Category Archives: Cross Country

Cross country evening at Marina & Enda’s, Friday 20 June

It’s time for one of our summer evening highlights — a trip to Marina and Enda’s homeplace for some cross country riding and some Hamilton hospitality. Not to be missed!

Please let Marina know in advance, if you plan to attend, so that she can plan her catering. You’d hate to be the only one at the table without a plate!

Peerless Flowerhill

The fondness with which Flowerhill is regarded amongst the Donegal riding clubs was more evident than ever this past weekend. Half the county’s members descended on the sprawling Galway estate near Portumna to enjoy the hospitality of its ever-welcoming and energetic owner, Oliver.

The first competition of the weekend began around 10am on Saturday at various points dotted around east Donegal. There was a near-perfect convergence of vehicles just south of Ballybofey with Damien and Francis in the vanguard. Not for the first time did Marina and Damien take each other on, this time in a relentless slow-motion race south. Marina, tired of annually arriving Paddy last and having to squeeze her sizeable horses into the last crack in the stable walls, had evidently sent Enda out for a winter course of lorry driving and he delivered spectacularly on the day. The big St Johnston lorry pulled victoriously into Flowerhill marginally ahead of the gallant red van with its super-sized load of custom-built 4-legged cross-country machines.

Entertainment on the journey included a Physical & Spritual Flowerhill Travellers Sweepstake on the Grand National. Evidence is provided below of the scrupulously fair drawing of the horses. All insinuations of trickery and skullduggery are being vehemently denied by the organisers. Maura was the lucky winner of the winner-takes-all pot.

With horses comfortably installed in familiar quarters, tents pitched and carefully stowed in trailers and lorries, man and beast properly fed, the real entertainment was cooking up nicely in the large informal kitchen of the hospitable house. The only thing more impressive than the extraordinary number of Donegal club members gathered in a room in Galway was the same group’s phenomenal production of homemade alcoholic beverages. There were several suspiciously unlabelled bottles from a bona fide brewery on the Fanad peninsula, fine turnip wine and its sibling, turnip poitin, from the wildest west of the county, a truly remarkable sloe gin from Burt direction, and a memorable brandy-ball liquer from the banks of the Finn. Together they contributed to a hell of an atmosphere and there was little residual damage when things got earnest on Sunday morning.

Rain came down early in the day but it quickly cleared to a bright and breezy day. The ground was softer than we’re used to in Flowerhill but that was no deterrent to Donegal horses. In the usual sequence, the starter dispatched the Pairs and then the Individuals at each grade. Refusals, run-outs, navigational crises and the odd topple off (too much turnip wine?) were a feature of the Pairs classes but Anne and Keary were in top form and claimed a famous victory at Intermediate level on Molly and Arthur. Huge congratulations to you both. Damien and Francis squeaked in for fifth spot and some ribbons to shorten the journey home. Otherwise the day was fruitless in ribbon terms but the yield of smiles, laughter and exhilaration hit its usual peak. Nobody goes to Flowerhill expecting to win.

The Gaeltachts brought home their usual fine quota of rosettes and it was particularly thrilling to see Liz Potter and Clyde finish a brilliant fourth in the Advanced Primary Championship. Not too long ago Liz wouldn’t have dreamed she would ever have the courage to ride at Flowerhill. Quite an achievement!

Three Inishowen riders made the club’s first foray to the magical destination and they surely won’t be the last.

A very, very big thanks to Marina for organising all our stables and to Kelly and Jade for their hours of fence-stewarding. Let’s hope they don’t grow up to riding club age for a good while yet.

Congratulations to all our competitors, particularly to Anne and Keary, and to Denis and Christopher who rode superbly and entertainingly on their first assault on Flowerhill. Respect to Teldel who powered around the course like a juvenile at the ripe old age of 24. Sympathy to Anne and Damien who completed their individual rounds on zero scores yet missed out on placings purely by fate and a whisker. Hats off to Leo and Dawn who completed masterful clear rounds on inexperienced youngsters. Finally, thanks to our valiant foot soldiers, led by Louise, Linda and Dympna and bolstered by the younger generation.

