Equestrian Intervarsities in Cork

The National Equestrian Intervarsity Championships took place last weekend 20th-23rd February. The weekend is the highlight in the calendar of Irish Student Riding and is much anticipated each year. The weekend was co-hosted by UCC and CIT Equestrian Clubs and saw over 250 competitors from 20 colleges around the country descend on Maryville Stables, Carrigaline, Co. Cork for two days of intense competition to battle it out for the top spots in Dressage, Show jumping and Prix Caprilli.  Saturday morning saw the first rounds of dressage kick off, all of which was kindly sponsored by Bucas. The outdoor ring saw the O’Brien’s Saddlery show jumping competition get underway. After a long day the contest began to heat up as riders were announced for Sunday’s final rounds and riders retreated to the Radisson Blu hotel. That night saw the start of the Alex Ott Appeal fundraiser, with a mechanical rodeo bull and charity waxathon proving extremely popular. A few brave gents from colleges generously put themselves forward and soon there was not a hairy chest in sight. A slightly later start on the Sunday morning was welcomed by the students and the day began with the ever-competitive Prix Caprilli competition. This class consists of a standard dressage test with some cross poles incorporated and is geared towards first years or newcomers to student riding. The team from AIT impressed the judges to claim the top spot in the team category with Ryan Maxwell from Queens University Belfast taking individual first prize. After a quick adjustment to the arena, third round dressage began and following some beautifully executed tests, the finalists of were announced. Irish Olympians Donegan-Ryan Eventing generously provided two of their elite horses take to the ring under the accomplished hands of Stephanie O’Callaghan and Katie Nolan. It was a proud moment for UCD as a hush descended on the indoor to see two of their riders contend for the honours. It was Nolan who proved victorious in the end however and saw her ride away with the individual dressage title.  The wet weather didn’t put a dampener on the outdoor show jumping ring kicking off for the penultimate round and eight soon became whittled down to two . Jack Hutchinson from Trinity and Carolyn Harty from DIT went head to head in the 1.20m final which saw them each do a round on Philip Copithorne’s Fort Arthur Going For Gold and Lily Walsh Horgan’s Ballyvaad Olympic Clover. In the first of these rounds, four faults from Hutchinson and a clear round from Harty led to a nail-biting final where they swapped horses. However Harty was not giving up her lead that easily and took home the individual first place title much to the delight of her DIT compatriots. She won a pair of custom-made JCT Equestrian boots for her efforts, but the two were also treated to an unexpected involuntary dunk into an impromptu water jump much to their surprise. The students retreated back to the hotel that night for the Awards Ball which saw close to 300 attend. The Alex Ott Appeal raffle was held with superb prizes donated by businesses and hunts around Munster. Close to €800 was raised for the appeal by the kind contribution of students and supporters. Soon the awards were well underway. The title for the Bucas-sponsored team dressage went to the UL team of Brigitte Murphy, Shannon Pratt and Susan Hayes while the trio ofMaria O’Sullivan, Ian Hickey and Jodi Finucane from UCD were announced as O’Brien’s Saddlery Team Show Jumping winners. Nerves were high in anticipation of the coveted overall college award which was kindly sponsored by Coolmore Stud. A resounding cheer went out when the title was awarded to UL, a club which has seen significant success in the past year under the captaincy of Paul McDermott. Major thanks were extended to IURCA, sponsors and horse owners along with everyone else who made the weekend possible. The standard of riding throughout the weekend is testament to the strength of Student Riding in Ireland. The event ended on a high and student riders made the most of the last night of the event dancing into the wee hours. Competitors and organisers are already looking forward to next year.

Photo courtesy of Tommie McCarthy