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…

Go-to Glossary

As the competition season raises its splendid head over the mists of winter you will start to hear talk of various events cropping up. In case you wonder what some of the titles refer to, here’s a handy glossary of jumping competitions that featured in one of the earliest posts on the Letterkenny Riding Club website. It has stood the test of time well.

1-Day Event : Dressage, show jumping and cross country. Scores are accumulated across the three disciplines. Also known as Horse Trials or ODE.
2-Phase :  Show jumping and cross country. Scores are accumulated across both disciplines.
Combined Training :  Show jumping and dressage. Scores are accumulated across both disciplines.
Hunter Trials : Just cross country. Not to be confused with Horse Trials (see 1-Day Event).
Crossjump : A single-phase mixed-discipline competition. Course starts over show jumps, continues over cross country obstacles and finishes over show jumps.
Working Hunter : A two-phase class beginning with a round of jumping over rustic jumps and finishing with a showing phase.
Equitation Jumping : A show jumping competition where the style of the horse and rider counts as well as clearing the jumps.

2023 gets off to a great start

First off let me extend my sympathies to anyone who was unable to attend our first club meeting of 2023. It was an exceptionally enjoyable evening, with a super meal provided by Francis and Maura, delicious baked goods from Jenny (not ideal if you’re hoping to fit into a frock the following evening) and a great atmosphere. To maintain meetings of that quality will be a tough ask for the club, but we’ll do our level best not to let the side down too badly.

A hearty welcome to Anna Cathcart, who wasn’t put off by the caliber of club member, the juicy gossip shared (told ya ye should have come!), or the deplorable lack of dedication to actual horse-riding. Anna aspires to jump 1.20m (as do most of the club, after a couple of pints) but has joined at RC80 for SJ and XC, and RCP2 for dressage. As Anna lives in Ballyhiernan I reckon we can definitely call on her hospitality over the summer for a rideout in that stunning area. Anna is also keen that we hold an equestrian boot sale, which appealed to more than one of us. It should be an inter-club event and open to the general public. We’ll discuss this at the NW meeting and see if we can come up with a good date/venue.

On the subject of membership registrations could I ask people to renew as soon as possible. It can take 10 working days for membership to be processed and we don’t have much time before activities kick off. Many thanks to Marina, Enda and Shauna who have been quick off the mark. Check out the calender page for upcoming club and inter-club events.

There are lots of non-AIRC activities taking place at the moment, including lessons with Sonya McAleer on Monday’s at Greenacre’s Equestrian, lessons with Niamh McDaid on Thursdays at the same venue. Greenacres Stud and Equestrian Centre are also running their own series of showing shows, with the first on the 19th of February. See their Facebook page for details. Mulvin Stables, near Sion Mills, are starting their weekly training shows on Saturday 21st January. These are a very easy-going and welcoming way to get started at the show-jumping as Richard will always drop a back pole or create a wing where needed.

North Coast Riding Club have the following competitions to be held at Eglinton Equestrian Centre. All of their events are open to both members and non-members. Check out their Facebook page for details:

Sunday 29th January – Rachel Millar Memorial Dressage Show

Sunday 5th February – Showjumping

Sunday 26th February – Dressage

Dressage League: Sunday 16th, 23rd April and 7th May.

Lots to keep us all occupied. Roll on 2023.


Audrey’s spirit evident at excellent event

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.

Down to the wire in league final

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:

RiderClubPoints to date
Ann KeaneyStracomer10
Clodagh BradyStracomer10
Hannah DohertyInishowen8
Grace RodgersInishowen8
Deborah DuddyInishowen7
Tina ReaneyDonegal Gaeltacht1
Emer DunnStracomer1
RiderClubPoints to date
Laura DiverTirconaill19
Barry McGlynnTirconaill10
Therese AndersonBen Bulben10
Samantha O’NeillInishowen9
Lynne ThompsonInishowen7
Finola MurphyBen Bulben7
Leslie McMorrisInishowen4
RiderClubPoints to date
Charlie VialTirconaill14
Cyndi GrahamTirconaill14
Dawn McAllisterInishowen13
Therese AndersonBen Bulben13
Alicia ClyneStracomer7
Brenda BurkeTirconaill7
Lauren McLaughlinInishowen5
Eamon O’DonnellTirconaill3
Vikki HopkinsStracomer1
Stephen DoblynStracomer1
RiderClubPoints to date
Mark WardTirconaill18
Rachel CartonLetterkenny16
Marie MolloyTirconaill14
Alicia ClyneStracomer5
Vanessa SweeneyBen Bulben5
Stephen GreeneTirconaill3
Deirdre DolanBen Bulben2


Cassandra McGeeDonegal Gaeltacht7

Our league leg dun and dusted

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.

Paddy Gallagher on main arena duty

Grace Rodgers smiling as she wins the RC70

Rachel and Merlin giving it their best shot in the RC100

Eagerly awaited announcement made

May be an image of riding a horse, horse and text that says "A.I.R.C. Association of Irish Riding Clubs NATIONAL HUNTER TRIALS CHAMPIONSHIPS 24TH APRIL 2022"

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?”

Club members out and about

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.

Darcey and Merlin’s ears pricked on their homeward journey

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!’

Suzanne’s smile speaks volumes
‘Halt and immobility’. Tick.

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


Out of the traps and running

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??

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.