WITH all the summer leagues done and dusted, the eventing season drawing to a close, the local horse and pony racing finished up for the year and the first of the autumnal storms making a decent innings on the leaves, it’s time for County Donegal’s riders to look forward to the entertainment on offer over the coming winter months.
The Association of Irish Riding Clubs (AIRC) offers half price membership for the rest of the year and, with the North West region gearing up for its annual autumn league, there’s no better time to join your local club! The regional leagues offer an excellent opportunity to introduce young horses to the competitive sphere. The pricing structure is very affordable and there are always friendly and supportive people on hand to help out.
This year’s autumn league kicks off in Lenamore Stables on October 9, with the Inishowen club acting as hosts. Letterkenny and Tirconaill clubs are joining forces to run the second leg at Greenacres Equestrian on October 23. This show will also include dressage classes, which will offer an opportunity to riders who prefer to stay on the level, as well as encouraging the adrenaline junkies amongst the equestrian community to spend a little time fine tuning their mount’s schooling. The league final is being held at Necarne Castle on November 13. That show will also include dressage and there is no nicer place to be riding than the magnificent walled garden on the castle estate. Stracomer and Donegal Gaeltacht clubs are combining efforts to run the final and, if it’s anything like last year’s final, it will be an impressive show!
Apart from the autumn league, the various clubs in the county are organising their individual club get-togethers – for everything from regular lessons to mounted treasure hunts and scenic treks in the beautiful county, so why not contact your local club secretary via email, or through the individual club Facebook pages, and join the fun?
The traditional way to spend winter if you were a keen rider has always been to get out hunting. The education gained by having to negotiate natural country cannot be over-emphasised. Both horse and rider benefit greatly by being part of a bigger group, where there is invariably a schoolmaster available to show the way over trickier spots and plenty of encouragement for less confident pilots. The horse’s confidence is bolstered by being part of a group, this being their natural state, and a few days out in the hunting field can be a real tonic for horses from many disciplines that have become stale or soured by the repetitive, high-stress climate of constant competition. Basic manners are instilled in man and beast, with the need to be considerate of other members of the field being paramount.
The Donegal Harriers are currently accepting applications for membership and further information can be had from hunt secretary, Rosemary Fisher, or any current hunt member. Please note riders must hold their own public liability insurance before their membership application will be considered. Rosemary can be contacted on the Donegal Harriers Limited Facebook page or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Another winter tradition in the horse world is the chance to get scrubbed up and dust off the glad-rags for some black tie events. The first one on the radar is being held in the Cavan Crystal Hotel on November 26 and is a fundraiser for two very worthy causes – namely the Irish Injured Jockeys Fund and the Equestrian Mental Health Project. The former needs no explanation and is a charity very close to the heart of many racing families in Ireland. Irish Injured Jockeys was set up in 2014 to increase awareness and raise vital funds to support injured jockeys. Funds raised through Irish Injured Jockeys go to the injured riders who are in most need of support.
The Equestrian Mental Health Project was set up by popular coach and competitor, Sonya McAleer and its core purpose is to provide children and adults within the equestrian community with the right tools, support and training they need to cope with a variety of mental health matters. With mental health increasingly recognised as a major issue within all aspects of life, but especially for athletes in the public eye, education and support in this matter is crucial.
The charity ball features presentations from guests, such as jockey Mark Enright; turf club doctor, Jennifer Pugh and editor of the Irish Field, Leo Powell. MC for the night is BBC political correspondent and Letterkenny riding club member, Enda McClafferty. With equestrians generally known for being fond of a good knees-up, the night should prove to be well worth attending. Tickets are available through the following website: www.iemhp.co.uk
On the subject of jockeys, a big shout out is due to young Inishowen man Luke Turner, who enjoyed his first ride on the track this week for trainer Mervyn Torrens. No doubt it is but the first small step on a long and successful ladder.
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