Flowerhill feathers in many Donegal caps

Huge congratulations to all the North West Riding Clubs members who made the journey to Flowerhill Equestrian Centre to take part in the Association of Irish Riding Clubs hunter trial championship. Oliver Walsh had built great courses that required genuine riding ability rather than just basic stickability, though the latter never goes amiss across country! The ground was in superb condition and the weather was perfect.
In the advanced primary pairs Inishowens Dawn McAllister and Samantha O’Neill managed an excellent second place over the challenging course, not far ahead of club mates Lauren McLaughlin and Lynne Thompson in 5th place. Inishowen Riding Club continued their dominance of the grade by winning the Individual Championship, courtesy of a perfect round by Claire Kirkwood. Brenda Burke bounced back from an involuntary dismount in the pairs class to come an excellent third in the championship class, with Stracomer Riding Club unlucky to miss out on a placing when Vici Viki Hopkins came seventh.
The young horse class had just one representative from the North West, with John McDaid giving a text book educational outing to his four year old mare, jumping clear all the way but slightly slower than the optimum time (well actually a lot slower😉).
The intermediate pairs class had smaller entries than usual but the Tirconaill Riding Club pair of Mark Ward and Eamon O’Donnell rode well to capture second place, finishing with just two time faults. Rachel Carton and Anne Chambers streaked around between fences to finish on 17 time faults and earn the 4th place rosettes for Letterkenny Riding Club , closely followed by the inter-club pairing of Ryan Mc Bride and Megan Coxford in 5th. As usual the time was critical in the championship class and a relatively slow optimum time caused numerous time faults. Mark Ward managed to sneak into 5th place ahead of Megan Coxford in 6th. Anne Chambers finished with just 2 time faults, while Rachel clocked the fastest time in the class to end the day with LOTS of time faults.
In the mixed pairs class the Schneider sisters ran in to second place, while in the advanced intermediate class Emily Schneider was the sole representative from the North West and managed to finish with 35 time faults, having travelled at a slightly more sedentary pace than the course required.

As with all riding club events, the hunter trial championship can only go ahead with the help of numerous volunteers and both Letterkenny and Inishowen clubs had the job of stewarding fence 8 in Flowerhill. It was a lovely simple fence to keep an eye on and was positioned at a point on the course where horses and riders tended to have settled into their rhythm. With just one non-rider available between the two clubs the manning of the post fell largely to Rachel’s loyal sidekick Ed, who received a rapid induction to the ranks of club official. With our club camera man busy pen-pushing we are very grateful to Therese Anderson for capturing some great shots at fence 5.

fences 1 – 4
fences 15 – 20

With the last of the national championships behind us it’s time to turn attention to the hot competition that is the Audrey Jacob Team Challenge. Ask not what your club can do for you but rather what can you do for your club….get out and fly your clubs flag with pride at Greenacres Stud & Equestrian Centre on the 26th September. Bring your A-game!

Eventing chicks happy with their championship outing

Suzanne and Rachel (and their trusty grooms/mechanics/co-drivers/catering chiefs/critics/engineering experts and general super-men) enjoyed a pleasant trip to the AIRC national eventing championships at Annaharvey Equestrian Centre. The road to Geashill is top class the whole way, making for a lovely smooth run, and the welcome at Ballycrystal Stud where the Lacy family offer stabling for Annaharvey events, was as warm as you’ll get anywhere. The discovery of a bent trailer axle was rapidly dealt with by the support team…Ballycrystal supplying timber, screws and a screw-driver…while the ladies headed off to walk their xc course and collect dinner for the team. Sleep was had (by some) and the Sunday morning saw the Donegal horses plaited and primped before heading the five miles up the road to Annaharvey.

As a venue Annaharvey offers pretty reliable going, with a lot of the xc course upgraded to an all-weather gravel track to allow for inclement weather. Any grass stretches bore a strong resemblance to concrete and studs were definitely a necessity rather than a fashion accessory, even for the sedate paces achieved in the dressage arena. Suzanne was delighted with a relaxed Jimmy Mac (aka Dubai Flyer) supplying her with a personal best score between the white boards. Rachel and Merlin rode a nice test also and were lying in fourth place after the dressage element. The ladies success in the dressage is largely down to Mary Devines tough coaching on the preceding Wednesday, when both riders were put through their paces at Rachel’s arena. Rachel’s dressage test was caught on camera by one of the back-up team.

