GIVEN all the changes this year at the Association of Irish Riding Clubs, introducing a new team show jumping championship was going to prove a challenge, but eight clubs came through the qualification process to compete in the RC70/RC80 team championship final at the Festival last Saturday.

That number is far greater than at some of the qualifiers, which could be down to the rather late notification of the series taking place. Riders at these levels have been pressing the AIRC for some time to cater for them in a championship format, so hopefully there will be increased interest next year.

At the Mullingar Equestrian Centre, two teams – Lakelands and Golden Grove – completed the two regulation rounds on four faults apiece, which then put the pressure on judges Heather Camblin and Serena Finnerty to work out the result on the optimum time ruling.

When they did, it was announced that the Lakelands quartet of Sharon Shanley (Sam), Ellen Rudden (Syruss Blue), Aine Tully (Ballywillpower) and Caroline O’Reilly (Lus Na Meala Ruby Tuesday) had won narrowly from the Golden Grove trio of Samantha Hayes (Ballyegan Bart), Christine Bergin (Cowpark Bentley) and Carys Davies (Ebonys Lady).

For the record, Coole Lane finished third on eight faults with Abbeylands slotting into fourth on 12.

Competitors were very disappointed that their final, which was staged in the International Grass Arena at Mullingar, took place at the same time as the Dublin team show jumping wildcard qualifier, which attracted better sideline support. No doubt their concerns will be taken on board when next year’s schedule is being discussed.

Despite the addition of the new championship to Saturday’s schedule, the AIRC continued to stage a RC80 team competition.

Here the winners on eight faults were the Stracomer quartet of Clodagh Ní Bhrádaigh (Ballyclogher Queen), Lisa Lomax (Oilean Agercon), Louise Hamilton (Rynipso Cordela) and Victoria Hopkins (Madges Lane Jen). Thomastown and District finished second (10 faults) with Meath third (12 faults).

Among the many individual classes held on Saturday was that for senior riders, where Castle Leslie chairwoman Ann Bowe, with her traditionally home-bred Irish Sport Horse mare Little Breeze, a 2005 daughter of Ashfield Festy, ran out the narrow winner over Belbulben’s Anna Burke and her 18-year-old skewbald gelding, Rookery Apache.