SIMON Scott, of Convoy, Co. Donegal, has realised the dream that a lot of the horse breeders in Donegal are still striving towards… To produce an Olympic horse is no mean feat. It requires an in-depth knowledge of the mare: her strengths, weaknesses, pedigree, ideal mate… Courage to take a chance on a relatively unproven stallion, patience to wait for the foal, the yearling, the scopey three-year-old, the backward and unpromising four-year-old, the hope that the right owner (with the right depth of wallet and the long-term vision) will come along to share your dream, the faith to keep scrimping and saving the precious shillings every year to continue to bring the mare to a good stallion, while the slow-developing youngster is correctly produced by the cream of Irish horsemen (or women!). And more than anything else, it requires a large element of luck, because no matter how talented a horse is, no matter how much faith a breeder has, no matter how well-bred a colt may be, the dream can only come to fruition if all the parts of the jigsaw fall into the right place at the right time.
Horses are really no different to people at the end of the day. They need patience and understanding, and quite often they need someone who can see the potential wrapped up in a rather unpromising package. They rely heavily on finding the teacher, who can coax out the genius from the temperamental teenager, before the excess of brains and energy find an unwholesome and, all too often for humans, illegal form of expression. Simon is no doubt both brave and lucky, and he deserves huge recognition for both qualities, because he is the embodiment of an Irish horseman. To watch Bertram Allen ride ‘Pacino Amiro’ to his second five-star Grand Prix win must have made for a pretty sound night’s sleep for the Scott family in Convoy.
Maybe not quite as glamorous as the Olympic exploits of the Convoy brigade, was the day enjoyed by the Donegal Harriers in Falcarragh, by kind invitation of Manus Kelly and his welcoming family. The hounds were up against the elements when it came to following a scent, as the day was dry but very windy and, in the end, huntsman Oliver Little and his side-kick Mark McGlinchey, admitted defeat in the hunting department and treated the hounds to some salt-water therapy on the magnificent Ballyness Bay. Mounted followers had enjoyed some great sport over the obstacles in Ballyconnell Estate and were equally glad to wash off muddy legs and enjoy some sea air before returning to the pots of home-made soup and good, thick agricultural sandwiches at the Kelly ranch. With young lambs now being turned out around the county, and tillage farmers looking to the growing season, the huntsman’s sport is nearly at an end, but a number of cross-country charity rides and fund-raising barbeques have been ear-marked for the summer season, so watch this space!
Donegal’s Pony Club members have been kicking over the traces and venturing farther afield as the days lengthen. The Area six region, of which Donegal is a part, is running a training league in Tubberbride Equestrian Centre, Sligo, and the local youth are grasping the opportunity to meet up with neighbouring branches, whilst enjoying a scud around some fun jumping courses. Both East and South Donegal branches of the Pony Club were well represented in Sligo and there looks to be some very promising combinations to campaign on the county’s behalf over the coming summer. Most importantly, fun was had and a sense of healthy, friendly rivalry was developed over the course of the weekend. The opportunity to enjoy friendly competition and to meet and greet other branch members is an integral part of the friendly ethos of the Irish Pony Club.
AIRC members enjoyed a weekend without competitions and were able to pursue other hobbies, such as house-work, vehicle maintenance and fencing. The life of an equestrian is never dull!
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