IRELAND’s para dressage riders opened their international account at the five-star CHI Al Shaqab in Doha, Qatar, today.
Grade I athlete Michael Murphy was first to go for Team Ireland. Riding Sue Murphy’s 17-year-old gelding Rohan, a new horse to his team, Murphy scored 59.50% to finish fourth in the grade. Unfortunately, Murphy, who is studying a degree in Biology at Warwick University, went over the time allowed before starting the class and was deducted two points from all three judges.
Kate Kerr-Horan was second to go in the Grade III division with the eight-year-old mare Serafina T, who is owned by Broomfield Farm. A big smile at the end of her test indicated Kerr-Horan was happy with how it went, and the score of 68.18 seconds reflected that, slotting the Equine Business graduate into second place. She was the best placed Irish athlete of the day.
The experienced Rosemary Jean Gaffney was next to go in grade IV with Susan Smallman and Crea English’s 13-year-old gelding Bink. The grey found the huge arena atmosphere tense at times, but the combination recovered well to do some nice extended trot and canter work, ending on a score of 59.95 seconds in sixth place.
“It is a super facility. He found it a little bit different to being at home – we don’t have these sort of facilities in Ireland so it was a big occasion!” Gaffney said when exiting the arena.
Last of the Irish was British-based Tamsin Addison with her big eight-year-old Fahrenheit. Despite the gelding breaking into canter on one occasion, the combination produced a strong test on their first show outside of Europe to score 62.20 and finish in fourth place.
In terms of the team competition, where the best three scores count, Murphy’s 59.50% will be dropped.
Chef d’equipe Dara Kearney was proud of her team, saying: “It was a somewhat mixed day, but one has to be positive. I think the riders all rode to their potential, the horses, particularly one, didn’t quite get the hang of it, but I am very proud of how Rosemary (Gaffney) handled the situation.”
On the incredible atmosphere around the Al Shaqab arena, Kearney added: “I would say it even supersedes London almost for atmosphere. There is so much happening. The arena is indoor and a lot of horses prefer outdoor. Kate obviously was very happy with her result. Unfortunately Michael was beaten by the bell. We want to again thank Horse Sport Ireland for their support in getting us here.”
The Irish enjoyed a team lunch after today’s competition and look forward to round two tomorrow (Friday).