THE Irish Long Distance Riding Association (ILDRA) continued to grow in success in 2019, with numerous riding events across Northern Ireland, despite the wider issues in the world of Irish Endurance. Visiting venues from the rugged and remote Cam Forest in the North to the historic Florencecourt Estate in Enniskillen to a new venue for 2019 at the ever-popular riding trails around the scenic Clandeboye Estate.
ILDRA held a range of events from pleasure rides to competitive trail rides and demanding endurance races for the maddest of riders! Faces new and old attended the several events, with many new riders being introduced into the sport of endurance. ILDRA’s 2019 season kicked off at the popular venue of Gosford Forest Park for the annual New Year’s Day ride, where both riders and horses get a chance to welcome in the New Year through enjoying a relaxing ride.
For ILDRA’s hardy endurance riders, the CTR (Competitive Trail Ride) season kicked off at Tollymore Forest Park for ILDRA’s romantic Valentine’s Ride, with new rider Susie Kinley being introduced to CTRs by seasoned endurance rider, Karina McVeigh and her trusty steed ‘Cheyenne’. ILDRA riders can sometimes be described as slightly barmy and are often known to ride no matter what the weather throws at them, which was especially true for ILDRA’s first visit to the magnificent Baronscourt Estate on March 10. The four seasons of the year came in one day, with riders being treated to blazing sunshine, followed by freezing snow blizzards! This ride was particularly special to one of ILDRA’s most successful riders, Helen McFarland, with Helen’s 24-year-old endurance horse, ‘J St. Jake’ reaching over 6,000 miles in competitive rides and is the only horse in Ireland to do so! Dermott MacGuiness, another regular ILDRA rider, also completed his 30-mile event in Ireland at Baronscourt on his horse ‘Shinook’.
Helen McFarland and ‘J St. Jake’ once again headed to the tough Cairngorm 100 ride for the fourth time to compete in this unique event, testing the true endurance of both horse and rider across a highly technical route. ‘Jake’ is a well-known equine competitor at ILDRA and is often seen tirelessly storming around 50 miles. At 24 years of age, ‘Jake’ was the oldest equine competitor at the Cairngorm 100 and was placed second in overall results and won second place for Best Condition – a testament to the dedication and training that Helen has developed for her endurance horses.
ILDRA chose to run a pleasure ride in aid of Air Ambulance NI at Clandeboye Estate on March 30, with several generous companies coming forward to sponsor wonderful hampers available as part of a raffle. ILDRA was extremely pleased to have raised £2,050 to support the excellent work of the Air Ambulance NI. Following this well-enjoyed pleasure ride, CTR riders resumed their competitive season at the wonderful venues of Florencecourt Estate, the remote Cam Forest and the wooded Gosford Forest Park. Many competitive and pleasure riders then turned their attention to the imminent event of St. Patrick’s Coast Endurance Ride, with their training schedules now incorporating their aspirations for this once a year spectacular ride.
At the well-supported venue of Shane’s Castle on June 23, many new endurance riders completed their first CTRs with ILDRA. Pony Club members Ella Anderson and Amy Murphy completed their first 10-mile CTRs on their horses of ‘Opal’ and ‘Sweet Honey Bee’. Jayne Woodward on ‘Boycie’ and Arlene Jackson on ‘Prima Rosa’ also completed their first 10-mile CTR with ILDRA. Bree Rutledge and her home-bred horse ‘Clovermount Rhinestone’ were also introduced to the sport of endurance riding. Bree and ‘Clovermount Rhinestone’ continued their endurance careers across several rides before gaining their Bronze Shamrock qualification at St. Patrick’s Coast Endurance Ride, as well as winning the ILDRA National Novice Championship.
Another of ILDRA’s new CTR riders for 2019, who completed the first stage of her Bronze Shamrock at Shane’s Castle was Gail Hadden and her horse ‘Diesel’, who covered 20 miles across the sprawling estate. The ILDRA Shamrock is a series of grades from Bronze to Gold, which ensures that horses and riders adjust to the demands of endurance gradually and attain the appropriate fitness and understanding of endurance competitions. The success of many ILDRA horses working through the Shamrock System and going on to compete at international level and working well into their golden years is testament to the benefit of such a system.
Members of ILDRA enjoyed a well-deserved pleasure ride, followed by a relaxing BBQ at Woodburn Forest Park on July 6, with a wonderful day of summer riding around the peaceful reservoirs of Woodburn.
