NWRC Spring League Enjoys Fabulous Finale

The North West riding clubs’ spring league reached its conclusion at Greenacres Equestrian on Sunday. With idyllic weather and a large turnout the show was a great success and left all participants hungry for their next riding club outing. Stracomer and Donegal Gaeltacht clubs joined forces to run the day and did a super job of shoe-horning all the vehicles into the crowded car park, keeping classes moving and supplying all too irresistible baked goodies to sustain competitors throughout the excitement. As always the day’s jumping kicked off at the lower heights and in the RC70 class Stracomer’s Eimear Dunne continued her unassailable domination of the class by winning yet again and clinching the league title with a total of 28 points. Not too far behind her Donegal Gaeltacht’s Amy McGarvey finished on 23 points having made great progress at reintroducing her lovely Thoroughbred, Finns Rough Diamond, to the jumping game. Enda McCarry from Tirconaill was hot on Amy’s heels with a final score of 22 to secure him the yellow league rosette.

The RC80 class was very tightly contested on Sunday and in the end the clock was unable to separate the joint winners. One of Letterkenny’s new members, Anna Cathcart, who made her way from Ballyhiernan to enjoy her first AIRC outing with new mount Carlito Diamond, shared the podium spot with Inishowen’s Claire Kirkwood. As it was Anna’s first time out at the league she wasn’t in the running for silverware, but Letterkenny are confident they have a valuable weapon in the arsenal now that Anna and ‘Luigi’ are on board. The overall league win went to Donegal Gaeltacht’s Liz Potter, with Inishowen filling both second and third with Nicola Coxford and Veronica Lafferty.

In the RC90 the pace hotted up considerably. Tirconaill’s Leigha Greene showed herself to be a formidable force to be reckoned with when she pocketed the valuable double points available at the final to take both the class and the league title. Donegal Gaeltacht rider Jennifer Bonner had to settle for second place ahead of Inishowen’s Dawn McAllister. As usual the RC90 was the class with the biggest entry and it’s safe to say the prize winners had to work hard for their loot.

The RC100, which last year had a very small entry in general, was well supported. The return to action of a couple of good riding club mares following a year of maternity leave makes this class a very competitive one going forward. Emily Schneider and Mark Ward were tying for top position coming into Sunday’s final, but there could be only one winner on the day and Emily stood tallest on the podium at the end of the day. Stephen Greene took the third step for Tirconaill, with Cliff Haley acting as sweeper in fourth position.

Across the fence in the dressage arena the standard of test being ridden had taken a leap forward from the previous leg. Riders had been busily schooling at home and the reward for their efforts was definitely reflected in the judge’s scores. In the Intro class, aimed at riders or horses who are new to the discipline, Inishowen’s Grace Rodgers claimed the win ahead of new Donegal Gaeltacht member Kathleen O’Boyle and Stracomer’s Clodagh Brady. Grace cemented her strength in the dressage arena by going on to win the RCP1 class, where she relegated her new club-mate Michaela Harrigan to second spot. The RCP2 class saw Nicola Coxford return to winning ways on the lovely Danny’s Dream, with Donegal Gaeltacht riders Amy McGarvey and Liz Potter taking second and third. The RCP3 was an Inishowen rout, with all three tiers on the podium claimed by that club’s riders. The Inishowen domination of the dressage field was capped by Claire Kirkwood’s win in the RCN class, where her foot perfect performance on Dominoe’s Way relegated Letterkenny’s Francis McNicholl and Rachel Carton to second and third spots respectively.

The league was a great success and saw a number of new members dip their hooves into the riding club scene. The changing venues kept the riders on their toes as they introduced horses to different sights and sounds at each venue, as well as encouraging less experienced competitors to stretch their wings and travel further afield. As Anna Cathcart commented “This is great. Having the training classes takes all the pressure off you. It’s just so affordable too.” Tirconaill’s Brenda Burke, who has acted as prize buyer for the area for a number of years, had done Trojan work in securing extremely generous sponsorship from equestrian retail giant TRI, who have solidly backed the north west’s leagues for a couple of years now. Prize winners went home with generous TRI vouchers in their pockets and can look forward to some well-earned retail therapy in the coming weeks. With the spring league behind them the area’s members can now turn to some cross-country schooling as they look forward to the AIRC national hunter trial championship in April. All roads lead to Galway…