THE annual must-do horse riding event is coming up soon, whether you are an avid dressage rider, a keen show jumper or simply someone who just enjoys hacking out, St. Patrick’s Coast is the ride for you! Now in its fifth year, this event hosted by the Irish Long Distance Riding Association (ILDRA) has become established as Ireland’s premier endurance event offering stunning off-road riding in the scenic County Down landscape.
On Saturday, September 1, the ride will commence at Downpatrick Racecourse, heading out across the rolling drumlins of County Down through numerous fields before reaching the East Down Gallops. From here you’ll descend towards the endless sandy beaches of Tyrella, perfect for a gallop or two. The beautiful Mourne Mountains are a perfect backdrop across this scenic ride, as you head back along further fields and grassy laneways to reach Tullymurray Equestrian Centre. A jaunt along the old County Down railway line awaits before a shaded hack through the peaceful Hollymount Forest. A final stretch across an open field leads back to Downpatrick Racecourse, with the perfect opportunity for a galloping finish past the post.
Several ride options exist, 16km (10 miles) and 32km (20 miles) pleasure ride routes alongside several Competitive Trail Rides (CTRs) and Endurance Race (ERs) distances. For those taking part in the 16km route, a circular route leads you out to the East Down Gallops before heading back towards the racecourse to Hollymount Forest, your galloping finish up the racetrack then awaits on your return! For those partaking in the 32km route, the fabulous Tyrella beach section awaits, followed by the endless fields, grassy laneways and old railway track sections leading you back towards the racecourse, omitting Hollymount Forest. For the endurance riders, those completing the 40km route will take in all of the beach sections towards Dundrum Bay and Hollymount Forest, whilst the 80km riders will also enjoy this new route section, as it offers the need for only one vet hold period. There is an extremely small section of quiet roadwork at St. Patrick’s Coast, less than one mile, which is necessary to access other sections of land. Please note that all major road crossings are stewarded and please obey their directions regarding when it is safe to cross.
On arrival at Downpatrick Racecourse, head to the ride office to pick up your rider pack and sign in. Your rider pack contains a map, ride information and your numbered bib, please ensure you are wearing it at all times when riding. On completion of your ride, untack and cool off your horse before heading back into the ride office to sign back in, return your bib and receive your gorgeous rosette for completing the 2018 St. Patrick’s Coast Endurance Ride. A food van and an official photographer will be on site throughout the duration of the ride, be sure to pick up lunch and purchase any photographs that may have been caught of you and your horse out enjoying the route.
Why not see how fit your horse is and enter for the pleasure ride trophy at St. Patrick’s Coast? Anyone can enter, even non-members of ILDRA, simply collect your rider pack and vet sheet and present yourself and your untacked horse to the vets. A heart rate will be taken before you ride out, along with a trot up of your horse. Following this, simply tack up and ensure on your way out that the timekeeper records your bib number and start time. On return, you have half an hour to cool your horse down and allow them to relax before presenting to the vets again for a final heart rate and trot up check. You never know, your horse could be an endurance star in the making! There will be plenty of help on the day to guide you through the process. Be sure to tick the box when you are making your online entry to state that you want to enter into the trophy award and be sure to book your BBQ and prize giving tickets in case you do receive an award.
Why not get a group of friends together and enjoy some of the most beautiful countryside Northern Ireland has to offer on the best possible seat… horseback? Please note that unlike ILDRA’s other pleasure ride events hosted throughout the year, your entry for St. Patrick’s Coast must be made in advance and online. Entries are limited, so be quick to book your place. Please see the designated Facebook page or website for St. Patrick’s Coast at; www.stpatrickscoast.com entries can be made online at www.event-pal.com/ onlineEntries/.
Thanks must go to the generous landowners who enable this event to occur off-road, a rarity in Northern Ireland due to the severe lack of bridleways. Thanks also go to the regular sponsors of St. Patrick’s Coast: Bailey’s Horse Feeds, Performance Equestrian, Kingsfield Haylage and Horseware Ireland, without their support this spectacular event simply would not occur. The volunteers and stewards of St. Patrick’s Coast also deserve huge thanks, as well as the organisers, as this ride would not run without their dedication and effort.
The venue of Downpatrick Racecourse offers a number of facilities, including the option to stable or corral your horse at an additional cost alongside the option to camp. If you’re travelling a distance to attend, why not take advantage of a horsey night out, stable your horse and come and enjoy the BBQ being hosted on the Saturday evening, this is kindly provided by Murphy’s Bar. This is an opportunity to enjoy good food, alongside thanking all of the generous landowners who allow the route to flow through their land. If you have entered into the pleasure ride award, you never know what prizes you could be receiving too! Please ensure to book your BBQ tickets, stabling or corralling requirements whilst making your online entry.
St. Patrick’s Coast has been an FEI international endurance event, as well as hosting the annual Home Internationals and Celtic Challenge playing host to teams of endurance riders of England, Scotland and Wales. All of those who have ridden at the event are mesmerised by the beauty of the ride and many riders choose to return to St. Patrick’s Coast year on year to what is simply the best ride offered in Ireland, so what are you waiting for?
Get your entry in and enjoy a brilliant day out with your horse!