TEAGASC Kildalton Agriculture, Horticulture and Equine College, Piltown, Co Kilkenny opened its gates to thousands of visitors last Saturday to celebrate its 50th year as an education college.

Kildalton first opened its doors in 1971 as a training college for young farmers with 29 students enrolled. The following year, the Horticultural College opened with 18 students and the Equine College followed in 1986 with four students. Today, Kildalton College is the largest college in the Teagasc network providing education and training to over 1,300 students each year. The equine courses have now grown to 80 students enrolled annually.

The Equine Unit enjoyed great footfall through its many sections last weekend. The native breed corner included the Kildalton-bred Draught mare Kildalton Whisper (Crosstown Dancer X Welcome Diamond) and foal (by Mountain Rebel), Connemara pony mare Portarra Primrose (I love you Melody X Moy Hazy Cove) and foal (Mac’s Euronote) and the adorable Kerry Bog pony mare Royalglen Louise and her colt foal by Silver Bog Smarty. Gay and Joe Keogh, along with the chairperson of the Kerry Bog Pony Society, Mary McGrath ran a competition to name the foal on the day. (Visit Kerry Bog Pony Facebook to find out the new name).

The comprehensive dressage demonstration was hosted by Teagasc’s Crea English and riders of Rosemary Gaffney (Teagasc), Jessica Kenny (Kildalton student) and Emily Kate Robinson (international dressage rider, coach and producer).

Olivia Connolly, Rosy Caplice English, Amanda Power, Alice Everard and Clara Cully showed the art of side saddle riding under the expert direction of Faith Ponsonby, former part-time coach at the College which was a former home to the Ponsonby family!

Faith explained the history of side saddle riding and the etiquette involved in wearing the different habits. The audience were shown how to tack up and to mount correctly while wearing a habit. It was a wonderful display of Irish horses including two registered Irish Draughts, who are half-brothers by Prescott Diamond and Grange Bouncer.

Comdt. Geoffrey Curran of the Irish Army Equitation School demonstrated how he warms up his horses and explaining why the scale of training is so important for training international show jumpers.

He showed how he could add in and take out canter strides, using his nine-year-old gelding Kilrue (by Balou Du Rouet) who is currently jumping 1.50m level. Geoff invited the spectators to walk the distances and look at the size of the fences.

The closing demonstration featuring arena eventing with plenty of speed and tight turns to keep the crowd on their toes. Orla Byrne of Forrest Lane Sport Horses (FLS) brought along her young riders, Ruth Burke and Niamh Kirwin, and gave Teagasc’s Kate Solon the ride on one of her super horses. All three riders are active on the eventing circuit. Crea English gave the riders some tricky lines and set up fences which gave an insight into the training of these event horses for cross-country using arena fences.

Teagasc's Crea English and Emily Kate Robinson (mounted) give an equine demonstration to the crowd at Kildalton Colleg's Open Day \ Courtesy of Kildalton College