THE most eagerly anticipated equestrian event of the year is coming up soon and has been on many riders’ minds and training programmes. The annual St. Patrick’s Coast Endurance Ride is the perfect horse-riding event, whether you are an avid eventer, dressage diva or someone who enjoys exploring the glorious countryside on horseback! Now in its sixth 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 7, the ride will commence at the excellent venue of Downpatrick racecourse, offering ample parking and on site toilets. The ride meanders 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 racing gallop or two. The breath-taking Mourne Mountains are a perfect backdrop across this scenic ride, as you head back along through further fields and grassy laneways for a jaunt along the old County Down railway line before a shaded hack through the peaceful Hollymount Forest. A final stretch across an open field leads back towards Downpatrick racecourse with the perfect opportunity for a galloping finish past the post and a photography opportunity.
Several ride options exist, including 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! Don’t forget to look out for the official photographer on the day!
For those entering in the 32km route, the fabulous Tyrella beach section awaits followed by the endless fields, grassy laneways and old railway track sections, which meander back towards the racecourse. 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, this is truly a rare exception in Northern Ireland with so few bridleways available to riders. 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, your numbered bib along with some fabulous goodies from the generous sponsors! On completion of your ride, head back into the ride office to sign back in, return your bib and receive your gorgeous rosette as a memento of your completion of the 2019 St. Patrick’s Coast Endurance Ride. A food van and an official photographer will be on site throughout 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 or taking your galloping finish across the winning post.
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 as there are trophies available for members and non-members – when you collect your rider pack, be sure to collect a 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 to check for soundness. 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. 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 countrysides Northern Ireland has to offer on the best possible seat…horseback! A new class has been introduced for the pleasure riders taking part in St. Patrick’s Coast in the form of a team event. Simply come up with a creative team name, gather up three or four friends and enter whatever distance you fancy! You never know what rosettes or prizes you may win! Team members do not have to complete the same route distance together as the scoring for winning will be based off the recognised endurance French Formula, which considers your horse’s performance using Speed, Distance and Final Heart Rate. Please state if you are choosing to enter this on your online entry form along with your team name – there is no additional charge for taking part in this. If you fancy taking part, but can’t quite convince any friends to take the plunge, simply enter your team name as ‘Open Team’ and you will be assigned to others in the same position. To compete in this class, riders must present their horses untacked to the vets before and after the rides to take part in a simple endurance vetting to take your horse’s heart rates, please also ensure your start and finish times are recorded by the official timekeepers as you enter and leave the racecourse.
For 2019, St. Patrick’s Coast is hosting the ILDRA National Championships with a range of fabulous prizes and rosettes available for CTR and ER riders taking part in this annual event and has been the training programme of many regular endurance riders. A range of distances are suitable for every horse and rider combination. 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 and farmers who enable this event to occur off-road and support this event through helping to clear routes. Such off-road riding is 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, Blue Frog and Botanica, without their support this spectacular event simply would not occur. For 2019, two new sponsors have joined the team at St. Patrick’s Coast – namely the treat company Likit and Coca-Cola, who produces a range of refreshing drinks. The volunteers and stewards of St. Patrick’s Coast also deserve a huge thanks, as well as the organisers, as this ride would not run without their dedication and effort. Be sure to check out the Polaroid Selfie Board in the ride office to take some selfies showing off the range of products available in the rider packs from the generous sponsors. Please share these on social media and send thanks to the sponsors who support this event!
The venue of Downpatrick Racecourse offers several facilities, including the option to stable your horse at an additional cost, alongside the option to camp on site. 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 meal being hosted on the evening of the ride, this is kindly provided by Murphy’s Bar and Restaurant. 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 awards, you never know what prizes you could be receiving too!
Please ensure to book your BBQ tickets and stabling 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 from 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!