Northern Ireland Carriage Driving Association (NICDA) members gathered adjacent to Tandragee Rovers Football Club grounds on Saturday, July 22, for the club championships.
The event was taken on and organised by Lewis Black in just a matter of weeks, as there had been a possibility of the championships not being held. It was great that Lewis stepped in and the event went ahead on the calendar.
Thankfully the weather on the day was dry if overcast, with just a few light showers late afternoon after what had been a wet few days as club members were building and preparing the course.
All competitors started the competition with dressage under the watchful eye of FEI international driving judge Sarah Mullins.
The competitors then moved to the cones phase stewarded by Stanley and Heather Beattie, Leslie Mulholland and Sinead McIntyre.
The course proved challenging, befitting the championship nature of the event with a number of driving elements and many tight turns. This proved the case with penalties scored throughout the day with Jeffrey Lyons in the Open Horse class with his Dutch Hackney horse driving the only double clear round, over 20 seconds inside the time allowed.
The good weather made for a pleasant day for the horses on the 12km marathon section. They all coped with the course and finished well.
The course included Section A on the roads around the Tandragee area with Section B a sterner test in fields. The man-made obstacles designed by Billy McCombe offered a combination of tight and free flowing routes, providing all competitors with a range of options to choose the most suitable route for them. All competitors certainly enjoyed the marathon phase.
In the Pre-Novice Pony class it was Deborah Armstrong and her Hackney pony who took the honours in all three phases with Christine Wright taking over Gina Morrison’s drive at the last minute due to one of her own pair being unwell. In the Pre-Novice Horse class, Dominic Muldoon claimed victory with his new horse in its first season.
In the Novice Pony class, honours in the dressage phase were tied between David Morrison with “Jack” and Rachel Campbell and her Hackney pony “Logan” on 51.60 penalties. Judith Lyttle was less than three penalties behind in third.
Judith drove a very impressive, smooth marathon to take first place with a score that rivalled the Open single competitors, with David second and Rachel in third place.
The cones phase certainly seemed to decide the winner of the class with Judith coming out on top with three cones down inside the time. David had five cones down and Rachel six.
With a win in two out of the three phases, Judith Lyttle took the class win with an overall penalty score of 112.91. Rachel was second on 129.12 and David third on 133.07.
Moving on to the Novice Horse class, Emma Berwick drove her Friesian mare “Kate” very sympathetically in her first season building on the progress she continues to make in each event to claim the win in this class.
In the Open Pony class, Julie Ingram and “Jimmy” continued their consistent good vein of form driving a pleasing dressage test in this first season of the new Open canter test scoring 50.24 penalties, and went on to drive the fastest marathon of the day with a 46.45 penalty score. With just two cones down inside the time, she finished on an overall penalty score of 102.69, the lowest Open penalty score of the competition to win the class.
The Open Horse saw four drivers going head to head. Edwin Bryson took first in the dressage phase with his chestnut Hackney horse “Blazer” with the second best Open dressage of the day on 49.92 penalties from Alex Bryson in second place on 55.04. Jeffrey Lyons was one penalty further behind in third place.
Neil Kearns claimed first place on the marathon phase, blazing round on a score of 48.71 penalties. Jeffrey was one tenth of a penalty behind in second, and Alex Bryson five penalties behind in third.
Moving on to the cones phase and Jeffrey drove an exemplary round to produce the only double clear of the day, really attacking the course and providing an exhibition on how to drive a challenging course.
All four drivers made the time on the cones course, and it was Edwin who was placed second in this phase with two cones down. Alex had four down and Neil had five down.
Overall class honours went to Jeffrey with a penalty score of 105.47, Edwin was second on 111.92 and Alex was third on 120.55.
Three drivers contested the Open Pony Pairs class. Eddie Ingram won the dressage phase on 48.00 penalties with his pair of Hackney ponies, the best Open dressage score of the day, fifteen penalties ahead of Ross Ewing and Denise Taylor in joint third place.
In the cones phase, Ross had three cones down inside the time allowed to win this phase, with Eddie second and Denise third with her pair of dun Welsh ponies.
In the marathon phase, Ross drove a very good round to edge the win from Eddie in second and Denise in third. Eddie’s good performance in dressage gave him a lead which was hard to claw back seeing him claim the overall class victory on a total score of 121.09 penalties from Ross in second and Denise in third.
In the Open Horse Pairs class, Robert McNeill took first spoils in the dressage phase with his pair of Arabo Friesians on a score of 62.80, with Billy Lamont in second on 66.80 penalties.
Robert had a corrected course in one of the obstacles which awarded him 20 penalties, which knocked him well into second place in this phase following Billy’s good marathon round.
Both drivers were over the time allowed in the cones phase, with Robert having fewer cones down to be crowned class winner on an overall score of 186.40 penalties, from Billy in second.
In the Pony Team class, former club chairman John Goodwin was the sole competitor as he drove his team of Welsh ponies. He drove an impressive marathon, with an overall score faster than the two Horse Pair competitors. His cones round with just two cones down and eight time penalties was also commended by those who watched it.
The Robert Johnston Memorial Trophy was presented as a special award for the Best Turned Out Groom to Rodney Ross.
At the prizegiving event organiser Lewis Black thanked all those who had worked tirelessly to ensure the club championships were able to go ahead.
He acknowledged the landowner Paul Quinn; the team of club members who helped over a series of nights to build the course; Anne Lyons and Sinead McIntyre for their help with the administration involved for the event.
Special thanks must also go to local farmer and club member Roy Gamble along with Edwin Bryson for providing their time and machinery to help prepare the event field. Also thanks to dressage judge Sarah Mullins for her time during the day.
The next event on the NICDA calendar is the two-day event at the beautiful Shane’s Castle Estate in Antrim on 5th and 6th August.
The culmination of the season is the All Ireland Carriage Driving Championships at Caledon Estate on 19th and 20th August, which is also a Regional Qualifier event for the British Championships in Cirencester in September.
For more details on this event and other club news, go to www.ni-carriagedrivingassociation.com.