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.
Top marks must go to Donegal Gaeltacht riding club for their running of their annual beach show last Sunday. Weather on the Saturday night was appalling, with gales and torrential rain battering Ballyness Bay and it’s environs, not least of all the Killult yard of Lawrence and Rosaleen Smyths where Jayne, Rachel and their intrepid mounts spent the night. Rain ceased around 5am and despite a mild but very strong on-shore wind necessitating the use of every available sandbag in the place, the show enjoyed sunshine and blue skies. The rewards for driving to the remote bay were plentiful as Letterkenny’s five riders took home no less than three wins, a second and two thirds. Club performance of the day has to have been Francis on his lovely new mount Kerrykeel Darcy. This combination made light work of their first showjumping course and went on to win the intermediate dressage. Definitely ones to watch in the future. Full results are available below.
This coming Sunday sees Suzanne, Anne and Rachel head south to Flowerhill Equestrian Centre for the national hunter-trial championships. I’m afraid the rest of the club will have to refrain from attending to cheer them on as attendance at the AIRC National Hunter Trials Championships is restricted to competitors, their nominated assistant or grooms and event officials. This is necessary in order to comply with current Covid-19 regulations which permit up to 200 people to attend an outdoor event at this time.
Riders must complete the Contact Tracing self-declaration form by 5pm on Thursday at the latest. Their nominated assistant must also complete the online form as well. Details have been emailed to competitors already.
No one else will be permitted entry to the venue and stewards will be at the main entrance to ensure this is enforced. Those attending are asked to wear face coverings/masks and to social distance.
Competitors are asked to Arrive, Compete and Leave.
Whilst the weather forecast for this weekend’s beach show in Falcarragh may have deteriorated somewhat the event will still fulfill that most important of services…a sociable outing. The six riders from our own club who are competing will be taking on the cream of the crop from six other clubs, namely Donegal Gaeltacht, Inishowen, Stracomer, Tirconaill, BenBulben and Tonabrockey. Best of luck to everyone.
Having had so much free time on our hands throughout the spring and early summer I think it’s safe to say we’re all grabbing any opportunity we see to get out and come together for club outings now that the competitive world is up and running again. The calendar of outings in the North West and western regions has filled up nicely now with the addition of Benbulben’s show on the 4th of October at Tubberbride. Boasting show-jumping, dressage and novelty derby classes this should be a very enjoyable day and well worth the wee drive to get there. As with all events these days pre-entry is essential and can be done on
Anyone who was involved in the hunter trials held today at Gordan’s Bay Equestrian would have to agree that the organizers did a stellar job of laying out three courses of truly testing jumps and ensured that the ground was in excellent condition, and that was no mean feat given the weather we’ve had recently. Miraculously the sun shone from start to finish and a light breeze dried up the ground enough to allow even a very non-4WD transit to drive around the car parking field and get out without a tow! It was a most sociable day and there was a great turnout of past, present and future club members. Of course in some cases the past and the future members are the one group, isn’t that right Hazel and Louise??
Next weekend brings the Donegal Gaeltacht’s Beach Show at Ballyness Bay, Falcarragh. This truly is one of the exceptional venues in the country and anyone who attends will vouch for how relaxing a day it is, with miles of dunes and beach to allow competitors to chill out and unwind both before and after their competitions. Some of our club are making a weekend of it, with stabling being supplied by Trish Warren on the Saturday night and the promise of a leisurely hack on the Saturday afternoon adding an additional bonus to the weekend. If anyone wants to come along for the night’s camping, even if they aren’t competeing, please Rachel or Erica know as soon as possible so that we can sort you out.
Having spoken today to Oliver Walsh, of Flowerhill Equestrian Centre, I can tell you all that he swears the National Hunter Trials will be going ahead barring a hurricane in the preceding days. Fingers and toes crossed for balmy weather from now to then. Whether the hunter trial championships go ahead or not remains to be seen but autumn certainly promises to be a busy time, especially as our own show is rapidly approaching on the 27th of September. Check out the poster below and watch this space for further details.
After a fairly mixed week in the weather department it would appear we are being blessed with more favorable conditions for the weekend ahead. Saturday sees Erica hosting a ride-out from Quigleys Point, followed by a club meeting courtesy of herself and Dave (and Georgia!). Up for discussion will be the format for our rapidly approaching show, which is combining our annual derby show, our Audrey Jacob Team Challenge and the Orla O’Reilly cup. This show is due to run at Greenacres Equestrian on September 27th and whilst preparations are well in hand (Suzanne is on a spending spree!) we still have some finer details to iron out before advertising it in all its glory. Those planning to ride need to be ready to rock at 5pm, with the meeting scheduled for 6.30. If you cant make it to Quigleys Point you can join the meeting via Zoom.
