Dates for your diaries

We are excited to announce the dates and venues for the North West Riding Clubs spring league. With training classes open to everyone, and the newly implemented rules allowing riders to compete at a higher class than they are graded at, this should be an excellent league for all AIRC members who wish to attend.

Just to clarify…a horse may jump in three classes, not three rounds as stated on the poster. Get your memberships paid up pronto and join us in Deanes Equestrian, Bruckless, on the 6th of February.

On the 7th of February there will be an NWRC zoom meeting to catch up on the various club’s dates for the calender.

On Sunday 13th of February we’re holding a club rideout from Ray community centre, near Rathmullan. The route is not long and includes a lot of off-road tracks. There are no jumps but if you’re feeling energetic there is a good lane for a muddy canter. Hopefully the weather will be beautiful and we can enjoy a good chin-wag over a leisurely cuppa afterwards.

Friday 25th of February is the date of our next club meeting. Whether this will be via Zoom or in person remains to be decided, but we can tell you that we’re planning a club social on the 25th of March, consisting of a meal and bowling. It’s too long since we sat around a table together and enjoyed the banter.

Springing into our first league

With the first North West Riding Clubs meeting done and dusted we can look forward to the start of our spring league. The dates have been set and the different clubs will now book venues, course builders and judges before publishing the full details. This league is the first chance we have to get our heads around the new grading and competition system which is, as Marina put it, as clear as mud. As soon as details are ironed out we’ll get them to you but for the time being put the following dates in your diaries

February 6th and 20th, March 6th and 20th. There will be double points at the final so don’t miss it.

Knowledge banking

Every now and then as we flitter away hours of our lives surfing the net and getting lured down endless rabbit warrens of links and clicks, we come across a site that was actually worth finding. The one below falls into that category. It explains dressage and flatwork movements in simple, lay-mans language, includes both articles and podcasts on a great range of topics and has a shop section with an interesting selection. With soggy, wet weather abounding at the moment, and the first bit of snow forecast for Friday, why not sit back and take the time to top up the deposits in your knowledge bank ahead of the serious season getting started.

The 2021 crew aboard the good ship LRC

As 2021 draws to a close we felt that it was time to remember the people who joined in the fun and camaraderie that is our club. Good times had with good people. Obviously not all the photos were taken this year…Enda and Cormac haven’t been quite so up close and personal during covid times, while Libby was so busy score keeping at our last show that she didn’t figure in any photos. Scrolling through the extensive bank of photos in the club websites gallery is a great reminder of the good fun had, as well as the value of having a photographer on hand who captures more than just the competitions. Here’s hoping we all enjoy the health to get back out together in 2022. (you wouldn’t believe how long it took to track down the photo of Shauna Gailey, who was last a member of the club in 2010!). Happy new year to everyone.

Feeding the soul

In general the two months from mid-November to mid-January are pretty much a write-off. Short days, foul weather and an ever increasing quantity of muck and gutter combine to make most of us wonder if knitting, or perhaps stamp collecting, might not have been a wiser choice of hobby. Horses are furry, ticking time-bombs that accumulate bedding bills and pent-up energy in equal quantities as we equestrians in north Donegal yearn for the plush indoor arenas that pepper the country-side further south. But every now and then the weather Gods (apologies to all devout Christians who feel that only one true God deserves a capital letter…I beg to differ) decide to throw us a bone, and a day of beautifully clean winter sunshine aligns with a day off work, allowing us to remind ourselves what a stunningly beautiful county we live in. To be able to get out and ride through this glorious county is truly a privilege for which each and every one of us should offer up thanks to our chosen deity.

Annual social gathering

It’s hard to know whether the change of day, time and venue had any effect on attendance at our club AGM but its safe to say the attendees had a most enjoyable afternoon in the picturesque surroundings of Quigley’s Point, courtesy of Erica. The tea and coffee flowed and a constant stream of cheesecake, brownies, caramel squares and pastries ensured a guilty conscience in every car leaving. The chat varied from mica, through horses to the inevitable covid but business got dealt with and the general agreement was that our club is doing ok for itself.

