INCONGRUOUSLY, there was wall to wall sunshine for Dressage Ireland’s national winter finals at Castle Irvine, Necarne last weekend when most of the action at the Co Fermanagh estate took place in the iconic walled garden.

Staged in association with Fermanagh & Omagh District Council, the finals attracted good support at the lower grades, with 39 combinations competing in the Preliminary championship, but, not so at the higher levels where there were some notable absentees.

In the Big Tour, Josephine Delahoyde was left to compete on her own in Sunday’s Grand Prix Special with Lets Go 110 following the withdrawal of her sole rival, Kevin Acres. The latter won Saturday’s Grand Prix with Con McCarthy’s Dutch Warmblood gelding Ganesh (64.728), an 11-year-old by Jazz. The Marlton Stud rider and her 18-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Limbus completed on a combined percentage score of 128.441%.

Eight combinations contested day one of the Small Tour championship when the Prix St George was won by Kildare’s Belinda Breterton with her Dutch Warmblood gelding, Galaxy Moone (66.839). The combined scores of visiting judges Gwyneth Lewis (C) and Clive Halsall (M) had Laragh O’Grady second on her Irish Sport Horse gelding, Mullentine Emerald Wolfe Tone (65), although Lewis only had her in sixth.

In Sunday’s Intermediate I, former national champion O’Grady and her 11-year-old chesnut son of Jaguar Mail topped the scores of Suzanne Petty (C) and Pam Bushell (M) on 66.397 ahead of Breterton who fared better here on Deco (66.177), her 14-year-old black Dutch Warmblood gelding, as Galaxy Moone could only finish fifth (63.530).

When the two lots of scores were added together to decide the destination of the title, it was O’Grady and her Heather Allen-bred Mullentine Emerald Wolfe Tone (131.397) who were winners of the cash, sash and championship rug with Breterton claiming the reserve slot on Galaxy Moone (130.369).

Irish Draught winner

At Elementary level, 14 combinations contested the Leinster Region Category 2 championship where the honours went to Co Wicklow’s Niamh Nolan and her Irish Draught gelding Toberpatrick Tom Boy, an eight-year-old grey by Ballybrack Diamond.

The Eastern Region Category 3 title went to Co Waterford’s Emily Kate Robinson and her home-bred Dutch Warmblood mare Kekepania, a chesnut daughter of Lingh.

Category 3 riders Anne Marie Dunphy and Rachel Dowley traded places over the weekend. At Medium level, Carrick-On-Suir’s Dowley took the title on the Dutch Warmblood gelding Insticator B.S. (133.636), a nine-year-old bay by Florencio, with Dunphy placing second on the ISH gelding LEB Hugo (133.258).

In the Advanced Medium championship, it was Horse Sport Ireland’s youth dressage team manager Dunphy who claimed the honours with LEB Hugo (131.274), a Woodlander Rockstar nine-year-old, ahead of Dowley and Insticator B.S. (129.455).

Co Kildare’s Tara Hayes saw off seven rivals to win the Advanced Medium Category 2 championship on her mother Fiona’s Dutch Warmblood gelding Ferrero K, a 12-year-old by Apache.

Para championships

There were uncontested victories in the three Para championships for Grade II competitor Grainne Hallahan and her ISH mare Jazzland, a 15-year-old daughter of Silvano; for Grade IV rider Geraldine Lowry and her 19-year-old ISH mare Loughmourne Diamond (by Flintstone); and for Grade V competitor Lucinda Blakiston Houston and her 12-year-old home-bred black mare, Beltrim Double G.

On board her CPEDI3* ride Happy Feet 3, a 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding by Hotline, Blakiston Houston shared the honours in the SVS Equine Advanced championship with Ellen Lonergan who has recently taken over the ride on another 15-year-old Hanoverian gelding, Rachel Dowley’s Cadens. The brown son of Hochadel remains in Dowley’s care.