Carriage drivers from across Ireland converged on the Co Down village of Waringstown recently for the Northern Ireland Carriage Driving Association Championships held in the grounds of Waring Estate for the first time by kind permission of Michael Harnett and family.
NICDA have been regular guests of the Harnett family in Waring Estate for many years for the excellent one day event held annually by the Lyons family but this was the first time the estate has hosted the club championships.
The event was also being run as a British CarriageDriving Regional event allowing competitors from Novice classes upwards the opportunity of qualifying for the BC National Championships which will be held at Cricklands Equestrian Centre in South Wales in September, so competition was fierce throughout the weekend as many fought for those hard earned qualifying spots and the title of Northern Ireland champion in the different classes.
Weeks of hard work and dedication had been put in prior to the event by the committee of the NICDA championships, with hours and hours of effort put in by the course designer and builder Billy McCombe and Technical Delegate Lewis Black and their small team of willing helpers in order to lay on an event of top class national standards.
It was great to welcome a number of Horse Sport Ireland-Carriage Driving members from the south, and there was no doubt that all who had turned up were determined to have a great weekend’s competition.
Saturday morning started dry after very heavy rain overnight. The day commenced with the dressage being judged in one arena by Ivor Harper and Clare Fitzsimmons whilst the Open and qualifying classes dressage was judged by Joyce Simpson (Scotland) and Sarah Mullins (Ireland), with a variety of tests to be judged.
In the Crystal class, young driver Sarah Hughes scored 48.75 penalties, with two Horse Sport Ireland competitors going head to head in the Pre-Novice class: John Kennedy just pipping junior driver Kris Rohrssen by 0.25 penalties in this phase. One of the largest classes of the competition was Novice Pony with six competitors doing battle here. Judith McKeever Felce and her grey Connemara pony “Star” led with 55.40 penalties, Michael Ryan was second on 58.00 penalties and Annika Rohrssen third on 58.40 penalties with her new pony in its second competition. The Novice Horse class fielded the largest entry and the honours went to John Hughes from Co.Wicklow with his Friesian horse on 50.80 penalties, Vincent Duggan was second on 52.40 penalties and Dawn O’Donnell, also driving a Friesian was third on 54.80 penalties. The Novice Pony Pair class had one competitor David Morrison driving his cousin, NICDA club chairman Alwyn’s, pair of grey ponies scoring 66.80 penalties.
In the Novice qualifying classes for the BC Championships, two competitors in the Pony class and one in the Horse class drove their tests in front of two BC judges. Weather conditions had taken a serious turn for the worst by this stage with torrential rain and flashes of thunder and lightning. Rachel Campbell from Newry driving her Hackney pony “Bally Grasshopper” drove a nice test to take first place on 54.40 penalties, with Judith McKeever Felce just two penalties behind. In the Novice Horse Regional Qualifier class, Dominic Muldoon from Aughnacloy driving his KWPN chestnut horse scored 68.40 penalties.
In the new classes this season, Intermediate Pony and Horse, there were six competitors in total. In the pony class, Emma Golding and her Connemara pony ‘Lily’ took first place with 58.72 penalties with Denise Taylor less than three penalties behind in second place. Honours in the Intermediate Horse class went to Jeffrey Lyons driving his newly acquired KWPN chestnut horse “Waarborg” in only their second competition to score 50.56 penalties. Sara Clinghan and “Harry” were a very close second on 52.80 penalties with Edwin Bryson third on 56.64 penalties. Don Walsh from Co. Tipperary with his Welsh Cob X “Arthur” were fourth on 56.64 penalties.
The Open Pony class saw three competitors vying for the class title, with Julie Ingram in the Regional Qualifier class. Despite driving in extremely heavy rain, Des Sheridan from Co. Dublin claimed first place after driving a very pleasing test with 47.52 penalties with his sister’s Welsh X mare “Ruby”, with Julie Ingram and “Jimmy” second on 57.92 penalties and Judith Lyttle and her roan pony third on 60.48 penalties in their first season in the Open class.
The Open Pony Pairs has been a tightly contested class all season, and Eddie Ingram and his Hackneys “Rossi” and “Rooney” won the red rosette in dressage, 15 penalties ahead of Ross Ewing in second, with John Goodwin in third. In the Open Horse Pairs class, one penalty was all that separated Robert McNeill and Ger Hennessy, with Pete Noone in third on 68.96 penalties, so it was all to play for heading out onto the marathon phase. Folke Rohrssen, who has represented Ireland internationally at World Championships level, provided a masterclass in the dressage phase with his horses scoring 41.86 penalties.
The Pony Team class saw Richard Logan from Randalstown with his coloured ponies score 54.40 penalties. This concluded the dressage phase of the competition during which all but a few drivers unfortunately had to drive their test in a deluge of heavy rain throughout the course of the morning.
With the stormy conditions continuing into the afternoon, it was decided, on safety grounds, to postpone the cone driving phase until Sunday morning when the forecast predicted drier weather. The cones course provoked a variety of different reactions from drivers as competitors had to negotiate two slaloms and a hill. From shortly after 7am, competitors could be found walking the course.
With the walking of the course over, it was time for the driving to do the talking. After the first few had driven their rounds, it became clear that the course was driving much better than people had initially feared. It was also reassuring to see that time could be made without having to scurry around the course, a good forward trot proving sufficient.
All competitors, family and friends later enjoyed a lovely barbecue in the marquee on site on Saturday evening. There was a fundraising raffle with prizes including a bicycle, TV and a magnum of champagne. A good time was had by all, raffle winners went away very pleased and the challenges of the marathon course that lay ahead were forgotten for a few hours.
