MEGAN Connell and Matthew Dickenson can’t have complained about a lack of variety in the Horse Sport Ireland showing classes they judged in Ring 2 last Saturday at the Association of Irish Riding Clubs’ annual two-day Festival in Mullingar Equestrian.

First up, were two coloured horse classes and the judges found their champion and reserve in the over 158cm division. Standing top of their final line-up was Tara Hill’s Maura Walsh on her eight-year-old piebald gelding DTS First Flight, a combination that was on the Tara Hill squad, which won the dressage team challenge here in 2022.

Drynam’s Stacy Forsyth finished second, and reserve, on her recent Cheval Pre-Festival champion Texas Surf, an eight-year-old skewbald gelding by Grange Merlin Surf. The class for horses up to 158cm was won by Burren’s Joanne Flaherty on her 13-year-old piebald gelding Reigning Cats And Cobs, followed by Lismore’s Sile Scanlon with her eight-year-old skewbald mare, Cullohill Guzzler.

Next up were two veteran horse classes and, if the winners fit the bill as regards their age, they are defying those years every weekend.

The class for horses aged 21 or over was won by the Sarah Cassidy-ridden Woodland Badger, who has been flying the flag for the Castle Hill club for many years. The 24-year-old chesnut gelding not only lined out against other veterans here, but also in the performance hunter section, where he won his RC70 open class, and in the RCP3 dressage where he finished third. Killotteran’s Emma Dunne finished second on her 22-year-old bay gelding Northern Star.

Multiple winner

Fingal’s Mary Hagan won the class for horses aged between 18 and 20 on her mare Sweetwell, who moved into the veteran bracket this year. Killcarrick treasurer Nadine Taylor finished second in this class with another 18-year-old, her chesnut Irish Draught gelding Wardtown Macha. When it came to the championship, Connell and Dickenson awarded the tricolour sash to Sweetwell, with Woodland Badger being placed reserve.

Like so many other combinations at the Festival, Hagan and Sweetwell contested other sections of the show, most notably winning their mares’ class and championship in the hunter ring, placing third to Woodland Badger in the RC70 open performance hunter class and winning the RCP3 individual dressage.

“It’s a test I like,” said Hagan to explain that last success. “I bought the mare as a seven-year-old from her breeder, Paul McDonald, in Moate. Her pedigree isn’t recorded, but Paul said she is by My Paddys Clover. I took her on a week’s trial and sent her to Tom Moran, who said he couldn’t fault her. She really is the most mannerly horse, goes when you want to go and comes back to you as soon as you ask; she has the most fabulous temperament.

“I may take her to the Flavours of Fingal Show (June 29th and 30th) and would love if the club could get a team together for the dressage championships,” continued Hagan, who works for MM Fibre Packaging in Santry. “To tell you the truth, if there is anything on in the North East Region, I’ll give it a go and I would love to do an event on the mare.”

‘Joy’ in cob championship

Meath’s Joy Murray won the cob championship on her lightweight class winner Bee Smooth, the 12-year-old bay gelding on whom she competes with success outside the ranks of the riding club movement. Clonshire secretary Sasha Smith stood reserve on her heavyweight/maxi class winner Sunrae, a 16-year-old bay gelding, who also competed in the equitation showing.

A pair of thoroughbreds won both riding horse classes. First up, Killcarrick’s Anna Kerins topped the final line-up in the ‘small’ class with The Same Again, an 11-year-old Court Cave gelding, who failed to worry the judge in eight runs over hurdles, the last of which was at Bellewstown in July 2018.

Mentioned elsewhere in this page, Anvil’s Aileen Dwyer won the ‘large’ riding horse class on Hollymount Dream, a six-year-old Westerner mare once trained near the Mullingar Equestrian Centre by Ciaran Murphy. It was this bay who was crowned champion with The Same Again standing reserve.

It was then time for Connell and Dickenson to choose their Ring 2 champion and reserve and it was the coloured horse champion DTS First Flight who claimed the ring title, with Hollymount Dream standing reserve.

The day wasn’t over, as the Ring 2 and 3 judges met in Ring 4 to choose their overall supreme and both sets of judges obviously fought their corner, with the Ring 3 champion, A Heros Welcome (Drynam’s Jill Brown) taking the overall accolade, ahead of the Ring 2 champion, DTS First Flight (Maura Walsh, Tara Hill).