Morgan Skillen and Kirstin Thom, both members of Mid Antrim Pony Club recently qualified to attend the Pony Club UK Championships at Cholmonodeley Castle, Cheshire in Endurance Riding.
Both girls qualified at the St Patrick’s Coast Ride in April this year and since then they have been training daily and attending Endurance Events in Enniskillen, Gosford, Glenariffe and Tardree Forests, in order to maintain their own stamina levels and their ponies fitness.
This equestrian discipline is rigorous, demanding and challenging. It requires dedication, many varieties of training and complete fitness of both pony and rider. Morgan and Kirstin need to understand the silent language of their ponies as any subtle change can make a big difference to the end result.
After all the blood, sweat, tears and dedicated relentless training it all came together perfectly at the Championships and Morgan Skillen on Mayo enjoyed an impressive win to take the first placed Individual title.
Kirstin Thom on Nathan came third in the individual event but came first within the team event with fellow team members Kathryn Weir and Tara Findlay from Iveagh and North Down respectively.
It was a great day for Pony Club members in Northern Ireland as all top three places went to NI riders – a clean sweep for Northern Ireland!
After a 10 hour trip starting at 2.30am on Saturday both ponies settled well and seemed to enjoy their new surroundings and were none the worse for wear after the ferry crossing to Wales.
After one day of full rest the ponies were keen to get going.
On Monday morning the ponies passed their vet tests with flying colours and they both took off. 34Km later they were home after trekking, galloping, climbing and trotting for almost three hours.
Another series of vet tests showed all the ponies to be fit with Morgan’s pony Mayo being the fittest pony attending the event with the lowest heart rate and quickest recovery time of the day.
All these points led to their victory and gave Morgan Skillen her first UK Champion title with her pony Mayo.
Morgan was delighted to have been placed first and to receive a silver salver whilst Mayo was happy with a pat on his neck and his usual carrot – Morgan thinks Mayo likes his winner’s embroidered Championship blanket too.
Kirstin Thom was equally delighted to receive her embroidered saddle cloth for winning as part of the team event.
Both girls would like to thank Ildra (Irish Long Distance Riding Association) for their guidance and training opportunities, Colin Thom (Endurance Co-ordinator with Mid Antrim Pony Club) and Lucinda Webb for accompanying them on hacks and helping with all round fitness.