DRESSAGE Ireland is staging its National Championships next Friday, Saturday and Sunday, September 23rd to 25th at Barnadown, Co Wexford where 750 tests are due to be ridden in four arenas over the three days, an increase of 100 on last season.

A promotional video for the Slieve Bloom Stud-sponsored championships ‘Stride for more and be part of it’ gives a very brief overview of dressage in Ireland. In the video, DI chairperson, Marguerite Kavanagh, points out the inclusivity of the sport which offers classes for riders of all ages, of all abilities and, as in other equestrian sports, where men and women compete on equal terms.

Among those entered next week is England-based Irish international Dane Rawlins who was recently elected to the board of Dressage Ireland.

Rawlins is making a return visit to the Co Wexford venue in a bid to retain the title of National Champion which he won for the first time last September. He again rides the 13-year-old Westfalian gelding Espoire in Saturday evening’s Grand Prix where he will face two opponents, Sorrell Klatzko on Turbo and Tara Oliver Donohoe riding Furst Romance.

Not too surprisingly, the Preliminary championship has attracted the fixture’s largest entry of 48 but it’s also very good to see the young horse classes being so well-supported. There is a mixture of horses foaled abroad, Irish Draughts, Connemara ponies, Irish Sport Horses, etc

There are 10 entries in the four-year-old championship including the John Gavin-owned and ridden Holywell Contender, the Contendro I gelding which was recently crowned spring/summer Preliminary league winner. Rachel Dowley has entered both GFL Flashdance and GFL Nava.

In the five-year-old championship the nine horses entered include the Dutch Warmblood gelding VSH Moviestar whose rider, the Northern Region chairperson Joan Adrain, is one of three championships organisers along with Jane Averill and Claire Sedgeman. Also entered is the Kate Dwyer-owned and -ridden ISH gelding Ri Ra an Tanaiste, a bay by Revolution.

The six-year-old championship has attracted five entries including Gavin’s Holywell Spark, the Cobra gelding on which he brought up a Leinster Region spring/summer league double at Elementary level, and the Emily Kate Robinson-ridden Largento. The latter, while a registered Dutch Warmblood gelding by Lingh, was bred in Co Waterford by the Robinson family out of their Jazz mare Vitania.

All four arenas at Barnadown will be in use from Friday through to Sunday with classes for all grades from Preliminary to Grand Prix. On Sunday, eight Freestyle classes will be staged in Arena 1.

There are also Para championships for Grade III and Grade IV riders down for decision on Friday and Saturday while, following the four-year-old championship in Arena 4 on Sunday, there will be four Trail Blazer classes – for Mini riders, Under 12s, a Junior Novice championship and a Senior Novice championship.

Organisers, volunteers and riders alike will be hoping that the weather at Barnadown will be considerably better than that endured by the large entry at the Leinster Region’s well-supported show on Sunday at CoilÓg. Among the winners there were Gavin and Holywell Contender and Dwyer and Ri Ra an Tanaiste.