CONNEMARA PERFORMANCE HUNTER CHAMPIONSHIPS
With a friesian cow, sheep and a sheep-dog, hens and a goose and even a witch, yes a witch (at the first fence!) all keeping an eye on events, the Dublin Hunter jumping track, now in its third year, again proved to be an imaginative challenge. First up in Class 71 were 16 young Connemara ponies, all qualified from one of six national qualifiers. These ponies, aged 5 to 7 years old, some relatively inexperienced, all made it around Ian Stark’s daunting course of 13 fences, not even stopping to look at the wicked witch trying to steal a piece of toadstool from the first fence. see above. (Click on photos to enlarge).
Competitors were marked on jumping skill and also in a ridden phase and in–hand, so conformation, way of going, manners and obedience are all taken into account. French breeder Christine Marés and British event- rider Richard Meade, who were booked to judge all Connemara Classes for the Wednesday and Thursday of the Show, faced a busy two days.
Their first winner in Class 71 was Lydia Dawson on the 7yr. old Gloster Boy (Laerkens Cascade Dawn-Ridge Sally) another Dublin win for this accomplished pair who had won the Ridden Class for riders under 17 here in 2010.
Bruckless Elmar (Linsfort Boy-Bruckless Emer) ridden by Caroline Murtagh, daughter of top flat-racing Johnny Murtagh, was runner-up. Elmar is one of those rare Connemaras nowadays being a small-sized roan pony but with a powerful engine.
Anne Stanley’s Ballymacar (Templebready Fear Bui-Lachstone Bella), a 7yr old ridden by Hannah Wentges was a close third.
Class 72 for ponies 8 – 15 years started without delay after more questions were asked for these more mature ponies. Again this was a competitive class fielding 16 competitors. It was Lorli Higgins’ 10yr old grey gelding Grey Victory (Glencarrig Finn-Kilmaley Lady 2nd ), a Champion Ridden Connemara here in 2007, who scooped the glory for rider Emily Higgins whose skill and determination have given this pair many wins over the past few years.
Another 10 year old, the grey stallion Lettermuckoo Lad (Island Lad-Hilltop Girl) jumped a great round and rode into 2nd place for owner Patsy Fortune and rider Lisa Murphy. A winner of the younger pony class in 2009, Alison Suffern’s Annagh Storm (Ashfield Festy-Caltra Lass) was ridden by Rachel Suffern into 3rd place. The flatwork,including a 3 second halt, and conformation phases would have lost marks for some Connemaras who had jumped really fluently. Amazingly these competitions with their 3 rider phases and marking systems for each phase ran to their allotted programme time. Hats off to one and all and especially to the riders who prepared their ponies so well for this Championship Final (more pics. to appear in Gallery)
In-Hand Connemara ponies
The afternoon was given over to the Connemara In-Hand classes in Ring 1. There were only 2 Classes and first in were the led stallions, with 6 entries in the ring.
Ribbons and trophy went again to last years winner, the 10yr old Killacloran (Moy Hazy Cove-Castle Star) bred by Henry O’Toole and owned by Merryn Huntley Jones from Waterford. This stallion has been a consistent winner both in Ridden and In-hand classes over the past 2 seasons, having most recently taken the stallion class honours at the Midland Breeders Show in Mulligar.
Eamon Burke’s quality Coolillaun Cushlawn a 6yr.old son of the Burke’s own Currachmore Cashel and out of Glencarrig Aisling, brought the second prize back to Galway.
In third place was the imposing Mountain Cascade (Laerkens Cascade Dawn-Mountain Lady) bred and owned by the Grogan family of Claremorris in Co. Mayo. Both these stallions are well known on the Western showing circuit where they are invariably in the ribbons.
Connemara Pony Breeders Championship
Now it was time for the newly introduced Connemara Pony Breeders Championship. The RDS had allocatedf a prize fund of €5,000 for this competition and qualifiers were held at specific Shows in June and July. The RDS, in its stated aim to showcase the Connemara pony says “ The Class is aimed at registered Connemara pony mares who are likely to produce performance ponies and who currently have an athletic foal at foot” The mares score is 40%, based on their perceived ability to produce foals with obvious performance potential, and the foal is 60%. Conformation, type, structure and paces are marked as the pair walk and trot along the three sides of a lined triangular area and the foal is also judged on movement, balance and cadence.
All very worthy aspirations but on the down side this all takes time and it was a long wait for 16 mares and their foals – in fact 2½ hours – before a verdict was reached. Meanwhile the less committed spectators drifted away as the class ran way over time. But apparently Judges get a much better look at the ponies than in an ordinary showing class and that has to be a good thing. Still it would have been nice to have seen some young stock classes as well. The combination which beat off all the competition was Deirdre and Francis O’Reilly’s Glenmore Kelly’s Owen by Abbeyleix Owen out of Gentian Gold and her quality colt foal by Cuileog Cashel. This 15yr old mare has been a frequent winner for the Co Meath O’Reilly’s and has taken prizes and championships go leor, including winning the Connemara in-Hand Championship at the RDS 2 years ago.
As their Reserve the Judges opted for the much-decorated combination of Sinéad Lusby McGrath’s 13 yr. old Lucky Hazel (Mac Owen-Lucky Anna) and her lovely filly foal by Smokey Idea, whose most recent win was the All Ireland Broodmare Class at the Midland Breeders Show in Mullingar. The drive back home will have been a joyful one for each of these dedicated Connemara pony breeders.
But where, oh where was the Connemara Pony Breeders Association stand on the day which saw wonderful displays of all types of Connemaras ridden and in-hand, but for all those interested in getting information about the Breed or even hoping
make a purchase, there was, alas, no back-up facility. No one to offer advice or help out.??
All pics. © Niamh’s Weblog