The showjumping phase of the one-day-event was extremely challenging, with the slight undulations of the arena catching out a lot of horse and rider combinations, resulting in very few clear rounds on the day in any class. Suzanne steered Jimmy around in respectable fashion, finishing with two poles (but no riders) on the ground. Rachel made the crucial mistake of interfering with Merlin, who would have jumped round clear with his eyes closed if left alone, and ended up with one jump down. Rachel’s showjumping round was also captured on video by one of the support team but it’s waaaaay too embarrassing to upload so you’ll have to take our word for it that it was disgraceful!! However with neither rider eliminated in the showjumping it was onwards and upwards to the xc.

Suzanne and Dubai Flyer were going from strength to strength as the day progressed and the pair took the xc course in their stride, finishing with some time faults but clear jumping. The smile on Suzanne’s face as she galloped over the line was enough to encourage Rachel as she headed out on the (n)ever brave Merlin. Merlin took the first two jumps at his usual hesitant pace but got into his stride after the river crossing and was one of just four horses to finish without time faults over the galloping course. The team camera man had a good strategic spot from which to see most of the course and filmed both riders as they finished. Suzanne took the correct course. Rachel did not! Those with decent sound on their video playback will hear the moment Rachel realised she was jumping the Open/Advanced-Open option at number 17. The only small consolation was that the disgraceful showjumping round had already ruled the Rachel&Merlin combo out of the ribbons. Both riders and horses left Annaharvey having thoroughly enjoyed the experience and keen for the next outing. (not so sure about the support teams feelings)

All roads lead to Mullingar for Amelia

Inishowen’s show at Lenamore on the 25th of July was one of the best supported events in the region for a long time, with dressage running from 10 in the morning till well after 6pm. As the dressage was a qualifier for the national championships the results were very eagerly awaited and the hosts had the unenviable task of tracking numerous team entries as well as the individuals. The results were as follows


1st Clodagh Brady – Kildare Hailey’s Comet, Stracomer

2nd Teri Hall – Redhot – Pepper, Stracomer

3rd Grace Rodgers – Kildrum Boy, Inishowen

4th Joanne McCartney – Zaitsev, Inishowen

5th Caroline Harrie – Carnaff G Holly, Stracomer

6th Hannah McNelis – Jessie D, Inishowen


1st Alex Coyle – Lily Rowan, Stracomer

2nd Clodagh Brady – Kildare Hailey’s Comet, Stracomer

3rd Teri Hall – Redhot – Pepper, Stracomer

4th Joanne McCartney – Zaitsev, Inishowen

5th Hannah McNelis – Jessie D, Inishowen

6th Ciara Boyle Ballylennon Duke, Donegal Gaeltacht.

Advance Primary

1st Claire Kirkwood – Actinium Lily,  Inishowen

2nd Therese Anderson – Its Zoro, Benbulben

3rd Sinead Gibson – Shannahjmore Ring Master, Donegal Gaeltacht

4th Victoria Hopkins – Moonlight Shade, Stracomer

5 Sinead Gibson – Well Dun Welby, Donegal Gaeltach

6th Tina Reaney – Magil, Donegal Gaeltacht


1st Amelia McFarland – Ruby of Inishfree, Letterkenny

2nd Megan Coxford – Carrickview Undercover, Inishowen

3rd Lauren McLaughlin – Actinium Lily, Inishowen

4th Leah Farrell – General Amiro, Benbuben

5th Lynne Thompson – Blackstown Master Class, Inishowen;

6th Lauren McLaughlin – Cullion Midnight Blue, Inishowen

Advance Intermediate

1st Rachel Carton – Aughavannon Merlin,  Letterkenny

2nd Jodie Carr – Tullibards Smiling Lady,  Ard Lu

3rd Tara Fergus Sheridan – Tirconaill River Rose, Stracomer

4th John McDaid – Corskeagh Express, Donegal Gaeltacht

5th Andrea Gallagher – Annie’s Lad, Tir Conaill

Dressage Teams

1st Inishowen – Lauren McLaughlin (Actinium Lily), Lynne Thompson (Blackstown Master Class), Dawn McAllister (Farrah)

2nd Stracomer – Tara Fergus Sheridan (Tirconaill River Rose), Jodie Fergus (Carrickfact Rocco), Victoria Hopkins (Moonlight Shadow)

3rd Letterkenny – Amelia McFarland (Ruby of Inishfree), Rachel Carton (Aughavannon Merlin), Vera Keatings (Madges Land Jen)

4th Donegal Gaeltacht – Ciara Boyle (Ballylennon Duke), Tina Reaney (Magil), Sinead Gibson (Shannaghmore Ring Master), Michael McHugh (Simply Mitch)

5th Stracomer – Eva McGlone (Haslemere Rose), Coleen Granaghan (Super Nova), Alex Coyle (Lily Rowan), Teri Hall (Redhot Pepper)

6th Stracomer – Kelly Fergus (Art Monarch), Samantha O’Sullivan (Redpark Clover), Beverley Ann Slack (Rainbow Dancer), Victoria Hopkins (Bo Peat)

Team scores are calculated by adding together the scores achieved by the individual team members and the winning Inishowen team had an excellent score of 215 points. Stracomer narrowly pipped the Letterkenny team for second place, scoring 207.9pts while our team finished with a final score of 207.7pts. It’s safe to say you cant get much closer than that at a national qualifier. With so many teams entered for the qualifier there was an increased chance of securing a place at the nationals, and the Donegal Gaeltacht team also won a golden ticket to Mullingar.

