Audrey’s day done for another year.

Audrey would have enjoyed Sunday. As a matter of fact we can be pretty confident that she was sitting up above watching the day’s antics, laughing and cheering with the rest of us and thanking the oul’ fella on her left for keeping the wind under wraps for the day. Rain we can deal with, but wind is a whole other ball-game, especially when your jumps are fairly lightweight plastic rather than rain sodden timber. The support shown by all the clubs in the region was fantastic and it was particularly nice to see people swapping and sharing mounts to make up teams. Our own club members and their ever-patient and supportive families did trojan work to get the show rolling, both on the day and in the run up to it. There are definitely pros and cons to the pre-entry system, though the pros probably outweigh the cons. There is a lot to be said for having entry monies in ahead of the day and running orders sorted; allowing everyone to schedule their day to some extent.

Dressage has become a much more strongly supported discilpine in general, and we are certainly seeing this at riding club level, where entries for dressage classes are strong and requests are coming in for more dressage competitions to be run. The realisation that you don’t have to jump in order to be competitive has opened up a world of possibilities for everyone who likes to stay more or less attached to terra firma. Kyle Hayes of Aldertree Equine, in Enniskillen, did an excellent job of judging the dressage challenge on Sunday, providing encouraging but helpful comments and keeping the day moving at a good rate. As per the season norm Inishowen whipped our lilly asses in the dressage arena, though Tirconaill gave them a good run for their money. The team scores ended up remarkably close and there was less than 4% covering the top three teams.

The winning combination of Inishowen Team 1, consisting of Claire Kirkwood, Dawn McAllister, Lauren McLaughlin and Lynne Thompson, put in some excellent work to walk away with the beautifully embroidered rugs.

The aptly named Inishowen Team 2 slipped into 2nd place. Lauren and Dawn rode new mounts alongside Grace Rodgers and Megan Coxford, who was the highest scoring rider on the day with an impressive 70% on the board. The team finished up on 201.86%.

Charlie’s Angels from Tirconail came a close 3rd. The team of Charlie Vial, Caroline Shiel, Andrea Gallagher and Alida Byrne put in solid performances to finish with a team score of 199.48%.

Lauren McLaughlin was also the worthy winner of the Best Turned Out award. The magnificent rosette for this prize was generously sponsored by Tina Reaney of Donegal Gaeltacht riding club, whose business ‘Rosettes and Pony Parties’ produces superb rosettes and sashes for every discilpine under the sun.

The show jumping kicked off at midday, over an excellent course designed by Seamus McCaffrey, who was building again for us after a long lay-off. It was great to have him back in harness and he certainly posed a few questions with his course. The format of the jumping was somewhat unorthodox perhaps, but it certainly provided great entertainment whilst allowing everyone to stick to their own grade. It’s not often that a primary rider is head to head against an Advanced Intermediate on a score board. The heavens opened for a good portion of the afternoon but the enthusiasm of both competitors and supporters only grew as the day progressed. Primary riders proved themselves to be an exceptionally competent group, with Sinead Gibson in particular catching the eye and showing good stickability with some awkward moments. Our own Erica took a thump of a fall but soldiered on for the entire day to help with all the organisation of prizes and scoring before giving in and admitting to being very sore. Get well soon Erica.

The AP class was very well supported as always, and Letterkenny’s Kate Geoghegan put in an exemplary round to finish just 0.08 of a second off the optimum time, putting a valuable 20 points onto The Sinners team tally. Chloe McClafferty and the ever bouncy Bacardi was hot on her heels at just 0.26 of a second outside the time, while Tir Conail’s Laura Diver finished just 0.62 of a second off for the 3rd place 18 points.

The Intermediate class was mighty fun. With some excellent riders and some top-class horses (not always combined!!) giving it their best against the clock the competition was fierce. Eamon O’Donnell was doing great work for his club, the Tir Conail riding club, as he faced the challenge of Seamus’s winding course twice. Having sabotaged his first attempt, for the Red Arrows team, by missing out jump number 7, Eamon had no intention of putting a hoof wrong when he came in for The Specials. He promptly won the class by riding almost 2 seconds faster than the best of the rest. Stracomer Grey team’s Alicia Clyne had to settle for second with zero faults and a time of 46.62, with The Saints’ Marina Hamilton in third at 47.80. Ryan McBride, one of the comically named ‘A Rose Between Two Thorns’, gave the time a really good go, riding the second round in 39.33 seconds, but had 4 seconds to add from his first round as well as taking two poles in his second round. Enda McClafferty displayed a superb level of horsemanship, sitting like a mouse on the great London Jen to finish in sixth place in a time of 55.91. This is a pretty impressive performance from someone who rides about twice a year!

By the time the AI class was starting the excitement was reaching fever pitch and the finish line was in sight. Mark Ward kicked off proceedings for his first team, Andrea’s Bucks, and clocked in at 41.36 but had 4 seconds to add and ended up in 3rd place overall. The Sinners’ Anne Chambers rode the only double clear of the class and finished in second place on Aughavannon Merlin in a time of 44.90. When you bear in mind that Anne had never ridden Merlin before and Merlin hadn’t jumped a metre since Inishowen’s show in Lenamore (and that was a kind metre!) her performance was all the more impressive. Donegal Gaeltacht’s Cliff Haley put up the performance of the day on the ever reliable Sally Clover Supreme to jump his second round clear in 37.98. Even with a 4 second penalty to add from his first round he was the deserving winner of 20 points for his team of The Professionals.

The team results were exceptionally close, with both The Specials and The Sinners finishing on 55 points. With the team captains points being the deciding factors The Sinners came out on top, with Erica’s 16 points putting her ahead of Cyndi Graham’s 14 points.

Erica Robb smiling through the pain alongside team mates Anne Chambers and Suzanne Deeney Wylie as they clasp their well earned prizes. Missing from the photo is Kate Geoghegan who put a crucial 20 points on the board for the team.

Tis Conail’s team of The Specials proved that they were when claiming second place, pipped only when the small print came into play. Cyndi Graham, Laura Diver, Eamon O’Donnell and Seamus Campbell certainly deserve a special mention for making such a great effort with team turnout.

Cliff Haley accepting prizes for his team mates from The Professionals. Liz Potter and Sinead Gibson were possibly as happy as Cliff was, but its hard to imagine anyone grinning more broadly than this happy riding club member!

To finish we in Letterkenny Riding Club would like to most sincerely thank everyone who made the day such a success. From those who stayed home to babysit, through the brave soldiers that withstood the rain to build and steward arenas, the riders who traveled long distances to take part, the judges that scored, the commentator who entertained, the score keepers who worked through the minefield of an odd scoring system, to the noble steeds without whom we’d all be members of walking clubs, we thank you.

Here’s to the great lady herself. And to next year…