Planning the year ahead

With the changing of the guard, so to speak, with regard to our club officers, we will have to exercise a little patience as the new recruits find their feet (or should it be hooves??) and the club administration starts to flow smoothly again. Erica is in the process of setting up a club ‘Itsplainsailing’ account so that we can process various payments online rather than having to make the effort to meet up and hand over cash or cheques. For anyone who wishes to renew membership immediately Erica is happy to accept a cash/cheque payment as she will be sending off an early bunch of applications this side of the new year, but if you prefer to defer membership payment till after the festive season it should be possible to do it all online in the near future. Watch this space!

Our next official riding club event will be a club meeting on Monday 6th January, which will afford us the opportunity to compare notes on over-indulgence, lack of riding time, overly fresh horses and the need for some serious mental motivation to get us up and going, and into the running for Club Of The Year 2020 (twould be a grand way to start the decade). Fortunately we have just the job for the latter as, on Thursday 23rd January, equestrian sports psychologist Jim Hickey is coming to the Finn Valley Centre in Stranorlar to impart his wisdom and set us up (psychologically at least) for the new season. Jim’s session will run from 7.30 to 9.30pm and the cost is E20 per person. Payment will be via our brand span-new Its Plain Sailing account and, in case the venue wasn’t a give-away, this will not involve actual horses…merely the intention to sit on one as a club member in the not-too-distant future. Further details will follow. In the mean time if anyone would like to check out Mr. Hickey’s career you can see his Facebook page at the following link

It’s a wrap

The annual grand finale of the region’s riding club calender is the dinner dance and this years offering did not disappoint. Organised by Hazel, Louise and Mona, and held in the central location of the Villa Rose in Ballybofey, the meal was good, the awards ceremony ran like a well schooled horse and the music kept the die-hard dancers on the floor till the wee hours. Congratulations to the Inishowen club on winning Club Of The Year…next year we’ll just have to pull out all the stops to get our hands on the shield (again).

🏆 NW Club of the year 2019 -Inishowen RC

🏆 Dressage Rider of the year 2019 -Lauren McLaughlin, Inishowen

🏆 Showjumping Rider of the year 2019- Stephen Green, Tirconail

🏆2-phase cup 2019 – Tirconail RC

There aren’t a lot of photos from the night but Marina was good enough to grab a few…


While we’re on the subject of wrapping up a year in pictures I’ll take the chance to reiterate congratulations to our own club member of the year, Francis McNicholl and club horse of the year, Sally Clover Supreme (aka Shyla). Both worthy winners. As you can see from the photos Shyla was unable to attend the awards ceremony but her sidekick, Cliff, was willing to do the honors and assured us the trophy would live on Shyla’s mantelpiece for the coming year.


League honors go further afield

The autumn league drew to an exciting finale at Templemore Equestrian Centre where, as you can see from the results below, the Inishowen and Tirconail clubs shared the red ribbons between them. A smaller than usual band of riders and supporters were treated to some superb jump-off rounds and a highly entertaining couple of novelty classes. Ryan McBride showcased his new course designing skills to perfection and reports from the show were very favourable. Things are looking good for the spring league. Congratulations to all the successful riders. As usual the prize giving for the autumn league will take place at the annual dinner dance, which is in the Villa Rose hotel this Saturday, the 30th of November. Tickets are available from Hazel or Louise so give them a bell if you haven’t snagged yours yet. There will be a great range of spot prizes on the night as well as the regular equestrian awards.

For those of you who like a little motivation over the festive season I have the dates of the spring league. With four initial legs at which to earn points, and a final at which double points are available, it gives us all a welcome goal to aim for. Entry fees are being held at the extremely good value rate of E15 per horse for the days jumping. In order to be eligible for prizes you must take part on three of the five days, and your best four scores will count. In other words you have a discard score if you take part every day. Any rider who competes on all five days will be entered in a draw for a fuel voucher in recognition of their club spirit and the effort it takes to drag one’s own and ones’s horses ass out of bed on a Sunday morning!

Dates for 2020 NWRCs Spring League
9th (Templemore EC) , 16th Feb (Greenacres EC)
1st (Templemore EC),8th (Greenacres EC) and 22nd March (Templemore EC)


Jump and boogey

With the final of the north west riding clubs autumn league taking place in Templemore tomorrow, and a good weather forecast to boot, we should see some great jumping and no doubt plenty of friendly rivalry. Best of luck to any of our members taking part.

