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.
The North West Riding Clubs spring league reaches it’s finale on Sunday 20th, and the prizes are all up for grabs. With double points available at the final even riders who have missed a couple of legs of the league to date are still in the running to win and woe betide any competitor who doesn’t make it to Eglinton Equestrian Centre next weekend. A rider may combine their best three scores to obtain their final points tally and with three legs done and dusted the points table is as follows:
We could not have asked for a better day for our leg of the NWRC spring show-jumping league. After a cold, bright and frosty start to the day the sun shone without break and the atmosphere at the show was as bright and cheery as the weather. The league was very well supported by all the clubs and especially by Ben Bulben, who had three riders competing on the day. It was really great to see people willing to travel so far to join in the fun, and for Therese Anderson it was certainly worth her diesel money as she claimed both the RC80 and the RC90 classes. Therese was making good use of the new competition system that allows riders to jump at a one height higher than they are graded, and was delighted with her days outing on her trooper of a mount, Misneach.
Inishowen’s Grace Rodgers had a good day, taking the RC70 class in no uncertain fashion, relegating the Stracomer duo of Clodagh Brady and Ann Keaney to minor placings behind her. The RC80 was fought out between Inishowen, Tirconaill and the Ben Bulben raiders, with Therese triumphing over Tirconaill’s Laura Diver on her speedy Drumeenagh Chancie Boy. With the move up to the RC90 spectators were treated to the first of the jump-offs against the clock and once again Therese did Sligo proud, beating Inishowen’s Dawn McAllister on her ever-faithful Farrah. Charlie Vial rode superbly on the grey Vancouver Cruise, and if his sat-nav had worked properly he would have clinched the class nicely. The RC100 was very competitive, with the addition of the Sligo contingent boosting numbers nicely. Tirconaill made it a cosy one-two, when Marie Molloy took her second red rosette of the league and Mark Ward once again claimed the second spot. The long running rivalry between Mark and Letterkenny’s Rachel Carton resulted in an extremely fast jump-off from Rachel but unfortunately she had one pole down to relegate her to fourth place behind Ben Bulben’s Vanessa Sweeney.
A big thanks has to go out to our club members who turned out on the day to make the running of the show possible. Seamus McCaffrey built a suitably challenging course, ably assisted by Suzanne, Cormac and Paddy, who were onsite from start to finish on the day, with Suzanne combining arena duties with schooling her older horse, Jack, in the training classes. Rachel rocked up in time to do call-up and man the gates from the warm-up to the main arena, while Marina policed the access to the warm-up most of the day. Shauna Gailey received a rapid introduction to the joys of the judges box as she assisted Cormac while also taking on-the-day entries. Anne introduced her lovely new mount, Cassius, to the rigors of club life, before taking her place in the warm-up arena to move poles for the riders preparing for the higher classes. Erica joined the fray in time to relieve Rachel of her call-up duties, allowing for a decent warm-up and therefore no excuses for the crucial pole down in the RC100 jump-off. Jenny stood to attention at the main arena gate all day, monitoring safety and dispensing cheery encouragement. Condolences to Francis and Lorna, who both succumbed to the dreaded Covid just in time to miss the show, as did Ben Bulben’s Finola Murphy. Get well soon guys.
The league final takes place in Eglinton Equestrian Centre on March 20th, and promises to be a hard fought finale.
As anyone associated with riding club in Donegal over the past few years knows, the annual AIRC hunter trial championship is one of the most eagerly anticipated events on the calender. Frequently held at Flowerhill Equestrian Centre, near Killimor in Co. Galway, it has also been run at both Gurteen Agricultural College in Tipperary and Annaharvey Farm, near Tullamore, Co. Offaly. This years incarnation returns to the latter venue. Every venue has its pros and cons but one major plus of the Annaharvey Farm location is that it is almost impervious to weather conditions. With many of the jumps on an all-weather track the organisers can be almost guaranteed that the event can run regardless of the vagaries of the Irish climate. Stabling is usually supplied by the Lacy family of Ballycrystal Stud, situated just a couple of minutes up the road, and the atmosphere in the stable yard is excellent as so many clubs come together to take up the gauntlet for the honor of club and county. Take a look through the photos from years gone by and ask yourself “Why not?”
With no NWRC league to attend this weekend our members chose different paths to entertain themselves. Francis and Rachel met up with local guide Raymond Orr to explore the backwoods behind Glenalla estate. Kerrie’s mare had pulled a shoe overnight, unfortunately leaving her without a mount for the trip. A dry but blustery Saturday had given way to much calmer weather on Sunday, meaning that the water fell from the sky vertically rather than horizontally, which is always a bonus when riding. A pot of hot soup, thick agricultural sandwiches and some home-baked brownies awaited the returning riders in Ray and were much appreciated. Hopefully the weather will be more clement for the next outing.
Suzanne hitched up and headed for the RDA Causeway Coast Arena in Coleraine to get some dressage experience under the girth. With the goal of acheiving Personal Bests in the Eventing Ireland sphere this season Suzanne wisely started to concentrate on the toughest element of the sport, receiving weekly coaching from Mary Finneran and spending most lunch breaks rushing home to get essential schooling into the brave Jimmy before returning to the grindstone for the afternoon. As we didn’t get to see the whole dressage test we can only judge the halt…definitely a 9 marker (because as Jacqui McPherson once said ‘there’s always an other point to aim for!’
Next Sunday, the 20th of February, brings the second leg of the spring league. Being held once again at Deanes Farm, this leg is being run by the Tirconaill riding club and will start to make the leader board interesting as riders accumulate valuable points towards the final. Entries are open online via
It was a tonic to get out to the first leg of the NWRC spring league at the welcoming Deane’s Equestrian, near Bruckless. A lot of competitors had a relatively long drive in some truly horrendous weather conditions. Taking a semi-high roof, long wheel base transit with a 510 trailer attached through Barnes Mor gap was an interesting experience! Safe to say the drive was worth it, with plenty of folk out to support the event and a good atmosphere all day. Our own representation was plagued by bad luck, with Francis getting knocked out of action on Thursday evening and Suzanne’s Jack pulling a shoe in the warm-up arena and trotting up lame as a result. To be fair it was a wonder the shoe was all he pulled considering the stumble he took, and Suzanne was happy enough to survive unscathed to fight another day. This left just Rachel and the ever-exuberant Merlin to fly the black and amber flag. They did their best, God bless their cotton socks, but one pole down was enough to knock them out of the jump-off won by Marie Molloy on her gorgeous connemara Dunard Melody. Mark Ward gave Marie a run for her money but the tight confines of the indoor arena didn’t suit his Wild Child. We can look forward now to the next leg in a fortnight’s time. Maybe we’ll get some more riders out and about??
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.
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.
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.
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.