Benbulben Riding Club scooped three of the five national titles on offer at the Connolly’s RED MILLS Hunter Trials Championships at Flowerhill Equestrian Centre, Galway last Sunday.
Stephanie Haiber claimed the first title of the day for the club in the advanced primary championship. Sharon McGowan added the second in the advanced intermediate while Brendan Dolan won his second successive title, this time in the advanced open division.
Meanwhile earlier in the day, the husband and wife duo of Kean and Louise O’Hara ran out victors in the mixed pairs for the Sligo based club.
Club chairperson Finola Murphy said, “It was a fantastic day for the club as we had around 30 rider and horse combinations taking part and 11 of these were placed.” “It’s a terrific result for a club that is only 11 years old. I’m delighted to be associated with the club,” she added.
The Association of Irish Riding Clubs runs its championships differently to other hunter trials, as an optimum time system is preferred rather than speeding against the clock. Competitors were given a 20 second time gap and if they completed the course outside of this, they incurred a time penalty for each and every second.
The Oliver Walsh designed course, which was described as a challenging and tough track by many demanded accurate riding and included 20 fences with up to 25 jumping efforts.
Stephanie Haibers route to the advanced primary title was made all the more difficult with a large starting field of 86 riders.
The Bundoran resident was one of twelve riders who completed the course with no jumping or time penalties to add. Haiber, however, was the only rider to finish on the optimum time of seven minutes 18 seconds on Stracomer Super Mario. Brenda Burke was next closest on Bonnie Mismatch IRE as the Tir Conaill was three seconds adrift in second place.
Sharon McGowan also stopped the clock on the optimum time of six minutes 26 seconds on board Somethings Gotta Give to claim the spoils in the advanced intermediate championship. The Benbulben member was one of four riders who had nothing to add around the country with local resident Thomas Daniels finishing best of the rest on Barnaboy Jackeen, just one second off the target.
Brendan Dolan picked up his second successive title for the Sligo based club when he won the advanced open division after a close contest, having won the open division last year. Dolan riding Nisqually De May finished five seconds off the target with nothing to add to finish ahead of last year’s winner Laura Schneider on Chloe Lass for Donegal Gaeltacht.
The Sligo clubs other win of the day came in the mixed pairs where Kean O’Hara (Seamus of Annaghmore) and Louise O’Hara (Charisma of Annaghmore) were the only pair to finish on zero penalties. The Benbulben pair crossed the line just ahead of their clubmates Daire Diver (Stracomer Hidalgo) and Derek Kane (Monart) who picked up 1 time penalty to finish in second.
Nuenna Farms Leonard Reamsbottom overcame stiff opposition in the intermediate championship to claim the title out of a large field of almost 80 starters.
The clock decided the placings as seven riders returned home within the time to finish on zero penalties and it was a tight affair as just three seconds separated the top three riders.
The Castlecomer resident riding his eight year old bay ISH mare, Lightening Spirit, crossed the line just two seconds ahead of the optimum time of seven minutes 12 seconds. This gave him a two second advantage over his nearest rival, Francis McNicholl on Trial and Error for Letterkenny in second.
The remaining championship title went to Dane Curtis in the open division. The Knocknamana Country rider picked up 26 time penalties on Bomar but with no jumping penalties to add, this was good enough to claim the spoils ahead of Emily Schneider (Ray Lady) from Donegal Gaeltacht.
Letterkenny retained the intermediate pairs for a second successive year, this time with the duo of Leo Porter (Silver Conquer) and Marina Hamilton (London Jen).
Only six pairs completed the course with no jumping penalties with the Letterkenny pair only picking up three penalties to take the top spot ahead of Slieve Blooms Jan Boons (Clonraghs Tomboy) and Sinead Boyd (Hollpark Lady).
In the other remaining pairs competition for advanced primary riders, Margaret Wallace (Monaveen Bill) and Margaret Walsh (Dollar Boy) faired best of the two pairs, out of almost 30 starters, who completed the course with nothing to add. The Thomastown and District duo were just seven seconds off that target to keep them ahead of Chevals Anfela Day (GI Goldrush) and Yvonne Hughes (Little Hawk) in second place, some two seconds further adrift.