As so often happens at our amateur level in the sport the trip to the championships was not realistically on the cards for a lot of competitors and Amelia will be the only Letterkenny athlete to take on the best of the rest in Sunday’s competition. We wish her the very best of luck. Fly the flag high Amelia.

Delectable Dirraw delivers

Somewhat belatedly we can report that the club training day in Dirraw was a great success. The heat made things challenging but everyone took things at a sensible pace and allowed plenty of cool down breaks in the shade. Many thanks for the photographic evidence provided, and especially to Erica for organising everything.

Our next training day is the Regional training day, being organised this year by the Inishowen club. This is being held at Gordon’s Bay Equestrian on August 15th. Participants may choose two disciplines to enter and these can both be the same or different. Or you can choose to do one lesson only. Participants may train above or below their AIRC grade.The bookings for it will open on July 26th and can be accessed on the Inishowen itsplainsailing page, which you’ll find at the following link.


While most of our members were content to indulge in one day of equestrian activities last weekend Suzanne and Rachel headed straight from Dirraw to Cloncaw Equestrian in Monaghan to take part in the Border Counties Riding Club one-day-event on Sunday. The Bellew family had the venue in excellent shape and the day went very smoothly with high commendation having to go to the host club for the professionalism of the day. The army of volunteers it takes to host a day like that is not to be underestimated and there seemed to be no stone left un-turned to assure people went home happy. Congratulations to all the Donegal riders who took home rosettes and prizes.

Tomorrow, 25th July sees a good few of us heading to Lenamore Stables to take part in the Inishowen Riding Club show, which is also a qualifier for the national dressage championships in Mullingar on the 8th of August. The heat is forecast to diminish slightly tomorrow but great care needs to be taken to ensure both yourselves and your horses are not adversely affected by the pretty extreme conditions. Inge D’Haese has drawn up the following guide to help understand the best way of dealing with the uncharacteristically hot weather we are experiencing.

Before the competition:• Supply electrolytes in your horse’s feed (follow supplier’s recommendations). This will make them drink more and remain well hydrated. Dehydrated horses will overheat more easily.• Work them during the cooler times of the day.• Ventilate the stables well.• If they are out in the field, make sure there is some shade.• Make sure fresh water is always made available.• Condition your horse to being hosed down and being cooled down with bucket s of water being thrown over it.• Hairy horses may benefit from a summer clip.• Keep your horses lean as overweight horses have a harder time with thermoregulation.

Upon arrival at the competition:• Ventilate lorries/trailers well: if it feels warm to you, it certainly is for your horse.• If the box is too warm, unload them and find a place in the shade.• Offer fresh cool water regularly – do not withhold water for any reason.• If your horse is sweated up, take it off the lorry and wash it down with cool water.• In warm weather it takes less time to warm up your horses.• Try to find shade when waiting to go into the ring or waiting to start your XC.

After your round/ cross country phase:• Make sure you have some help at the finish line to ensure your horse can be cooled down. Bring buckets, sponges and scrapers. Water for the rider is also a good idea.• Ensure there is cool water available at the finish – if not make sure you take some.• Dismount immediately when finished – don’t make your horse work harder than it already has.• At least loosen the girth or, even better, take saddle off and immediately wash the horse down with cool water.• Keep the horse walking.• Offer your horse cool (not too cold) drinking water.• Using cold water to cool down your horse will NOT do your horse or its muscles ANY HARM, it will help cool it down though which can be vital.• It is best to keep throwing cool water down your horse’s neck and back. Scraping is not necessary when constantly throwing more water on. If there is plenty of help, it may be useful to scrape the warm water off quickly before replacing it with cool – but this should not delay further water administration.• Keep the horse walking in the finishing area until sufficiently recovered, then walk it back to the box.

Signs of hyperthermia/overheating– ask for veterinary help when:• Blowing harder than normal and for longer than normal.• Horse is not paying attention to you or the environment.• Sweating profusely.• Horse becoming wobbly/drunk.• Horse collapsing.

