IRELAND’s next generation of equestrian athletes made history today (Sunday), at the FEI European Championships for Ponies (U16) in Strzegom, Poland, winning the eventing team gold medal and an individual silver, while in show jumping Ireland filled all three spots on the podium in the individual final after a phenomenal display – to add to the team gold medal they won on Friday.

An historic day began with a gold medal win for the Gain Equine Nutrition Irish eventing team of Meath’s Josh Williamson (Ardeo Fireman), Kildare’s Ben Connors (Cornafest Fred (CP), Meath’s Matthew Love and Kildare’s Claire O’Ryan, managed by Jane Kinsella. Ireland finished on a final score of 104.1 with Germany taking the silver medal on 107.6 while France finished in bronze on 108.9.

Kildare’s Ben Connors with Cornafest Fred (CP) also claimed the individual silver medal, while Meath’s Josh Williamson with Ardeo Fireman finished just one place outside the medals in fourth.

Horse Sport Ireland Pony Eventing team manager Jane Kinsella said: “I’m absolutely delighted and so proud of this team. I knew the strength we had in our squad of six coming out to Strzegom. Ultimately, they pushed each other forward, supported each other and worked incredibly well as a team.

“We had high expectations going into these championships as they had prepared well and were ready for the challenge. It was a fantastic competition from day one, really exciting, and they delivered under pressure in the end.

“I would like to express my gratitude to my fantastic coaching team, Sue Smallman (dressage) and Heather Coyle (show jumping). My vet Tim O’Hagan and the grooms Rebekah McNally and John O’Regan. I would also like to thank the parents and support teams. Results like these don’t happen without their support. Finally I would like to thank Horse Sport Ireland and our wonderful sponsors Gain Equine Nutrition, and suppliers Horseware, TRM Nutrition, Uvex, Dubarry of Ireland and Berney Bros Saddlery.”

Irish whitewash

Just a few hours later, Irish athletes were back on the podium, as an Irish whitewash saw riders in green win individual gold, silver and bronze medals in the FEI Pony Show Jumping European final.

Westmeath’s James Derwin with Rincoola Babog (ISH) are the new European Champions, taking the gold medal after a jump-off against Kilkenny’s James Brennan who took the silver medal with MHS Glow (ISH). The bronze medal also went to Ireland’s Coen Williams from Co Clare with Saxton Freedam (ISH), while Eoin Brennan made it four Irish riders in the top five, finishing fifth with Glor Tire Cruise (ISH).

European pony champion James Derwin and Rincoola Babog \ Leszek Wójcik

The result came on the back of a European team gold medal win for Gary Marshall’s team on Friday in Strzegom and speaking afterwards, Marshall was over the moon. “Our riders have made history here today, to have Irish riders fill all three places on the podium is unbelievable,” Marshall said.

“We had a plan and worked hard on it. This takes incredible dedication and the programmes we have put in place have delivered the results. You don’t win medals by accident, the margins are so close these days that if you don’t give 100% you won’t win medals. A huge congratulations to all the riders and their families and of course a big thank you to everyone involved, especially our sponsors who made this such a successful Championships.”

Horse Sport Ireland CEO Denis Duggan added: “This has been a truly remarkable and historic week for Irish equestrian sport. To come away from the European Championships winning five of the seven medals on offer in the eventing and show jumping competitions really is an amazing achievement. This shows that the future is extremely bright for Irish equestrian sport and I want to offer my congratulations to all the athletes, coaches and families involved and of course thank all of our excellent sponsors.”

Source: Horse Sport Ireland press release