Letterkenny riding club’s founding member, and great friend, Audrey Jacob passed away in 2014. She left behind a raft of great memories and a lasting impression of a person who understood the important things in life, namely family and friends. Audrey was a great mix of laughter, kindness and no-nonsense common sense and manys the person who benefitted from her sound advice and encouragement as they navigated the ups and downs of equestrianism. Her memory is very much alive in the club today and her love of teamwork and friendly rivalry between the clubs is celebrated annually in the running of the Audrey Jacob Team Challenge. The 2022 event took place in Eglinton Equestrian Centre. As a venue for a show like this Eglinton Equestrian Centre is hard to beat, having ample stabling available at the very manageable price of ten euro for the previous night and all of the day. The comfort of being able to put your horse in a stable for the day makes all the difference to a competitor’s enjoyment and makes the show an ideal excuse for a club trip away, to include a sociable barbeque and a few courage-inducing beverages the night before. All five Donegal riding clubs were represented and the competition was hot in both events with nine show-jumping teams and ten dressage teams fighting it out for the honour of taking home the fine cups and generous prizes.
The day kicked off with dressage. Patricia Warren was the judge and she had plenty to pass judgement on as thirty six riders trotted up the centre-line to try and impress her critical eye. Tirconaill’s team of Charlie’s Angels settled for sixth place on a team score of 201.3%, just beaten by the Donegal Gaeltacht’s team of Gaeltacht Divas on 202.5%. A score of 206.1% was sufficient to slot the Inishowen Icons into 4th position ahead of their club-mates the Inishowen Idols on an impressive 216.3%. The top two placings came down to the wire with the Letterkenny Liabilities scoring what seemed to be an impregnable 220%, only to be relegated to second position by the Donegal Gaeltacht team of The Wrong Diagonals scoring an incredible 220.6%.
In the show-jumping arena the competition was equally exciting as thirty four combinations took on the Seamus McCaffrey designed course under the watchful eye of judge Rosemary Fisher. With all lower graded riders jumping a 70cm course, and higher graded competitors rallying around a 90cm course, the momentum was kept going throughout the day till final team scores were tallied. With Charlie’s Angels and the Inishowen Incredibles both on zero faults a jump-off was guaranteed and sure enough the sport didn’t disappoint. Lauren McLaughlin jumped a fast and faultless round for the Inishowen team to seize the day, though Charlie Vial’s display was a masterclass in how to ride a jump-off (apart from the very minor detail of the first fence getting knocked). Letterkenny’s Rachel Carton then took on Donegal Gaeltacht’s Emily Schneider to decide the minor placings, with Rachel triumphing to claim third place.
The day was a great success and a fitting tribute to someone for whom sportsmanship, club spirit and the care of our four-legged team mates was all important. Making the day especially memorable was the return of Audrey’s daughter Tanya to the riding club ranks, ably assisted by her support team of Cecil and Jonathon Jacob who presented the worthy winners with their prizes. Whilst it’s always dangerous to thank individuals, for fear of forgetting someone, it is impossible to report on this show without giving a special word of thanks and appreciation to Letterkenny members Suzanne Wylie Deeney and Erica Robb who did many hours of Trojan work to ensure that competitor times slotted together and allowed the day to run smoothly. That was no mean feat! Also Shauna Boyle, who overcame a 4am start, retrieved her (thankfully empty) trailer from the loving hug of a local drain, raced to find a replacement trailer and arrived in time to share her horse with club-mate Anne and produce two faultless rounds into the bargain. Lastly a special shout-out to Anne Chambers who performed a last minute mercy dash to transport the McClafferty household’s horses when their lorry sprang a leak of tragic proportions. Such is riding club life. Long may it thrive.