Remember prevention is better than cure, so look after your horse’s needs first and foremost!

Best of luck everyone.

Week’s end perfected

Club members enjoy a post exertion paddle at Gordon’s Bay

As Suzanne commented when she shared this lovely photo “a lovely way to end the week”. With a couple of riders having to pull out at the last minute the group was a little smaller than originally expected but those that were able to make it had a truly balmy evening for their sociable schooling session.

Next Saturday brings our club training day in Dirraw farm, with cross country sessions under the watchful eye of Toni Donnelly while Mary Devine tackles the unenviable task of improving our way of going on the flat. This is a fantastic venue, with the added bonus of a very well appointed log cabin in which a leisurely lunch can be enjoyed between sessions. Full details will be shared later this week as soon as Erica dots all the i’s and crosses her t’s.

Thank goodness for summer

Following on from the intensive training sessions and high-pressure competitive events of the recent weeks (slightly stretching the boundaries of honest journalism with that description I know, but work with me) club members had a chance to relax and let their hair down on Sunday. Leo hosted an idyllic summer rideout, with the group taking in the iconic Grianan of Aileach as they ambled around quiet country roads. Finishing up the day with a delicious barbeque was an added bonus. Watch this space for word of our next outings.

It’s a wrap

At long, long last we succeeded in running our Orla O’Reilly show. After two attempts being ‘covided’ last year we jumped at the first opportunity for a date this year, and our cards came up trumps on Sunday. The weather forecast was blessedly wrong, with the predicted ‘absolute pish of a day’ giving way to glorious sunshine and enough of a cool breeze to stop the dust rising or the sweat dropping. The Torrens family of Greenacres Equestrian Centre had the arenas in superb condition and an army of club members turned up at 9.30 to build jumping courses and set out dressage markers. The Torrens’s stayed on hand for the full day to direct traffic and organise the parking, for which we are very grateful. Competitors started rolling in at 10.00, as did our dressage judge Kyle Richards. Kyle brought his own scribe with him in the shape of fiancee Samantha and we’d like to take this opportunity to wish the pair the best of luck for their wedding next Saturday. May their life together be as good as the dressage arena at our show….not the straightest in the world but nothing we couldn’t work around and laugh about afterwards!

On that note I (Rachel) would like to apologise to everyone who did dressage. As I was the last person to do my test I didn’t realise that one half of the arena had been left a metre short, with the A end of the arena looking rather kinky. Obviously this was deliberately done to vandalise the attempts of accurate riders to perform a good test. In the dressage classes we had a healthy 30 entrants spread over all the grades. Results were as follows


1st Michaella McCrudden LK

2nd Grace Rodgers IN

3rd Alex Coyle ST

Terri Hall ST

Advanced Primary

1st Therese Anderson BB

2nd Victoria Hopkins ST

Beverly Slack ST

4th Laura Diver TC

5th Nicola Coxford IN

6th Suzanne Deeny Wylie LK


1st Lauren McLaughlin IN

2nd Meghan Coxford IN

3rd Lynne Thonpson IN

4th Magdalena Pliczco ST

5th Caroline Shiel TC

6th Lauren McLaughlin IN

Advanced Intermediate

1st Susie Carr BB

2nd Rachel Carton LK

3rd Andrea Gallagher TC

Our judge, Kyle, also had the unenviable task of choosing the person he felt worthy of receiving the Orla O’Reilly memorial shield. This gets awarded to the rider the judge feels exhibits the correct qualities for a riding club rider. Optimism, a willingness to give-it-a-go, sympathetic riding and a desire to try to improve themselves and their mount. Not an easy set of criteria to judge on one viewing but we think Kyle’s decision this year was very appropriate and would like to think that Orla would be delighted to see Beverly Slack go home with the plaque after a very nicely ridden test on her mount, Rainbow Dancer. Kyle commented that the horse worked correctly into both reins, a trait that can only be achieved by correct and sympathetic riding. Orla’s family were on hand, along with her partner Jimmy, to accompany Letterkenny club secretary Erica as she presented the plaque to a delighted Bev…though it is very hard to see the delight under all the masks we wear these days.