Monday evening brings the North West Riding Club agm, happening at the Glencar Inn at 8pm. Everyone is very welcome to attend and it will be a good chance to hear any feedback from the outer world as our representatives on the national executive report back.

The real highlight of the season is of course the annual dinner dance, being held again at the Villa Rose hotel in Ballybofey. Last year’s dance was a mighty night and the Villa Rose proved itself an excellent venue. Tickets are available from Hazel and can be purchased at the league final tomorrow or (I think) at the interclub agm on Monday.


Time to look to next year

You can now check  on the AIRC website to see if you will have to provide a new passport image for your membership renewal in 2020.

Members images that are over 5 years old are no longer retained on file due to the Associations data retention policy under the General Data Protection Regulations.

Please note that you must forward your image to your Erica, who will in turn forward it to National Office with your application, as head office will not deal directly with individuals.

Autumn league continues apace

The Stracomer  riding club must be well-in with the man above to have been granted such a beautiful day for their leg of the autumn showjumping league. Greenacres equestrian centre provided the excellent setting and those that turned out had a most enjoyable day. With just four members taking part in the third leg we weren’t in a strong position for ribbons but Suzanne, Marina, Francis and Cliff did us proud with their efforts and we head into next weeks league final with high hopes. We are nothing if not optimistic!!


Retail therapy

If you’ve never been to a Murdock Saddlery auction then you don’t know what you’re missing. You really can pick up some fantastic bargains, though if you’re anything like me you’ll tend to come out with numerous items which you hadn’t even realised you needed till you saw it!


Embrace the cold

Winter doesn’t have to be–and shouldn’t be–a time of hibernation for your horse. Celebrate the colder temperatures: no biting flies, no debilitating heat, no scorching sun. Pull on your wool socks, don a pair of warm gloves, then go ride for pleasure, for conditioning, or for training. The important thing is to warm-up and cool-down your equine athlete correctly in order to avoid injury (and resulting vets bills!)

Winter Warm-ups

Warming up and stretching cold muscles prior to exercise is important for getting the circulation going and loosening up stiff muscles and joints. These actions are critical for the prevention of injury and the enhancement of performance throughout the year, but especially so with the onset of frosty temperatures.

Somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes of warm-up exercise generally is sufficient for most horses. “Horses that mostly stand in a stall all day or night usually require a longer warm-up to get them moving comfortably again,” notes Williams, who holds a PhD in equine nutrition and exercise physiology and serves as equine extension specialist at Rutgers University and associate director of outreach for the Equine Science Center. “Horses that are turned out and already moving around a little might not need as long of a warm-up before getting down to serious work.”

Although slow, easy stretching movements are the foundation of the warm-up, you can also incorporate a few training elements. For example, Williams, who works her horse outside year-round, begins her 10-15 minutes of warm-up with three to five minutes of stretching at the walk, followed by stretches and large circles at the trot for the next five minutes. Then Williams slowly collects her mare and asks for smaller circles, lateral movements, counter flexions, halts, walks, and trot transitions. Then she canters larger circles working to smaller 10-meter circles as she nears the end of warm-up, again performing counter flexion, changing speed within the canter, and doing lots of transitions between gaits–work that blurs the line between “warm-up” and “maintenance” exercise.

Canadian national endurance champion Dowling, a professor of veterinary clinical pharmacology at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, likewise combines a little training into the warm-up: four to six miles of easy trotting or, when working in an arena, a half-dozen laps or so each direction at a loose extended trot.


After a hard workout, your horse needs a proper cooldown prior to returning to the stall or turnout. Why? “Good circulation through the muscles and other soft tissues is important to clear the byproducts of exercise. If these waste products are not cleared, they can lead to muscle stiffness and soreness.” Secondly, wet skin needs to dry to avoid the horse tying-up or having chills.

“The best way to cool and dry a horse is with quiet walking under saddle or in hand,” In most cases, plan on spending at least 10-15 minutes post-exercise on the cooldown. A horse with a clipped coat dries faster than one with his natural winter coat, but he becomes chilled more quickly, so you might need to cover his hindquarters with a sweat-sheet or quarter-sheet to protect against chills, while still permitting moisture to wick away.

“The key is to give the horse time to stop blowing (breathing hard from exercise). If he’s flaring at the nostrils, is blowing hard, or his veins are popped out, his heart is still working pretty hard.”

Podcast: How Do I Keep a Sweaty Horse Warm in Winter After Riding?

The skin should be dry before you end the cooldown, although the coat can left be damp–unless you’re going to put your horse back in his regular blanket. “Wet horses should not be put back into their overnight or daytime blankets because the trapped moisture will give them quite a chill in cold weather. Blankets, even the breathable ones, don’t breathe as well as no blankets at all.”