There was a great sense of pride in the fact that we had managed to host two successful, stand-alone shows, as well as assisting Inishowen in the running of the first leg of the autumn league at Lenamore. Our club numbers are up fractionally on 2020, and that’s without counting in our valued associate members. Associate membership of the neighboring clubs is a great way to extend the opportunities that AIRC membership offers. There was definitely a healthy amount of enthusiasm for the coming year, particularly with the likelihood of a complete revamp of the grading and competition system opening up a lot more opportunities for members at all levels. Having dealt with the inevitable bureaucracy the time came to count the votes for both club member of the year and club horse of the year. Nominees for club member of the year were Anne, Erica and Suzanne, with Suzanne taking the title. Comments on her year’s performance included “cheerfully supporting everything we do” and “showing great determination, grit and stamina all year”. I don’t think anyone would argue with those comments. Club horse of the year was between Rachel’s Merlin, Anne’s Star and Suzanne’s Jimmy (aka Dubai Flyer). With comments such as “consistent throughout the year”, “truly a club horse that can carry two members to red ribbons” and “wears his big-boy pants with pride”, Merlin took the trophy home for the second time in his club life. Photo’s of the proud winners with their trophies will follow.

The rest of 2021 holds no further competitive outings in the North West region but we intend getting together for a ride-out on Saturday 11th December. Details will be circulated closer to the time but, weather permitting, it should be a good opportunity to share the beauty of our county from horseback and follow it up with some hearty soup or an indulgent hot chocolate. We look forward to seeing you.

Wrapping up the year

Whilst Necarne Castle in Irvinestown is a fair old drive for most members of the North West Riding Clubs, I don’t think anyone who attended the final of the autumn league felt hard done by in having burned the diesel to get there. The setting was as stunning as ever and made for a very impressive venue for the finale of the year’s riding club outings. Stracomer and Donegal Gaeltacht clubs combined forces to run the league final and between them they did an excellent job. The last minute no-show of the catering van was a blow for the organising clubs but was a huge boon for the rest of the attendees as they got treated to a truly wonderful spread of home baking. The lemon drizzle cake was to die for and the rest of the spread kept up the high standard set by it. The increasing interest in dressage prompted the organising clubs to run a range of dressage classes as well as the end-of-league show jumping classes, and the healthy entries proved the decision to be a canny one.

The dressage was held in the ‘Rose Garden’ arena, with the warm-up close by in a small arena built under the shadows of the great walls of the famous walled garden. With the availability of a young horse/green horse intro-dressage test both Rachel and Anne took the chance to get their greenhorns out in public for the first time. Letterkenny couldn’t have produced two more different entrants in the class, with Rachel aboard her husband Ed’s Ballyporeen Holly, a 10 year old driving cob with no more notion of riding off the leg than she has of astro-physics, and Anne aboard her young home-bred Cicatriz, freshly hauled in off the field and definitely feeling the excitement of his first school outing. With Kyle Hayes Richards judging the entrants could be assured of encouraging feedback and when the results were announced Rachel was neck and neck with Brenda Burke of Tirconail on her young Connemara. The cumulative marks decided it in Rachel’s favour, leaving Brenda in second and Anne bringing up a very respectable third. Also riding the same intro-dressage test, but in the category for primary riders only, was Ciara Boyle, who is not only an associate Letterkenny member but rides an ex-Letterkenny horse. Ciara came an excellent second on Francis McNicholl’s old mount Ballylennon Duke.

Letterkenny had no representatives in the primary or advanced primary classes, where Stracomer and Inishowen jostled for position. Stracomer had the stronger hand in the primary class, with Alex Coyle securing the red ribbon for the hosts, while in the advanced intermediate class Samantha O’Neill showed the strength of the up and coming riders in Inishowen by winning in fine style. The coming year should prove interesting as some of these riders gain confidence and stretch their competitive wings into the higher grades.

The Intermediate class was not as strongly supported as usual but I think Lynne Thompson would have accounted for all comers on her great partner Shuttlehill Impish Lass. Once again it was Srtracomer that gave Inishowen a run for their money, with Lorraine Gillespie coming second aboard Carrickfact Rocco. Letterkenny’s Francis McNicholl settled for a comfortable 5th place rosette on the rookie Kerrykeel Darcey. This pair will definitely be a combination to watch for the coming season as Francis gradually guides Darcey to greater challenges.

In the advanced intermediate class Aughavannon Merlin took a short break from screaming for his trailer mate to put in a somewhat hurried test under Rachel. His antics were enough to deprive him of his preferred red rosette…there was no way that Emily Schneider on the the pro club horse My Boy Boysie were going to allow such immature behaviour to go unpunished…but second place still bagged a great haul of prizes on the day.

