THE main feature of the Baileys Horse Feeds flexi eventing series at The Meadows is the annual intergenerational clash of riders and, for much of this year’s series, the pace was set by 14-year-old Zara Reid.

With her father Gary’s Greylands Diamond Girl, the Drumbo schoolgirl topped the leaderboard after the first five qualifying rounds, but she couldn’t attend Saturday’s final qualifier and, on 55 points, had to settle for fourth place, as Denis Currie claimed his fourth title on Arodstown Aramis (62 points).

When asked his age, Currie didn’t answer directly. “What age is my horse?” he queried. “Nineteen,” I replied. “Well,” he said, “add 50 to that and you have my age – I have a big birthday to celebrate in July! I always say that this is a fantastic sport – where else would you find young girls, old men and everything in between competing on equal terms and loving the craic?”

Still working full-time as a partner with the Hillsborough-based building and civil engineering contractor Lilburn Contracts, Currie keeps himself fit by riding and also by mucking out not only his own horse each day, but also ponies for the three of his nine grandchildren who ride. Two of them have him under a bit of pressure at the moment, as he contemplates the season ahead

“I’m definitely going to do the two-phase at Tyrella (on Saturday, March 9th) but then I run into a bit of bother. I had planned on starting my season proper at Tyrella 1 (Saturday, March 23rd) but two of the grandchildren have qualified for The Pony Club Spring Festival at Necarne that weekend and want me to go with them.

“I told them I could event on the Saturday and drive down to watch them on the Sunday but no, they want me to go with them on the Friday and to sleep in the lorry!” continued Currie. “I think they are going to wear me down but I don’t mind, it’s only one weekend. I’ve probably said it before – I just thank God for the health and strength to still enjoy our superb sport in the saddle.”

On Saturday, Currie and Arodstown Aramis first finished fourth in the David Lee-judged Novice, in which there were 14 starters, but then won the four-runner Lucinda Webb-Graham-judged Intermediate on the excellent score of 76.6. They then had their near customary pole down show jumping before going clear over the 1m cross-country track.

“There were a few heavy showers in the morning and, unfortunately, I rode my Novice test during one of these and the horse hated it,” said the owner/rider, who is a member of the Eventing Ireland Northern Region committee. “When conditions dried up some 30 minutes later for the Intermediate class, he was as good as he ever felt in dressage.”

Nicki Nesbitt riding Kenny B, clear in the 1m XC at the Meadows EC Flexi Eventing, Feb 17th


An Irish Sport Horse gelding on whom Currie took over the ride for the start of the 2017 season, Arodstown Aramis is by Shannondale Sarco St Ghyvan and was bred in Co Meath by Carole Douglas out of the Broussard mare Rosetown Echo. Ridden by Jamie Nolan, the bay represented Ireland at the 2015 European Young Riders eventing championships at Strzegom, Poland, while Currie partnered him in the CCI2*-L at Tattersalls in 2019 when, with two fences down show jumping, they finished 23rd of the 68 starters.

The runners-up in this year’s Baileys Horse Feeds flexi eventing series on 61 points are 16-year-old Carys Black and her mother Lindsay’s nine-year-old grey gelding Glencairns Little Monkey, on whom the rider made her EI debut last season and won Saturday’s Intro A dressage class. Carys will pick up an extra prize today at The Meadows as the North Down member was announced as the leading Pony Club rider in the series.

Two combinations amassed 55 points through the league, Zara Reid as was mentioned above and geography teacher Claire Ireland. When the equality of faults criteria were brought into play, it was Ireland who was placed third with her 16-year-old palomino gelding Goin For Gold and who, as a member of Gransha, was crowned the leading Riding Club member.

It was disappointing for Reid that she missed the final qualifier, but she did get to enjoy a skiing holiday with her family and, in her absence, was announced as the winner of the prize presented by Area 17 of The Pony Club for the leading Pony Club rider in the dressage phase throughout the league. We are looking forward to seeing this North Down member compete with the British-bred mare Greylands Diamond Girl when the 2024 EI season gets underway, as they won twice in four EI80 (Q) starts last year, their first as a combination.

Hannah Hoey riding Zena, clear in the 90cm show jumping at the Meadows EC Flexi Eventing, Feb 17th

Leading thoroughbred

The Treo Eile-sponsored prize for the leading thoroughbred was won by Banbridge 16-year-old Holly Rice with her mother Julie’s eight-year-old Captain Gerrard mare Supreme Dream. This combination were winners also of the highest-placed thoroughbred prize, sponsored by the same not-for-profit organisation, at last year’s EI national championships following their second place finish in the EI80 championship.

The curtain comes down on the 2024 flexi eventing series today at The Meadows, where the league presentations will be made following the dressage phase. On behalf of the Northern Region of Eventing Ireland, event co-ordinator Dora Beacom thanked the sponsors, especially Judy Maxwell of Baileys Horse Feeds for their support, course builder Aaron McCusker and his team at The Meadows, all the judges over the six weeks to date and, of course, all the volunteers.

In commenting on the series, Beacom stated: “It is extremely encouraging to see the number of underage riders who have finished in the top section of the leaderboard and even more so considering that many of those were making their debut in the League and have attributed the benefits of the League for their tangible progress over the six weeks.”