ILDRA’s competitive season of endurance culminated in the amazing St. Patrick’s Coast Endurance Ride held on September 7. This ride is simply unlike any other in Ireland – beginning at the excellent venue of Downpatrick Racecourse, this ride flows across a huge range of countryside from the East Down Gallops to the fabulous beaches of Tyrella to the historic Old County Down Railway line and the shaded woodlands of Hollymount Forest. This year, St. Patrick’s Coast Endurance Ride played host to the ILDRA Nationals, as well as riders taking part in tough Endurance Races. Many pleasure riders also chose to try their hand at endurance for the first time with the introduction of a new event for 2019 in the form of an Open Team competition, alongside the annual non-member and member pleasure ride trophies.
Congratulations go to all of the riders taking part in ILDRA’s many route options at St. Patrick’s Coast and the popularity of this event was evident in the record number of entries for 2019!
ILDRA’s dedicated members enjoyed the remaining pleasure rides of the season, as a chance to relax and enjoy good riding company before the CTR riders recommence their endurance training for the 2020 season.
The annual Home Internationals and Celtic Challenge competition was hosted in Wales this year at the British Horse Feeds Red Dragon Festival of Endurance, which ran over the weekend of October 4 to 6. Ireland fielded a very diverse team for 2019 by opening up team positions to endurance members across the UK and Ireland.
Riding conditions were challenging to say the least, with a lot of rain falling in the week before the event and indeed over the weekend, leading to the already tough terrain being muddy, deep and slippery, while visibility on the Saturday was very poor, with heavy fog at the top of the infamous ‘Red Dragon’ hill. This led to the Irish team losing some longer distance combinations, however, there were some commendable results, with Mary Thompson taking fourth place in the one-day 80km class and winning the two-day 120km class outright. The two junior riders on the Irish team, Scarlett Chapple and Lois Cooper had great success, with Scarlett winning Best Junior in the Home Internationals and Lois winning Best Junior in her two-day 80km class and Best Celtic Challenge Junior. The Irish teams came third in the Home International and fourth in the Celtic Challenge respectively, by relatively narrow margins.
Thanks must also go to the team Chef D’Equipe for 2019, Hannah Catterall for organising the event and encouraging so many to join the honorary Irish for this wonderful event.
The season for 2019 culminated in the most eagerly awaited night of the year for ILDRA’s Ulster Branch, the annual awards night, where a range of prizes were on offer for a range of riders and horses of all ages and types!
With prizes on offer for endurance riders and horses of all qualification levels and for regular pleasure riders, many riders look forward to the chance to obtain a trophy or new rosettes to add to their collections, through building their competitive and pleasure ride mileage through the year.
Congratulations go to everyone who received prizes at the awards night, which was held on November 8 at Woodville House, Lurgan, with kind permission of the Greer Family. The Ulster Branch committee extends its thanks to Greer Family for usage of their facilities and for supplying food on the night.
ILDRA would like to welcome everyone to the first ride of 2020 on January 1 at the beautiful Gosford Forest Park, Markethill. Look out for the new calendar of events on the website soon!
ILDRA Ulster Branch Awards 2019
Open Rider Trophy: 1) Helen McFarland.
Intermediate Trophy: 1) Emma Hayes; 2) Karina McVeigh; 3) Ruth Lyness.
Novice Trophy: 1) Jocelyn Willis; 2) Gail Hadden; 3) Bree Rutledge.
Top Junior: 1) Isla Aldworth.
Top Man: 1) Declan Lynch; 2) John Anderson; 3) William Morcombe.
Top Pleasure Rider: 1) Emma Hayes; 2) Declan and Rachelle Lynch; 3) Vivienne Andrews.
Veteran CTR Rider: 1) Helen McFarland; 2) Ruth Lyness; 3) Declan Lynch.
Richard York Memorial Trophy: 1) Declan Lynch; 2) Vivienne Andrews; 3) Gwen Jaswal.
Pippa Trophy: 1) Isla Aldworth.
Horseshoe Trophy: 1) Isla Aldworth.
Creaney Trophy: 1) Dermott MacGuinness; 2) Martin McNamara; 3) Mary Thompson.
Family Trophy: 1) Declan and Rachelle Lynch; 2) Karina McVeigh and Isla Aldworth; Ros and William Morcombe.
Top Horse: 1) Yasser Arafat; 2) Cheyenne; 3) Amber.
Gemini Trophy: Heidi.
Olwen Kerr Award: Yasser Arafat.
Sunnie Smile Trophy: Hannah Catterall.