THERE was a good entry for last Saturday’s second qualifier in the Bailey Horse Feeds flexi-eventing series at The Meadows but, unfortunately, snow and ice prevented many riders from travelling to the Lurgan venue.

Some, however, were not as badly affected and the qualifier went ahead as planned with David O’Connor having a good day on the flat with Tullymurry Grace and over poles with his own Irish Sport Horse gelding Tullymurry Vegas.

The latter, who recorded a double clear in the 80cms show jumping qualifier, is a five-year-old grey by King Of Mourne out of the unraced Zagreb mare Sioux City. This combination won an EI90 on the final day of the 2022 Northern Region season at Finvoy in September.

O’Connor’s dressage victory came in the 10-runner Intro B where Lucinda Webb-Graham awarded him her top mark of 72.3% for his test on board the ISH mare Tullymurry Grace.

A five-year-old by Chillout, the winner was bred by O’Connor’s mother-in-law, Marian Turley, out of the home-bred Tullymurry Holly. That 2007 Camiro de Haar Z mare rounded off her career in 2016 with two wins at EI100 level under Marian’s daughter, and David’s wife, Elaine.

O’Connor competed Tullymurry Grace three times last season under Eventing Ireland rules, completing on his dressage score to win at Loughanmore in August. Even with the addition of 12 show jumping penalties, they managed to finish sixth on their final start at Vesey Lodge a month later.

Riding her first test in three years, Stephanie Scroggie placed second on Saturday with Julie Wallace’s Hello Ginger (67.8). This was a first ever competitive dressage outing for the 18-year-old Hello Oscar mare who has 68 Show Jumping Ireland points and is well-known on the hunting field.

Elaine O’Connor rode Tullymurry Vegas in the Martina McKinley-judged Section A where she had to settle for third (68.8%) behind Gail McIlwaine on Miss Ballyrolly (70) and the week one winners, Nicola Martin and her Irish Draught mare Dundrum Misty Blue (69.8), a five-year-old grey by Killinick Bouncer.

Miss Ballyrolly, whose stable name is Lexi, is a 13-year-old skewbald mare who did a small amount of registered eventing back in 2017 and 2018.

Last year, McIlwaine felt she just wasn’t quite right but thanks to the help of a small army of supporters, the mare is back in super form and moved up from sixth in week one to land the dressage spoils on Saturday. She also went clear over the 90cms cross-country track.

Exciting future

Vanda Stewart’s winner of Section C was Ballyclare’s Holly Wray with the traditionally-bred Henry (68%), a 2018 gelding she purchased just broken last year and was bringing along slowly. Registered as Conor on CapallOir, the grey is by Lacken Cruise Lad out of Lacken Terimp, by Master Imp.

“I broke my knee at the end of November meaning we’ve had a later start in getting ready for 2023 than I had hoped. Saturday was Henry’s first ever time in a dressage arena so his future is really exciting.

“The aim is to have him make his Eventing Ireland debut this year and we’ll just take it from there. Alongside working full time (as a veterinary nurse), I have a couple of really special young horses this year but Henry is definitely one of the favourites!”

Thirteen-year-old Zara Reid from Drumbo, who finished second here with Lola (67), will be keeping a close eye on the placings over the flexi-eventing series, as she is in with a chance of winning the prize for the highest-placed Pony Club/Riding Club member.

A student at Dromore High School, Zara has represented the North Down Branch in mounted games, show jumping and eventing and plans to compete with Eventing Ireland this coming season.