It will not be the fault of the Irish Olympic Horse Society (Northern Region) if Ulster horses and riders do not gain places on international three-day teams in the future.
Last year membership of the society stood at 200 but already the 1969 target of 300 is well on the way towards being achieved.
In the words of secretary Mr H J Eakin, the growing popularity of the sport among the younger people is one of the most heartening and healthy developments for years.
“Undoubtedly we can look forward with a great deal of confidence,” Mr Eakin declared.
But perhaps the biggest scoop by the society has been the arrival – to conduct two-day courses for members – of Mr Jock Ferry, the man responsible for the preparation of the Irish team.
Mr Ferry, the Scot who is permanently employed by the Irish army, has just concluded the first of these special courses at the Banbridge Riding Centre where 20 horses and riders “showed plenty of potential and endless enthusiasm”.
Under Mr Ferry’s training the Irish team has figured prominently in recent European championships with the world title successes in England in 1966 obviously the major achievement. Only an unfortunate accident prevented the team from bringing “gold” from the Mexico Olympics.
Taking time off at Banbridge, Mr Ferry told FarmWeek: “We are presently preparing to defend our world title at Punchestown in 1970 and of course an eye is being kept on the Munich Olympics in 1972. No doubt the selectors would be delighted to include Ulster representatives on future teams.”
The Northern Region is directly affiliated to the All-Ireland Society with the team selected on a 32-county basis.
Mr Eakin commented: “The popularity of the three-day event is sweeping the country with the previous diffidence towards the dressage section no longer in evidence.”
The three-day event is divided between dressage, cross country and show jumping with tremendous demands made on horse and rider.
Dressage requires trained gymnast qualities in the horse without tampering with its natural paces; the cross country demands speed, endurance and courage; and the show jumping proves whether the animal remains supple after the rigorous workouts of the previous exercises.