Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 February 2018

Brave riders ready to tackle Athlaca for McNamara fund

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Excitement is building in Co Limerick as the date approaches for the famous Dromin-Athlacca Charity Ride, where horses and riders take on the locality's impressive and daunting banks and dykes.

The brainchild of Limerick native and former European junior show jumping champion Brian McMahon, the five-hour ride was first run 21 years ago and has become world famous as a test of both horse and rider. In the past 21 years, the event has raised almost €500,000 for a wide range of charities.

Run across what is widely considered some of the best country in Ireland, the route is 15 miles long and brings participants across Limerick's famous banks, as well as walls, ditches and the beautiful Morning Star river.

Attracting crowds of hundreds on foot and up to 70 riders, the charity ride crosses two parishes, 35 individual farms and begins and ends in local landmark pubs Tierney's, the Corner Pub and Pa Riordan's where the riders can boast about their exploits.

This year, the proceeds of the Dromin-Athlacca Charity Ride are going to the JT McNamara Fund and the local community. The JT McNamara fund was set up to support the young local jockey who was paralysed in a serious fall at the Cheltenham Festival last March.

The charity ride will take place on Bank Holiday Monday, October 28, leaving Athlacca at 12.30. All proceeds from the Limerick Harriers point-to-point at Crecora, Limerick on the day before, October 27, will also be going to JT's fund.

The young jockey has strong connections with the hunt and the area, with his father and brother being master and huntsman respectively of the Limerick Harriers.


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Among the racing connections lending their support to the charity ride this year will be National Hunt jockey Paul Carberry and long-time supporter, trainer Enda Bolger.

The king of cross-country racing, the Kilkenny native will be riding himself again this year and is looking forward to the challenge.

"Limerick is famous for its banks and ditches and the charity ride gives us a great opportunity to pick out the best of the jumping," he told the Farming Independent.

Despite the ride's reputation as a seriously testing course with proper 'yawners' suitable for only the bravest of daredevils, the trainer insisted the ride is not as daunting as it would appear.

"The safety element is very important to us and we've never had any injuries beyond a few scratches," he said.

"Ninety-nine per cent of horses, unless they are blind or stupid, can tackle the banks. We often have people bringing out three-year-old horses because the pace is slow and the horses get time to think about what they're doing when jumping. By the end of the day the horses are made."

For the first time ever, the charity ride will have a separate group open to 'happy hackers' in 2013.

"We want to cater for those people who would like to ride but don't necessarily want to jump the big banks," explained organiser Brian McMahon.

"They will take an alternative route where they will be able to watch some of the best jumping and join in with the main bunch, but without having to jump anything big themselves.

"In the past, we found that the simpler we made the course, the more dangerous it became because some riders would over estimate their own and their horse's ability," he explained.

"Instead of a narrow single bank that looks easy but takes a real athlete to jump, we tend now to have big double banks with room on top for a car to drive down. They are daunting to look at but jump surprisingly well."

The Dromin-Athlacca Charity Ride in aid of the JT McNamara Fund takes place on October 28, 2013 and costs €100 per rider. Contact Brian McMahon on 086 8367666 or Sue Foley on 086 2433917 for more information or check out the Dromin-Athlacca Community Ride on Facebook.

Irish Independent