Farm Ireland

Friday 24 November 2017

Summer starts horse lovers' high season

Huge variety of fun-filled days out for fans of equestrian events, charities and competitions

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

AS the days become longer and the competition season gets into full swing, there are literally dozens of equestrian events on the calendar. Horseboxes will be hitched up every weekend for the next few months, with riders and horses permanently occupied. However, there are also plenty of events for the equestrian spectator. Here is just a sample of the activities worth a look this month.

Family fun

This Sunday sees the second of four Family Fun racedays at Leopardstown Racecourse.

Coinciding with the Ballysax Stakes, the second Flat meeting of the season at Leopardstown, you can enjoy the racing in the knowledge that you are also supporting two worthy causes, the Children's Sunshine Home and Laura Lynn House.

Based in Leopardstown, the Children's Sunshine Home has been caring for children with life-limiting conditions and their families, providing respite, transitional, home support, crisis and end-of-life care since 1925.

Together with the LauraLynn Children's Hospice Foundation, the aim is to build the first hospice for children in Ireland. The hospice, which will be known as LauraLynn House, will comprise a two-storey, state-of-the-art structure where families can spend precious time with their children before they pass away.

The aim of the family events is to provide the perfect day out for families to support and raise awareness for the Children's Sunshine Home and LauraLynn House, and to introduce the local community to racing at Leopardstown.

Activities and entertainment will include face painters, balloon modellers, a DJ, a magician, a range of exciting inflatable toys and much more.

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Meanwhile, the Front Runner Racing Club will introduce both children and their parents to the world of horseracing.

Tickets cost €15 per adult and all children under 14 are free. A family ticket is also available for €25 and includes admission for two adults and any number of children.

Gates open at 12.30pm and the first race is off at 2.25pm.

AIRC National Hunter Trial Championships

With more than 300 entries so far, the Association of Irish Riding Clubs' National Hunter Trails Championships are set to attract a huge crowd on April 17.

Taking place at Flowerhill Equestrian Centre, near Ballinasloe, Co Galway, the championships will feature eight classes catering for all levels, including the advanced primary pairs and individual championship, intermediate pairs and individual championship, mixed pairs, advanced intermediate individual championship, open individual championship and advanced open individual championship.

Sponsored by Connolly's Red Mills, the annual competition is the first in a series of national competitions run by the AIRC in the coming months, including the Riding Clubs' Festival at Stradbally Hall Estate on June 11-12 and the Horseware Team Showjumping Championship at the RDS' Dublin Horse Show on August 7.

future breeders

Teagasc and Horse Sport Ireland (HSI) will be aiming to pick out Ireland's breeders of the future at the National Young Breeders' Competition at Kildalton Agricultural College, Piltown, Co Kilkenny, on Tuesday, April 19.

Sponsored by Pegus Horse Feeds, the competition is aimed at encouraging young people to become involved in breeding, showing and assessing mares and young horses, to identify young people with the potential to become judges and to improve knowledge of horse breeding and evaluating horses.

The competition is also an opportunity for young people to meet other like-minded individuals, both nationally and internationally.

The competition will consist of four different sections. The competitors will first be quizzed on the theory of breeding, which will include stable management, sport, breeding, feeding, health and welfare.

Next, they will be asked to assess several animals for conformation, before moving on to assess loose movement and loose jumping.

Finally, each competitor will be asked to present horses in hand using the triangle system.

The results of the National Young Breeders' Competition will be used to select a panel from which the teams will be chosen to represent the Irish Sport Horse Studbook in the WBFSH Young Breeders' World Championships in France in July.

Three individuals -- and one reserve -- will be selected to represent the studbook in the 16-19 age category and a further three -- and one reserve -- in the 20-25 age category.

Spectators and cheerleaders are more than welcome at Kildalton, so take this opportunity to watch the young breeders of the future hone their skills on April 19.

Festival of Ex-Racehorses

The inaugural Festival of Ex-Racehorses in Ireland will take place at Boswell Equestrian Centre, Ashford, Co Wicklow, on April 23.

Competitions will consist of three riding classes for the ex-racers and one for the named but unraced horses, as well as three performance competitions, where the course of six natural fences and two coloured fences will vary.

The Racehorse to Hunter class is a novelty and will require each horse to stand while its rider drinks from a stirrup cup and opens and closes a gate. The jumping in this class will be natural obstacles that a horse could meet out hunting.

Festival organiser Julie Egar is a keen supporter of giving ex-racing horses a new career and has, with her daughter Laura, entered their own ex-racer, Denels Brig.

Splash, as he is now known, was raced twice in Scotland but broke down, and, after being pin-fired, was sent to another training yard in Co Down.

A short time later he was found to have back problems and was destined for the factory. However, a local dealer stepped in before he was sent there and asked Laura to try him as a riding horse.

Although his back was not strong enough to stand up to the rigours of a racing career, Splash has proven himself to be a successful all-rounder, winning in racehorse to riding horse competitions and going on pleasure rides.

Splash is just one of dozens of ex-racehorses that will be on display and set to compete at the Ex-Racehorse Festival in Boswell on Easter Saturday (April 23).

National Stallion Parade

Cavan Equestrian Centre hosts its 14th annual stallion parade this Saturday at 2pm in conjunction with HSI.

For the first time ever, the parade will coincide with an equine trade fair and a special display from the Army Equitation School.

The stallion parade will feature more than 50 stallions on the day, including Registered Irish Draughts, Connemara Ponies, Irish Sport horses and many Warmblood sires.

More than 1,000 breeders are expected to travel to the event, which is viewed by many as a one-stop shop for making critical breeding decisions for the new season.

While the breeders are making decisions, shoppers can make purchases at some of the many equestrian and leisure stands at the venue.

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