While the dressage was wrapping up in the Rose Garden the jumping was well under way in the walled garden. The course looked deceptively easy as there were no fillers and plenty of space, but course builder Karl Dolan provided plenty of challenges in the route and clear rounds were few and far between on the day. The primary class fell to Donegal Gaeltacht as their competent Sinead Gibson steered Torann na dTonn to an easy win ahead of Tirconails Alida Byrne. Sinead pulled out her second gun, Kilcooley Seanachai, to deprive Stracomer’s Ann Keaney of third spot, but with regard to overall league placings Alida had the last laugh as she took the Leading Show-jumper award back to the Tirconail camp.

In the advanced primary class Letterkenny were crippled by the loss of Chloe McClafferty on the day. Having come third at the first leg of the league, and following up with a win in the second leg, Chloe was coming into the final in a very strong position, but family commitments intervened, depriving her of the chance to maintain a grasp of the crown. Caroline Shiel took the red rosette home on the day but Inishowen’s Lynne Thompson bagged the overall league prize, with her club mate Samantha O’Neill backing her strongly in second place.

The intermediate class saw Suzanne Deeney Wylie finish out her riding club competition year with a very competent round on Dubai Flyer. Having had a few hairy moments at earlier league outings this duo finished in a very creditable 6th place in the last leg and 5th in the overall league. Marina Hamilton was also unable to make the final leg at Necarne and had to settle for 6th place in the league, having started the autumn with a fantastic win in Lenamore aboard Fyfin EKO. Francis used the league as an opportunity to introduce Kerrykeel Darcey to the joys of show-jumping and ended outside the ribbons but very much on the radar for the spring.

In the advanced intermediate Rachel renewed her rivalry with Tirconail’s Mark Ward and his aptly named Wild Child. Mark had had it all his own way at the first leg of the league, where a lack of opposition guaranteed him top marks on the day. Unable to consolidate his position at the Killybegs based second leg he entered the arena in Necarne one point ahead of Rachel, who had conceded defeat to Seamus Campbell in Killybegs. With a nice clear under his belt from the first round Mark went out with all guns blazing for his jump-off round. A very unfortunate sat-nav error approaching the final fence resulted in four faults and, crucially, some additional seconds on the clock. Rachel headed in for her jump-off needing only to go clear within the time allowed, but a somewhat enthusiastic Merlin over estimated the space available in the double and caught the second element to acquire four faults, before skid-marking around to the final jump and finishing fractionally faster than Mark. The winning rosette was in the bag and was complemented by the overall league win, ensuring Letterkenny went home with heads held high.

The quantity and quality of prizes handed out on the day was a real tribute to club prize buyer Brenda Burke and especially to Stracomer’s Erin Fergus’s ability to sweet-talk sponsorship out of various sources. From bottles of Prosecco, through TRI vouchers to worm doses, coolers and licks, there were plenty of well laden clubbers heading home with smiles on their faces. Lynne Thompson had done trojan work over the season to keep track of scores from all the events held in the region, producing leading rider results in prompt fashion on Sunday. With the ever-present threat of Covid having prevented the organisation of our inter-club dinner dance for a second year we can only hope that the coming year will bring as much and more pleasure than the one we’ve just enjoyed.

Roll on the spring league.

League final and annual awards to finish out the year

The final of the NWRC autumn showjumping league is taking place this coming Sunday in the stunning surrounds of Necarne castle. In addition to league final classes there is also a selection of stand-alone dressage classes, including a young horse/green horse intro class, as well as the presentation of club of the year, show jumping rider of the year and dressage rider of the year, awards that are all coming down to the wire and will rely heavily on this weekends’s participation and results. As an added bonus we have permission to hack around the beautiful estate, a treat not to be missed by those who appreciate an opportunity to go off-road. If anyone is in any doubt as to just how tight the autumn league points table is you can check out the points table below. Remember there are NOT double points for the final!

Big changes proposed

A number of new proposals are under consideration following a comprehensive grading review process which began a number of years ago. Whilst the current grading system ensures that members are not asked, in competition, to do anything which is above or below their level of expertise, it can be a bit restrictive. The new grading system and competition structure aims to give members a greater choice of competitions in which to compete.  This will allow members to compete in competitions at a higher level than that at which they are graded, and also at a lower level where competition organisers choose to run the relevant classes. There were a number of questions raised by members and we’ll answer them as best we can here. The names of the grades are changing but for the purposes of explaining things we’ll use the current names that we all know.

