent school before she headed out again in the advanced-primary championship. With the optimum time reduced to 5’42 Suzanne’s careful approach netted her 70 time penalties but once again a foot perfect exhibition of jumping left both horse and rider brimming with confidence and hungry for next year.
The way was clear now for Rachel on the typically spooky and psychotic Merlin to pair up with Anne aboard Condor’s Lucky Star for the Intermediate pairs competition. Both riders are previous winners at the Intermediate level, with Rachel having nailed the optimum time in the championship in 2018 on Merlin while Anne and partner Keary bagged the pairs competition away back in 2014. For the first time in his life Merlin was given the job of lead-horse. A Saturday evening schooling session had taught Anne the folly of getting too close. Having winched poor Star out of Merlins nether region a couple of times she knew that auto-stop would engage before the first few jumps! A Saturday evening paddle had reassured Star that there were no sharks in the the Flowerhill puddles and as a result the pair were able to execute a round which if not flawless was certainly faultless. One extremely close call at the first water obstacle, which saw Anne wishing Star had a longer neck, and a minor disagreement between Rachel and Merlin regarding the best route to take back to the stables (we all know how bad men are when it comes to following route directions) saw them finish just two seconds off the optimum time of 5’36 and nailing the second spot for the club.
Both riders headed out for the championship class brimming with confidence and determined to enjoy the second spin around. With all the jumps tested and proven safe the horses were all business and, as befitted steeds sired by a Condor, they flew around the course at breakneck speed. With Anne finishing on 23 time faults and Rachel on 28 its safe to say they both enjoyed the high speed run.
Apologies for the dodgy video quality. More photos to follow.