The last 2 weekends in January of this year may not have been at the forefront of many peoples equine events calendars. But in a cold, wind exposed Punchestown the very best of the 14 and 15 year old pony games riders in Ireland gathered for the Irish Pony Club Mounted Games trials. As in previous years, the biggest concerns for the children were whether or not their pony was fit enough, whether they’d managed to get enough winter practice in, and whether the coldness of the day would cause handling problems and lead to unnecessary mistakes in the arena. Over 30 children trialled against each other, with randomisation of the heats, so that everybody played every game, or part games, as had been planned by the organisers. There was the added pressure of the selectors watching every heat as well. The competition was excellent and the riders battled it out to the very last race to try and secure their positions in the international teams.
The prize being the honour and pride of representing your country on an Irish Pony Club Team to go to the Royal Windsor Horse Show, The Royal Bath and West Show and similar events across the British Isles. The competition in these shows would be other teams comprising some of the best riders from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Mounted games takes an incredible amount of skill and bravery on behalf of the riders. One of the most important skills is vaulting the pony, leaping back into the saddle whilst the pony is accelerating away. It takes a great deal of courage and strength and physical flexibility to land back into the saddle before you cross the finish line, and many times this has to be done whilst actually carrying a piece of equipment. The riders who qualify for these teams spend hours training, with their teammates and trainers, supported by their families all around the country. Their commitment and dedication to their sport and their team is evident in their achievements at the international competitions.
There was very little talk of COVID in January. It was only after the trials, when early Spring training began to be disrupted by the country’s lockdown response to the worldwide pandemic that the full effects of the virus on the 2020 sporting calendar would gradually become apparent. In March and April, one by one, each of the horse shows at which the teams would normally go to the UK to compete were cancelled. There was no Windsor Horse Show 2020. There was no Royal Bath and West Show. The trips to Scotland, Chester and Shrewsbury all fell foul of the pandemic.
So this year all the riders missed out on their much looked forward to trips. The Irish Pony Club ran a competition in Tinahely Showgrounds on the 3rd October 2020 where all of the international teams competed against each other. It was a beautiful sunny day and it was a highly competitive event. The Royal Bath and West team played best on the day and won the competition. A fantastic day was had by all of the riders though and a big thanks are due to Chris Ahearne, the Chairman of the IPC Mounted Games Committee, his committee, all the trainers and all the volunteers who made it such a great event in Tinahely.
Lisadell Equine Hospital Sponsorship
Lisadell Equine Hospital is delighted to have sponsored 2 of the Irish Pony Club International Mounted Games Teams in 2020 - the Windsor Team and The Royal Bath and West Team. The teams are made up of the best pony games riders from all over the country who qualify at trials held in January each year. They would normally travel to the UK to compete in the shows the Spring and Summer. In 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic the shows were cancelled. Instead the teams competed at a home event in Tinahely Showgrounds organised by the IPC, on the 4th October.
Photograph of the IPC Windsor International Team 2020 (Green colours) - from left to right Michael O’Meara from Duhallow Hunt Pony Club riding Buttons, Jill Finn from Wexford Hunt Pony Club riding Bluebell, Caleb Schofield from Laois Hunt Pony Club riding Shadow, Áine Sharry from Shillelagh Pony Club riding Misty and Tómas Aherne from Duhallow Hunt Pony Club riding Ballyclough Princess.
Photograph of the IPC Royal Bath and West International Team 2020 (Red and Black colours) - from left to right Amy Lucey from Duhallow Hunt Pony Club, Jake Brannigan from Kildare Hunt Pony Club, Kevin O'Meara (trainer) from Duhallow Hunt Pony Club, Ruth Schofield from Laois Hunt Pony Club, Eliza Jane Queally from Kildare Hunt Pony Club and Cormac Byrne from Shillelagh Hunt Pony Club.