What hope have lower grade riders if the higher graded people can compete at the lower grades classes? Shows will hold the usual grade classes, which are open to riders of that grade and also to riders of the grade below but NOT to riders of higher grades. Show organisers can choose to run “open” classes at each height which would be open to riders of higher grades. These open classes are competitions in their own right and will carry the same range of prizes as the usual grade classes. For example: the Intermediate class can be entered by both intermediate and advanced primary riders. The Open Intermediate class is open to advanced intermediate, open and advanced open riders. An Open Primary class is open to everyone from AP right up to AO riders.

Why would anyone bother upgrading if they can already compete at the higher level? You will can only compete at a higher grade level at club and regional level, so if you want to compete at a national competition you will be restricted to your own grade. Also if you are placed 5 times at the higher grade within any 12 month period you MUST upgrade.

What about Primary riders? Everyone else has the chance to compete at a lower grade but there’s nothing lower for the Primary riders to try? A new class called Newcomers is being introduced in showjumping and dressage and only primary and advanced primary riders may enter it. Again this class will only be run at club and regional level.

Joe Soap is out competing at Eventing Ireland 90 classes, and then gets away with jumping AP at our club competitions. How is that fair? Members who compete at Unaffiliated competitions ( that’s SJI, EI or DI competitions) MUST upgrade if they compete 5 or more times at a higher level than their current AIRC grade, regardless of their placing. If they compete just once 2 levels higher than their current AIRC grade they will be compulsory upgraded.

What about the Young Horse and Green Horse classes? There will no longer be young horse, green horse or sportsmans classes. The availability of the “open” classes will cater for riders wishing to introduce young or novice horses at a low level.

To watch the webinar presented by HQ please follow the link below: It provides very clear information on the proposed changes, including guidelines on what is required of both the club and regional grading officer.

Autumn Clubbing

The recent re-opening (at full capacity) of the nightclubs in the country will surely not have toooo much of an impact on attendance at our own club events. Lets face it, most of us have left our night-clubbing days behind us and traded glad-rags for gum-boots quite a while ago. Our younger members no doubt have the energy and capacity to juggle all kinds of clubbing with flair and panache. Certainly, if Chloe McClafferty’s performance in the NWRC league on Sunday is anything to go by, the club honour is in safe hands with our youth. Tirconaill riding club hosted the second, and penultimate, leg of the league at Charlie and Mona Vial’s Drumanoo Equestrian. To say the weather gods were kind would be an under statement. As Charlie commented “The child of Prague worked nicely” and a reasonably mild day held dry till the final competitors finished up. Mona and her band of merry helpers had put on a spread of epic proportions. Anyone who has experienced Mona’s home baking will have some idea of the caliber of catering on offer to the competitors and their sidekicks and its safe to say that anyone who headed home hungry did it of their own choice.

The competition on the day was quite fierce, with a good showing from most of the clubs in the region. Most unusually Inishowen had no winners on the day, though Samantha, Lynne and Dawn made sure the other clubs had to work for their points. Once again we were deprived of the Donegal Gaeltachts on the score sheets and even the powerful Stracomer club had to yield to the might of the home team. Fortunately our own Chloe McClafferty managed to stop a complete rout when she won the advanced primary class on the ever-green Bacardi, but apart from throwing some minor placings to their neighbors the Tirconaill team had a magnificent day. The award for the most entertaining round of the day should probably go to Rachel Carton in the advanced intermediate jump-off. Having sat on like a prune on the approach to the first she paid the price by allowing Merlin an easy dodge out the side…he apparently didn’t think it would be gentlemanly to jump whilst relieving himself…and had to throw caution to the wind to try and make up time. Sure reins are over-rated at the best of times. Results and some entertaining video below.

Advanced Intermediate jump-off

The final leg of the league is being held in the stunning venue of Necarne Castle in Irvinestown, on the 14th of November, and is being jointly run by Stracomer and Donegal Gaeltacht riding clubs. The day should appeal to all riders as there will also be a dressage competition on the day. The dressage is not part of the league and placings in the dressage do not count towards league points. Showjumping will be held in the magnificent walled garden arena while the dressage will be in the rose garden arena. As an added bonus we have also got access to the estate for hacking on the day so even those of you who would just like to go for an off-road rideout have a good reason to load up and join in the fun. It promises to be a great day, with the added attraction of a tea/coffee van on site to keep the cold at bay. This will probably be the final get together for all the clubs in the region this year as the decision not to hold a dinner dance was taken earlier in the autumn.

Closer to home, and in an effort to up our game at these inter-club competitions, we have jumping lessons in Greenacres Equestrian Centre on a Thursday evening. Sonya McAleer is coaching and booking is via our club whatsapp group.