Showjumping kicked off at 12pm in the fabulous Jago arena. Patricia Warren had built a very kind, flowing course and avoided any nasty fillers. The result was a great reintroduction to the competitive arena for riders who were far from in-practice after a year on the side lines. We were lucky enough to have a professional photographer on hand in the shape of Longpaw Productions, and anyone who was jumping or doing dressage in the earlier classes can find great pictorial evidence on the Longpaw Productions Facebook page. Personally I’m quite glad the camera had been put to bed by the time I was in the ring! Showjumping results were as follows


1st Nicola Coxford IN

2nd Clodagh Barry IN

3rd Clodagh Brady ST

4th Erica Robb LK

5th Terri Hall ST

6th Grace Rodgers IN


1st Cyndi Graham TC

2nd Charlie Vial TC

3rd Marina Hamilton LK

4th Alicia Clyne ST

5th Lauren McLaughlin IN

6th Eppie Heaney Henderson IN

Advanced Primary

1st Mark Geoghegan LK

2nd Caroline Shiel TC

3rd Finola Murphy BB

4th Lynne Thompson IN

5th Laura Diver TC

6th Kate Geoghegan LK

Advanced Intermediate & Above

1st Meghan Coxford IN

2nd Anne Chambers LK

3rd Mark Ward TC

4th Rachel Carton LK

And so concludes the results of Letterkenny Riding Club’s Orla O’Reilly memorial show 2021. We hope you enjoyed it and went away with a hunger to get out and support more riding club events as they crop up over the year ahead. It truly was a great day, but with so many great people on our side in the heavens we were guaranteed divine help on the day. I’ll leave you with a few sample photos of the day and one last word of thanks to those who helped….Orla, Lawrence and of course Audrey, who will be getting started on the preparations for her own team championship in September.

Dressage times

Please see below the dressage times for our Orla O’Reilly show tomorrow. A million thanks to all who have entered. We cant wait to welcome you all. Please forgive us if the scheduling turns out being completely wrong, its a long time since we had to do this!

Remember to fill out the AIRC covid attendance form if you are attending in any capacity. You’ll get it on the link below.


Entries extended and Primary prizes going abegging.

Entries for our Orla O’Reilly show on Sunday have been ticking along nicely, with entrants coming from as far afield as the Burren riding club. As usual the Intermediate grade is the most competitive, though unusually it is the dressage that has attracted most entries. So far we have no entries for either dressage or jumping at Primary level so if you compete at this grade and have been dithering about getting back into the competitive arena you could chance your arm with a pretty high chance of winning!

The weather on Sunday is forecast to be dry but cool and breezy. Bring an extra layer to ward off any chill and revel in the lack of midges.

The canteen at Greenacres Equestrian will be open, supplying a hot bite as well as the all-important tea and coffee. We’re all so out of practice with this competing lark that its nice not to have to remember the picnic basket on top of everything else.

The deadline for entries has been extended to 8pm on Friday 18th as we appreciate that a lot of riding club members in the North West region have been preoccupied in recent days. Please remember that all covid guidelines will be in effect and we ask all attendees to fill in the following covid-attendance-form, whether they be riding, helping out or just spectating

. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdi7uBj-0DmpB1_EkUEbp8vml3UQeKnvMkfHyJMn9cC-DDKhQ/viewform?usp=sf_link

We look forward to welcoming you all to the first inter-club gathering in a long, long time. Come on out and embrace the AIRC motto of ‘Enjoying Equestrianism’.

It’s all kicking off now

Life truly is ramping up a gear or three, with competitive opportunities appearing daily as venues scramble to get all their covid-related ducks in a row whilst organising events of all types for us lucky riders. First and foremost we have our own Orla O’Reilly memorial show coming up next weekend. The prizes on offer are fantastic and the emphasis is very much on getting out and giving it a go. Jumping courses are promised to be flowing and inviting, with a view to encouraging out-of-practice entrants and an emphasis on building confidence for the rest of the season. Get your entries in and prepare for a sociable and enjoyable day.

Marginally further afield, but of great interest to those who enjoy the buzz of the cross-country course, is the annual 2-phase league being run by the Bellew family of Cloncaw Equestrian near Glaslough. Dates for the Premier Saddlery 2 Phase League starting Sunday 4th July are shown below. An additional date of 22nd August will be confirmed ASAP. Entries will open 20th June for the 4th July.  http://www.itsplainsailing.com/club/ceg

Our almost neighbors in the Border Counties Riding Club are really covering all bases on the 18th of July as they will be running a One Day Event, Combined Training and 2-Phase competitions at Cloncaw. Full details are to follow but you can whet your appetite by perusing the event poster below.

In a most positive development the powers that be in AIRC HQ have confirmed that the show-jumping championships scheduled for Mullingar Equestrian Centre in July will be going ahead. The Connolly’s RED MILLS Show Jumping Championships take place on Sunday 11th July. There are championship classes for each grade.  Derby competitions and accumulator competitions are also run at the Championships, depending on the member’s show jumping grade.  There is also a class for young horses. The championships last took place in 2019. Check out the full schedule, and remember your horse must be registered with the AIRC if you wish to compete.