For those still-damp horses you’ll need to continue walking them, place them in a heated area, or maintain the horse in a fleece cooldown blanket until he is quite dry, then switch over to the regular blanket. Kaneps notes that a breathable coolout blanket such as a Polarfleece-type sheet allows moisture to wick through without restriction and is “very appropriate in the winter. Such a cool-out blanket is very useful to slow the cooling of a clipped horse following a sweat-producing workout.

If lengthy cooldowns are inconvenient, shorten the intensity or length of sweat-inducing exercises.

Dowling’s horses live and work outside, unblanketed, 24/7. Having natural coats, they always work up a sweat during their runs. To cool them down, Dowling walks them under saddle the 10 minutes or so it takes to return to the farm. “This gets the heat out of the muscle and the sweat wicked away,” she says. “Although the coat remains wet at the hair tips, the skin is dry.”

At that point Dowling gives the horse a quick grooming with a curry comb to fluff up wet hairs, then she turns him out. “The first thing they’ll do is go roll in the snow, then shake off the snow,” she says. “This fluffs up the coats, creating an insulating layer of air. As long as they have a windbreak and plenty of heat-generating hay to eat, they do just fine.”

Strong turnout bodes well for coming year

Our club AGM, held in it’s regular haunt of Tir Na nOg, was very well attended by club members old and new. Outgoing chairperson Marina gave an excellent round-up of the activities which our club members both organised and attended over the past year. Considering the slow start our club had, with some of the club stalwarts out of action for various reasons, it turned into quite a busy year. High points of the mounted year were, as usual, the social get togethers involving our four legged friends….these included a most memorable inter-club rideout in the bluestack mountains, the annual club camping trip to Carrickfinn (realistically it is glamping as gone are the days of huddling in soggy tents), and of course the famous Francis and Maura treasure hunt. For once we didn’t have a single entrant in the National Hunter Trial Championships (well it is only sporting to give the other clubs a chance occasionally) and most of us limited our competitions to local events, including a most enjoyable Audrey Jacob Team Challenge and a successful Derby Show.

There was plenty of discussion about what we would like to be doing in the coming year, with a general agreement that we want more educational gatherings, whether mounted or seated on a more stable base. The importance of helping each other out, especially when it comes to guiding newer members in the right direction, was stressed and it was agreed that Marina would act as a sort of mentor for members who feel they need a bit of help or advice in any aspect of club life, whether it is the correct attire for a dressage competition or an explanation of the jumping grades.

There was some great banter as the outgoing officers stood down and the time came for fresh blood to step up to the mark. Happily there was no shortage of people willing to help out and in no time at all the new officers were proposed and seconded. They are as follows

Chairperson: Rachel Carton

Vice Chairperson: Marina Hamilton

Secretary: Erica Robb

Vice Secretary: Vera Keating

Treasurer: Cormac McCormac

Show Secretary: Erica Robb

Grading Officer: Francis McNicholl

Equipment Officers: Damian Gallagher and Francis McNicholl

Public Relations – website and Facebook administrators: Rachel Carton and Erica Robb

Health and Safety: Jenny Coe

Child Protection: Lorna McCrudden, Jenny Coe, Cormac McCormac

Prize Buyer: Suzanne Deeney-Wylie

Club Gear: Jenny Coe

Team Selectors: Francis McNicholl and Vera Keating

Having divvied up the minor roles the important job of announcing club member and club horse of the year was the next order of business. There were a number of nominations for each position, all with very valid reasons given, and the end results were popular. Congratulations to Francis on getting club member of the year, while Shyla, aka Sally Clover Supreme, was the worthy winner of club horse of the year. Both man and beast epitomise what riding club is all about. The evening was rounded off with succulent pizzas and well earned pints.


Annual social night

There aren’t many club AGM’s that could be described as one of the good social nights of the year, but the Letterkenny Riding Club AGM is certainly one of them. Come along to Tir Na nOg this evening at 8pm to enjoy an evening of banter and shenanigans as we look back over the year that was and look forward to the next year in the life of a great club. As with all clubs we are only as good as our members and rely on everyone taking an active part in deciding what we do and where we do it. If there are any ideas you have for club activities…ride outs, picnics, clinics, camps, trips away, talks and demos…bring them to the meeting and we can look forward to a fun and varied 2020. Presentation of the Club Member of the year and the Club Horse of the year will take place tonight also.