Full results are up on the AIRC website and photographs can be seen on the Equestrian Photographic Services site. The Letterkenny colours are as easy to spot as ever. Great colours for a great club.

Pictured below: The Sweepstake Draw. If there are any more photos out there, send them on!


All systems go for Flowerhill: AIRC publishes entries, running order and more

With a whopping 12 riders from our club planning to travel to Flowerhill this weekend, it promises to be yet another monumental event. Most of the information for Sunday has now been published and is available on the AIRC website.

Since your own website is a bit short of resources at present, you might be advised to take a look at the Gaeltacht’s site for an excellent overview of everything you need to think of in advance of the trip. Thanks Gaeltachts!

P.S. News of Tuesday’s club meeting will appear before the weekend.

Cracking victory for Letterkenny at Antrim Team Chase

Saturday saw the clocks change to summer time but our team of four Letterkenny riders—Nadine, Damien, Anne and Keary—were not going to be caught snoozing as they had their eyes firmly on the clock bringing them home just 2 seconds off the optimum time to win the Antrim Team Chase in aid of the Johnjo Bright Trust.

The team travelled a very manageable 2 hours on good roads to reach this event and were warmly greeted by the organisers and all involved, making them feel right at home.  Although this was not an AIRC competition the team chose to compete as Letterkenny Riding Club and stood out from the crowd dressed in the black and amber club colours. A sensible optimum time was set to encourage horses to canter on and jump from a natural stride. Three of the team felt that there was no time to hang about yet Keary still found plenty of time to hail taxis, wave to bystanders and pose for photographers while going over jumps!

Despite rain early in the day the inviting course at Dirraw Farm (a short distance from Ballymoney) was in perfect condition. It comprised natural style brush fences, logs, coffins, drops and water complexes. Although the course was graded “novice” it was not in any way small and the position of the flags allowed the braver team members to take on some of the open fences.

Four honest horses and four brave riders working as a team did Letterkenny proud. Roll on Flowerhill!

Thanks to Antrim chase for an excellently run event and great prizes.

Pictured below: What else in the world could be more fun than team chasing? Make yourself even more jealous by checking out Nadine’s Dad’s full collection on Flickr.

Dirraw Farm

Flatwork and cross country opportunities for St Patrick’s weekend

Last Friday’s flatwork lesson with Mary Finneran proved a great success once again. There’s a quiet concentration and a focus on detail which lends the classes a particular atmosphere and the sense of achievement at the end of the evening is palpable. If numbers suffice at this bank holiday weekend, we’ll proceed with our next lesson on Friday evening. Contact Vera if you plan to attend.

On Saturday morning our cross country enthusiasts head for Castle Leslie where half the course has been reopened thanks to this week’s fair weather. Precise arrangements are still being firmed up but the provisional plan is to meet there at 10.30am. Contact Libby on 086 830 1392, if you’re interested in joining in. Neighbouring club members are welcome to join us.

Plenty of extra-curricular activity in the coming weeks

If the riding club calendar isn’t enough to satisfy your equestrian addiction, you might enjoy some non-riding club events:

St Patrick’s Day Show, Templemore
This annual event draws a huge crowd and is immensely popular. This year it runs as a non-registered event, making it more accessible than ever before. Bob and Mary Barrons at Templemore are always very supportive of our club activities so don’t be shy about turning out for their big day on Monday 17 March, beginning at 9am.

Trec Ulster PTV Championships and Drumlin Harriers Hunter Trials 
Many of our members are familiar with the wonderful all-weather cross country course near Cootehill in Cavan, home of the ever-popular Drumlin Harriers Hunter Trials. This year’s hunter trials take place the weekend after Flowerhill on Sunday 13 April. Those of you who prefer top experience the amenities at a steadier pace and who might appreciate a school before Flowerhill should consider the Trec event on Sunday 30 March. Full details on the Donegal Trec website.