Sunday morning dawned dry and much brighter after a dry spell overnight which saw the ground drying out a little already. Many took advantage of the nicer weather to walk obstacles from day break.
Billy McCombe had designed excellent obstacles, all beautifully presented with a selection of routes to suit all animals in each. Section A was almost 4km and took competitors around Waring Estate through fields and along lanes and tracks. Given the heavy rain in preceding days, it proved a testing opener for some animals with accurate judgment of time essential to make the time allowed on this section.
After the 10 minutes vet halt, the competitors set out on Section B which was approx. 5.5km. Again, this was through the estate with the obstacles all coming fairly quickly after the halt. All drivers commented on how well the obstacles had driven and all animals were safe and well at the end.
The Crystal and Pre-Novice competitors only had to drive gates A to D in the seven obstacles. The ponies in these classes handled the course extremely well and the drivers grew in confidence as they completed their rounds. Judith McKeever Felce continued her winning start to take first place again in the marathon phase, holding off Jean Rea from Co. Tipperary in second place and Annika Rohrssen with her new German bred pony in third.
Vincent Duggan and his new horse are gaining experience with each event and drove a good marathon in the Novice Horse class to claim first place with 110.30 penalties, just one penalty ahead of John Hughes, and Emma Berwick and her Friesian mare “Pippa” in third. David Morrison was unfortunate in the Novice Pony Pair class to be eliminated on the marathon phase for driving obstacle three incorrectly.
In the Intermediate Pony class, Emma and Denise swapped places on the marathon phase with Denise gaining the upper hand in this phase. The Intermediate Horse class saw Sara Clinghan go one better than the dressage phase to win, two penalties ahead of Edwin Bryson from Scarva, and Don Walsh in third. The Open Pony class saw the three fastest marathons of the day with only three penalties separating the three competitors.
All three drivers demonstrated skilful speed and accuracy providing a great exhibition of attacking driving, with ponies which were full of running. Julie took first place in this phase on 73.46 penalties, Des second on 75.71 penalties and Judith third on 76.79 penalties.
In the Open Pony Pairs class, Ross Ewing blazed around the marathon to have the fastest multiples marathon of the day on 91.93 penalties, less than three penalties clear of his nearest rival Eddie Ingram.
The Open Horse Pairs drivers had good marathons with Robert McNeill posting the fastest time in six of the seven obstacles to take the win in this phase, with Ger Hennessy from Co. Kilkenny with his Welsh Cobs finishing second. Folke Rohrssen in the Advanced Horse Pairs class drove an excellent marathon taking on some of the tighter options, producing some very impressive times. Richard Logan drove a pleasing marathon with his pony team, and despite a slight hiccup in the water obstacle, went on to drive very smooth routes in the following six obstacles.
To complete the weekend’s proceedings, the overall prizes and trophies were presented by the President of the Jury, Joyce Simpson.
A large number of people spent months working extremely hard to ensure the event was a success, and the committee spent many hours planning behind the scenes. Sincere thanks to the Harnett family; to the many stewards, helpers and volunteers who helped in preparing for or during the event; to our dressage judges Joyce Simpson, Sarah Mullins, Ivor Harper and Clare Fitzsimmons; to Anne Lyons, Sinead McIntyre and Christine Wright for carrying out the administrative duties; to the hard-working scorers Anne Lyons, Joyce Shepherd and Pam Shepherd for their tireless work, and finally to Rachel Bailie, our veterinary officer. We are also very grateful to those who donated prizes to the fundraising raffle, namely Wilson Audio, Richhill and TRI Equestrian NI.
If you would like to know more information about the event or the sport of carriage driving, or to view photographs from the championships, go to www.ni-carriagedrivingassociation.com.
These championships in Waringstown see the NICDA calendar of events draw to the close for this season, although many of the competitors will be heading to the All Ireland Carriage Driving Championships in Cuffesgrange, Co. Kilkenny on 24th to 26th August to try to add more silverware to their collection this year.
The results of the NICDA Club Championships 2018 were:
1st: Sarah Hughes (147.91 penalties)
1st: Kris Rohrssen (147.39 penalties)
2nd: John Kennedy (261.53 penalties)
1st: Judith McKeever Felce (146.88 penalties) Qualified for British Championships
2nd: Jean Rea (174.26 penalties)
3rd: Annika Rohrssen (191.17 penalties)
1st: John Hughes (161.96 penalties)
2nd: Vincent Duggan (162.70 penalties)
3rd: Emma Berwick (220.32 penalties)
1st: Denise Taylor (153.86 penalties)
2nd: Emma Golding (166.80 penalties)
1st: Sara Clinghan (136.93 penalties)
2nd: Edwin Bryson (144.06 penalties)
3rd: Don Walsh (190.91 penalties)
1st: Des Sheridan (123.23 penalties)
2nd: Julie Ingram (131.38 penalties) Qualified for British Championships
3rd: Judith Lyttle (137.27 penalties)
Open Pony Pairs:
1st: Eddie Ingram (152.15 penalties) Qualified for British Championships
2nd: Ross Ewing (174.95 penalties)
3rd: John Goodwin (191.14 penalties)
Open Horse Pairs:
1st: Robert McNeill (167.66 penalties)
2nd: Ger Hennessy (182.47 penalties) Qualified for British Championships
Advanced Horse Pairs:
1st: Folke Rohrssen (141.90 penalties)
1st: Richard Logan (209.59 penalties)