THE 13th might be considered an unlucky date by some but for members of the AIRC in Donegal and Sligo, it proved to be very lucky indeed as the final of the North West Riding Clubs autumn show jumping league enjoyed tropical weather at the idyllic Castle Irvine, Co Fermanagh. The North West, a sub-region of the geographically massive western region of the AIRC, enjoys a degree of independence in the scheduling of its competitions which allows it to run events on the same day as clubs further south in the region.

The five Donegal riding clubs work well together to run both a spring and an autumn show jumping league at a variety of venues, with individual clubs taking responsibility for the organisation of each leg. A number of stand-alone shows also occur over the summer and the clubs also enjoy an excellent record at national competitions such as the AIRC Hunter Trials Championship.

Sunday’s league final was organised by both Stracomer and Donegal Gaeltacht riding clubs and the day included a stand-alone dressage competition as well as the keenly fought show jumping finals. Necarne Castle, which hosted the Dressage Ireland National Championships this year and is the chosen venue for the Eventing Ireland National Championships for 2023, offers superb arenas and competitors can avail of a relaxing hack through the estate to help settle any nerves.

However, nerves certainly didn’t seem to be an issue for any of the riders in the walled garden last Sunday as they produced some excellent rounds in their pursuit of prizes.

Lauren McLaughlin’s jump-off round in the RC90, on board her dream partner Cullion Midnight Blue, was a master class in how to ride against the clock, leaving Tir Conaill’s Charlie Vial and Ben Bulben’s Leah Farrell trailing in her wake. Fortunately for Charlie, he was carrying enough points into the final to win the RC90 league despite being beaten in the final.


In the indoor arena, the dressage enthusiasts strutted their stuff under the eagle eye of judge Richard Kyle Hayes. Dressage is growing in popularity all the time in this area and the improvement in standards is evident at every competition.

Hard work and consistent schooling is definitely paying off for some of the local riders, with the Inishowen and Donegal Gaeltacht clubs particularly strong in this discipline.

The two organising clubs did an excellent job on the scheduling and the day ran very smoothly, with riders making their way from one discipline to the other like a well-oiled machine. A number of riders are making good use of the new AIRC competition system which enables riders to compete at a level above their grade and it’s great to see members pushing themselves to improve and step up a level.

The sub-region winds down for the pre-Christmas period as members take part in various unaffiliated competitions being run by local venues but the fun-loving North Westerners will be back together early in the coming year to enjoy their annual dinner dance, awards night and general hooley in early February, before donning the competitive breeches once again for their spring league.