Rid­ers out of this World

Ir­ish com­peti­tors land six cham­pi­onship medals in the space of a week, re­ports Siob­hán English

Irish Independent - Farming - - HORSES -

FIVE world cham­pi­onship medals in one week­end and six in the space of a week — it was un­prece­dented in Ir­ish eques­trian sport, but not sur­pris­ing given the depth of ta­lent we have in both rid­ers and horses at present. For Ire­land to win both team and in­di­vid­ual sil­ver at the FEI World Eques­trian Games in event­ing in Mill Spring, North Carolina, last week was truly the ic­ing on the cake af­ter years of hard work by all con­cerned.

Just 24 hours be­fore­hand, Ire­land had cre­ated his­tory when three medals were won in the five-year-old cat­e­gory at the FEI/WBFSH World Breed­ing Jump­ing Cham­pi­onships for Young Horses in Bel­gium.

The pre­vi­ous week, it was the turn of our pony rid­ers, who were crowned world cham­pi­ons at the FEI Youth Na­tions’ Cup World Fi­nals, also in Bel­gium.

Never be­fore had one coun­try claimed gold, sil­ver and bronze in Lanaken, a re­sult which will push the ISH Stud­book back up the showjump­ing rank­ings in the com­ing weeks.

Eleven horses from these shores boast­ing the ISH pre­fix had qual­i­fied for the three main fi­nals for five, six and seven-year-olds, but it was in the five-year-old cat­e­gory that we shone best.

Fifty-three horses from all over the globe qual­i­fied for this fi­nal, and 24 of those made the cut for the jump-off, where the Ir­ish trio of Richard How­ley (Up­per­court Cap­pu­cino), Dar­ragh Ryan (CSF Sir Ge­orge) and Mikey Pen­der (HHS Van­cou­ver) claimed the first three places.

By the late sire Pa­cino, Up­per­court Cap- pu­cino is out of the OBOS Qual­ity 004 mare Up­per­court Posh and was bred in Kilkenny by Paul O’Byrne.

Of the win­ning horse, which is now owned by How­ley and his part­ner Mor­gan Kent, the rider said: “I bought him af­ter a show in Mill­street. The horse was owned at that time by Ger O’Neill and Ja­son Hig­gins. I think the world of him and he has done enough now for this year.

“It’s amaz­ing, I came here two years ago to watch and this was my first time rid­ing here. It was an ab­so­lute thrill to ride in front of this won­der­ful crowd.”

Not only was it a fan­tas­tic re­sult for Ir­ish breed­ing, but also for our young rid­ers who showed their im­mense ta­lent on the world stage.

Ryan (22) set the pace when scorch­ing through the fin­ish in 35.34 sec­onds, but How­ley shaved 0.17 sec­onds off that to take the lead which could not be bet­tered. Next best was 18-year-old Pen­der, in 35.75.

A na­tive of Kil­dare, Pen­der cre­ated a sen­sa­tion two years ago at these cham­pi­onships when tak­ing sil­ver and a bronze medals at the ten­der age of 16 with the Ir­ish-bred horses Z Seven Caretina and Z Seven Canya Dance.

Up-and-com­ing teenage rid­ers as­pire to com­pete at this level, and at the FEI Youth Na­tions’ Cup World Fi­nals we saw the quar­tet of Ella Quigley (Cle­mens), Char­lotte Hous­ton (Toscane Davnir), Katie Power (Ghost Rider) and Sea­mus Hughes-Kennedy (Rock Dee Jay) fin­ish on a zero score, along with the home team from Bel­gium, to set up a jump-off to de­cide the win­ners. Hughes-Kennedy went for­ward to the de­cider and came out on top against Bel­gium’s Gilles Nuytens to give Ire­land the gold medal, with sil­ver go­ing to the hosts.

It was a fit­ting end to a sea- son, which saw the Ir­ish team un­beaten, with vic­to­ries in Bel­gium, Hol­land and Ger­many on the way to the fi­nal.

Ever com­pet­i­tive, the Ir­ish event­ing team trav­elled to the USA with one main goal in mind: to qual­ify for Tokyo 2020 with a top-six re­sult. Any­thing else would have been a bonus, so to come home with team and in­di­vid­ual sil­ver was the re­sult of huge ded­i­ca­tion from not only the rid­ers but own­ers, grooms and a back-up team led by team man­ager Sally Corscad­den. The quar­tet of Cathal Daniels (Rioghan Rua), Sam Wat­son (Horse­ware Ardagh High­light), Padraig McCarthy (Mr Chunky) and Sarah En­nis (Horse­ware Stel­lor Re­bound) had been ly­ing in sev­enth place af­ter dres­sage, but pulled up into sil­ver medal po­si­tion when all four went clear on the cross-coun­try.

An­other su­perb per­for­mance on the fi­nal day saw them se­cure the sil­ver be­hind the Bri­tish gold-medal win­ning team.

Ms En­nis also went into the fi­nal day with a medal in her sights, but sadly one er­ror in the showjump­ing saw her drop to even­tual sev­enth, while a clear round from McCarthy saw him claim in­di­vid­ual sil­ver.

Daniels, who was the youngest com­peti­tor at just 22, fin­ished with just one fence down for 26th in­di­vid­u­ally, while Sam Wat­son claimed 14 th in­di­vid­u­ally on his dres­sage score of 35.5.

It was some achieve­ment for Car­low-based Wat­son, who was fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of his fa­ther John — 40 years ago, he won in­di­vid­ual sil­ver at the World Event­ing Cham­pi­onships in Lex­ing­ton, Ken­tucky.

Com­pet­ing as an in­di­vid­ual, Pa­tri­cia Ryan fin­ished in 61st over­all with Dun­rath Eclipse.

Com­ment­ing on the re­sult, Corscad­den said: “We re­ally did make his­tory there. It’s been so long since the se­nior team has won a medal and to do it at the World Cham­pi­onships was just ex­tra spe­cial.

“I had be­lief in these guys that we could be com­pet­i­tive and that was our goal the whole time, to be com­pet­i­tive and we just stuck to that goal and this is where it got us.

“There was noth­ing lucky about this. This was made to hap­pen by the whole set-up and the team be­hind them — I just can’t tell you how many peo­ple have worked to make this hap­pen.”

In­di­vid­ual sil­ver medal­list McCarthy agreed that the large back-up team was in­stru­men­tal to their suc­cess.

“We had a very good team around us, be­tween vets, phys­ios etc. All were work­ing hard to make us and the horses feel good. Sally has put to­gether an un­be­liev­able team of peo­ple around us which we re­ally need to pro­tect,” he said.

“I just hope now that event­ing can get a lit­tle more recog­ni­tion, and maybe a lit­tle bit more fund­ing. We were punch­ing above our weight in terms of some of the other na­tions and we spent the win­ter here try­ing to get money to­gether to fund this trip.

“Look­ing for­ward to Tokyo, we can now make a se­ri­ous plan on how to match this re­sult, or even go one bet­ter.”

THERE WAS NOTH­ING LUCKY ABOUT THIS. IT WAS MADE TO HAP­PEN BY THE WHOLE SET-UP

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