Cross country excursion pencilled in for Saturday 15 March

Plans for our pre-Flowerhill cross country excursion on St Patrick’s weekend are coming together in sketch format. Castle Leslie’s course is currently closed because of the wet ground but will re-open when conditions permit. the forecast for next week is fairly good so who knows what might be possible.

Dirraw Farm near Ballymoney is definitely available and is exactly the same distance away as Castle Leslie. However, since many of our cross country enthusiasts are heading that way two weeks later for the team hunt chase, it might not be ideal.

Plans will be finalised closer to the time. All suggestions are very welcome. Contact Libby on 086 830 1392, if you’re interested in going along.

Wonderful day out in Creeslough

Not for the first time we have Liz Potter to thank for some great photos of club members in action cross country. The Donegal Harriers Creeslough meet is a firm favourite on the hunting calendar and visitors are welcomed at the event. With Gaeltacht members Rosaleen Harkin and John McDaid amongst the key players in organising this fantastic day out,  riding club participation was healthy.

Regular hunt members Keary, Anne, Leo and Rachel were joined by visitors Marina and Libby for a wonderful day out over marvelous natural obstacles through stunning scenery. And the weather for once was vastly better than the atrocious forecast had predicted!

Pictured below: Keary’s face says it all!

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Happy New Year (and remember to renew your membership!)

Christmas has come and gone and we’re already firmly rooted in the new year with sights set on a full 12 months of equestrian activity. Horses and riders might be a bit rusty after weeks of the festive season and generally truly atrocious weather conditions but there’s lots to look forward to.

To get up and going again for 2014 we’re having a general club meeting on Friday 10 January at Tir na nOg. Everybody is welcome and we hope to plan a good active calendar for the next three months or so. The early part of the year will be dominated by the Northwest Spring League which falls on its regular dates throughout February and March. The first show takes place on Sunday 9 February. There’s a meeting of the Donegal clubs this coming Tuesday evening, 7 January, to firm up plans for the league and to reflect on activities in the final months of 2013.

With all this competitive action in prospect, we’re running a series of jumping lessons with Kelda on Fridays 17, 24 and 31 January at Templemore. The intention is to keep Primary and Advanced Primary riders together in the 7pm group with Intermediate and above riders filling the later spot. Contact Cormac to book your place.

Looking further ahead to Flowerhill on Sunday 6 April, top marks must go to Marina for booking stables on site in record time. She has 12 stables reserved and you should contact her as soon as possible to lay claim to one of them if you plan to travel to this unmissable event.

Do your best to get to our meeting on Friday next, 10 January, and we’ll set the tone for an active, enjoyable and rewarding season. See you all there.

**Finally a reminder that you may not participate in any mounted club activities until your 2014 membership is processed. This takes about a week after your subscription payment to Francis or Cormac. So, if you plan on doing the jumping lessons with Kelda, this Friday’s meeting is your cut-off for renewing.

Making the most of stunning September weather on a Sunday afternoon

Marina and Enda’s last-minute organisation of a cross country ride-out from their farm near St Johnston set spirits soaring for the eight riders who sallied forth on a glorious late-September afternoon.

Anne, Keary, Leo and Paddy joined the hosts, together with two welcome visitors from the Gaeltachts — John McDaid and Rosaleen Harkin. The group covered the extensive farmland and stubble fields at a leisurely pace with just one energetic uphill canter to get the hearts racing. Back at home base their warm-up was put to good use when Marina and Enda ran a spontaneous competition over a small course. Paddy and Leo nailed the Pairs contest while Anne took top honours in the Individuals, closely pursued by John McDaid.

In true Hamilton/McClafferty style, the party was treated to refreshments of the highest quality afterwards before horses and riders were sent on their way into a beautiful evening with smiles on their faces.

Many thanks, Enda and Marina, for a wonderful afternoon’s riding and entertainment. For Keary it was the highlight of the year to date. Let’s hope we can keep the momentum going now and maintain a healthy level of activity as we ride into autumn.

Pictured below: Happy cross country enthusiasts on Sunday 29 September.

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