On Sunday many of our members are heading to Riverview Equestrian in Ballybofey to enjoy a sociable local show. Being organised by Anne Chambers this looks like being a great way to end the summer holidays and should be a great practice run for the Donegal Gaeltachts Riding Club show two weeks later. That event is definitely one of the standout shows of the nations calendar as it is held in Ballyness Bay, one of the most spectacular showgrounds imaginable. It certainly qualifies as the most spacious showground in the country. What other venue boasts a freely available sea-water spa?! Entries for this show are now open and plans to camp the night before are very tempting…
Entries are via the Gaeltacht’s plainsailing account. and can be accessed via
With the ever present threat of lock-downs and event cancellations our members have been out and about enjoying whatever entertainment they can squeeze in. Erica, Suzanne and Rachel joined forces to get the benefit of some cross-country schooling at the excellent facility that is Dirraw Farm. Unfortunately Anne’s mount, Star, pulled out lame this morning, meaning Anne had to miss out on the much anticipated trip. The sun shone for the whole time and all the horses and riders enjoyed themselves immensely. Many thanks to Ed (aka Raymond) for the invaluable camera-work.
With the three desperadoes careering about Dirraw and scaring the moorhens, it was left to Marina to represent the club at the show-jumping hosted by Eglinton Equestrian Club. Herself and Sid (aka Six Silver Lane) are certainly getting the hang of the coloured poles, with Sonya McAleer’s tuition paying dividends. Roll on the autumn league for this pair.
Tomorrow sees the running of a charity ride-out by our neighboring club the Donegal Gaeltacht. Setting out from Logue’s of Cranford this promises to be a relaxing and sociable outing for all concerned….which will be a small consolation for Rachel and Suzanne who received the disappointing news today that the national Eventing Championships have been cancelled due to flooding and storm damage in Flowerhill.
By all accounts the regional training day in Gordon’s Bay was a huge success. What has to be one of the most scenic venues in the country was bathed in glorious sunshine for the whole day. Staying socially distanced was no problem as everyone spread out around the green fields and sunny arenas to enjoy their coaching sessions. Coaches Mark Robinson, Sonya McAleer and Mandi King put everyone through their paces and sent riders away with smiles on their faces and valuable training tips embedded in their minds.
While most of the club were benefiting from the excellent coaching at the training day, Cliff, Suzanne and Rachel traveled south to take their chances at the Border Counties Riding Club one-day-event at Cloncaw. The ground conditions were superb and the host club ran a very tight ship, ensuring everyone could be confident of safety in these challenging times. Rachel experienced one of those oh-sh1t moments when discovering she had learnt the wrong dressage test! Fortunately Cliff was able to provide a copy of the correct test and with eight minutes to spare Rachel did some rapid cramming and was able to provide what the judge described as ‘a very accurately ridden test’ (shame about the tense horse!!) With Rachel and Cliff finishing dressage on scores that should encourage a bit more time spent on schooling at home, Suzanne and her novice mount Dubai Flyer rode a test that was a personal best for them and bodes well for their future. Show-jumping followed and all horses jumped very well over a deceptively technical course with related distances on bending lines catching out quite a few riders. A sat-nav error left Cliff with a few faults to add to his dressage score but once himself and Irish Shadow hit the xc course they were unstoppable and in Cliff’s own words ‘Shadow crushed the xc’, leaving Cliff in the ribbons in what was a very competitive class. Rachel and Merlin got around with just one stop, showing significant improvement on their previous xc experience at Cloncaw, and inspiring enough confidence in Rachel to justify an entry in the National championships at the end of the month. However the stars of the day were without doubt Suzanne and Dubai Flyer who took to competitive xc like ducks to water (albeit rather high speed ducks) and winged their way around the challenging course without hesitation. Roll on Flowerhill. The photos definitely paint the picture for this pair.
Well done to Cliff who came 4th in the first leg of the Premier Saddlery 2- Phase at Cloncaw Equestrian, Glaslough today. Having ironed out some navigational issues with his first mount, Shyla, Cliff had an unlucky 4 faults in the showjumping with Shadow but went clear all the way on the xc. Roll on the Border Counties ODE on August 9th.
Rachel and Merlin were more than a little ring-rusty and took a couple of runs at some of the jumps (apparently Merlin does not consider hay bales an appropriate jump material) but improved from start to finish and are looking forward to the 9th also. On a side note Rachel can tell you that the lucky knickers needed serious therapy following a few close shaves, while the new body protector was last seen to be reading the small print in it’s contract!!
Top marks to Dalyphoto for capturing the action on the day. Anyone wishing to purchase high resolution copies of their images should contact them directly. I hope they will forgive me for reposting a couple of their watermarked images here.