THE past week was not the easiest for people who choose to make horses their hobby or livelihood. High winds, heavy rain and some pretty Baltic temperatures combined to leave most riders wishing they had taken up stamp collecting instead of keeping horses, but needs must when the devil drives and those hardy souls who braved the roads to get out and compete around Donegal had a good time of it.
Local jockeys did Donegal proud on the racetracks, with Rathmullan men Luke McAteer and Oisin Orr recording very good wins at Dundalk last Wednesday evening. Luke steered the Andrew Kinirons trained ‘Hidden Land’ to a cosy four-length victory in the opener, with Oisin closing the day’s racing by pushing out David Marnane’s ‘Jered Maddox’ to victory. Luke was adding to his 2022 tally, having already notched up a win at the start of the month, while Oisin has just returned from a month in Dubai, where he enjoyed a busman’s holiday riding work in a slightly better climate than we have here.
With Irish flat racing taking a back seat over the winter, a lot of the Irish jockeys make a point of spending some time over the winter months in racing yards abroad. One such rider is Letterkenny’s Dylan Browne McMonagle, who is currently in Dubai and enjoyed success aboard ‘Caidok’ on Thursday on the Quatar track. The four-year-old horse, by stallion ‘Kodiac’, was previously trained in Ireland by Michael Halford before being exported to join the Arab racing scene. Obviously, the warmer climate suits him and he chalked up his first win under Dylan.
Riding club members faced some tough and tactical decisions on Sunday, as the second leg of the North West Riding Clubs spring show jumping league took place in Deane’s Farm Equestrian, near Bruckless. This leg was being run by the Tirconaill Riding Club and they took the brave decision to go ahead with the show, despite some pretty nasty weather warnings almost certainly impacting on entries.
Whilst the actual competition was an indoor event, a lot of competitors were not comfortable transporting horses in such stormy conditions and made the decision to miss the day, leaving Tirconaill riders free to win some valuable league points. Fortunately, Letterkenny’s Rachel Carton and Donegal Gaeltacht’s Cassandra McGee were there to prevent a complete rout by the home team, with both travellers winning their respective classes.
Winners on the day were:
RC80: Laura Diver, Tirconaill RC.
RC90: Charlie Vial, Tirconaill RC.
RC100: Rachel Carton, Letterkenny RC.
RC110: Cassandra McGee, Donegal Gaeltacht RC.
Letterkenny Riding Club’s Suzanne Deeney-Wylie opted to have the wind on her back, as she headed to Coleraine to compete in the RDA Causeway Coast and Glens Working Hunter show. The show was a qualifier for the prestigious Northern Ireland Festival and classes are hotly contested as riders vie for qualifying places. Riding her ex-racehorse, ‘Dubai Flyer’, Suzanne succeeded in gaining qualification with a very encouraging third placing in her class. Having taken on the tough but rewarding job of re-schooling her mount for a second career, Suzanne is starting to reap the rewards as ‘Dubai Flyer’, aka ‘Jimmy’, is becoming quite proficient at his new job.
The show jumping youth of the county are also starting the year well and one young rider determined to make a mark for herself at affiliated shows is Creeslough girl, Tara Brennan. Tara started the season with a new mount, ‘Carnone Annable’, and despite the fact that the duo are still finding their feet together, she has already clocked up some impressive wins at Connell Hill. Sunday saw an unlucky pole down, resulting in missing out on a placing in Portmore Equestrian, but it has to be said that her extremely fast time bodes well for her future in the ring.
Milford’s Clara Ferry has also been out and about almost every weekend this year, with father Bill giving up every spare hour to ferry (pardon the pun) her to shows from Sligo to Down. With two young ponies to bring on, Clara will be busy and has made a good beginning to the season with multiple clear rounds setting the team up for success.
Not to be outdone by the new kids on the block, Donegal’s adult show jumpers are also getting out and laying down their foundations for the coming season. Fanad’s Sharon Callaghan made a good start on her gelding ‘Lamborghini’, coming fourth in a competitive class at Connell Hill’s Winter Stars show, having already been second at Portmore’s Grand Prix show in January.
Dara McCloone of Gweebarra Sporthorses is another rider who will be looking forward to improved weather conditions for her travels as she campaigns ‘Gweebarra Zuidam Beauty’, a seven-year-old gelding bred by the renowned, and sadly missed, horseman John D Carr of Fanad’s Ballyheerin Stud.
As the days lengthen and the weather picks up, a lot more of the county’s talent will start to come out of hibernation. Success to them all.
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