Getting ready for the big event
Ray Ryan reports on the excitement that is building in West Waterford as Camphire prepares to host the Irish leg of the Eventing Nations Cup
Excitement is building in West Waterford as Camphire gets ready for the Eventing Nations Cup.
IT is the start of the third week in January but already a small, rural community in West Waterford is looking ahead to the end of July when it will host a leg of the Eventing Nations Cup.
The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), the governing body for equestrian sports, with headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, has selected Camphire, situated at the confluence of the Blackwater and Bride rivers, near Cappoquin, as the venue for the prestigious event.
It did so on the back of the success achieved by the International Horse Trials, which have been held at the location for almost 10 years, and the growing reputation of the venue in the heart of the Blackwater Valley, where all equestrian disciplines have been cherished for generations.
Camphire Estate, which has a long history, was purchased by the Dobbs family in 1902. Henry Dobbs spent his career in India and became High Commissioner to the Kingdom of Iraq in 1923, a post he held for six years.
After his death in 1934, his widow Esme and her daughter Susan lived at Camphire. When they went to their summer house in Ardmore they’d bring their pet cow with them for a fresh supply of milk.
Susan Dobbs hunted all her life and, with the help of Van der Vater, founded the Camphire Horse Trials in 2000. She died in 2009, leaving the estate to her greatnephew Henry Wilks. He agreed to the trials being maintained and developed.
Eventing is best described as an equestrian triathlon. The sport originated as a cavalry test and is comprised of three phases: Dressage, cross-country, and show jumping. It tests horse and rider pairs more completely than any other.
It covers all aspects of equitation from developing harmony between horse and rider, essential for dressage, contact with nature, stamina, and experience, required characteristics for cross-country, and advancing the precision, agility and technique involved in jumping.
Established 2012, the Eventing Nations Cup series runs from April to October each year, includes venues in Italy, Britain, Poland, France, and Belgium, and is a vital part of the sport horse calendar.
The FEI chose Camphire as the venue for the Irish leg of the 2019 series at its General Assembly in Manama, Bahrain, last year. Green Glens, Millstreet, and Ballindenisk, both in Co Cork, and Tattersalls Ireland in Meath, were previous hosts.
Camphire International Horse Trials director Paul Brady said the late Susan Dobbs had the vision of hosting world-class equestrian competition on the banks of the River Blackwater in Co Waterford.
“Ten years on, we look forward to further enhancing and improving the Camphire experience for visitors and athletes from far and wide,” he said.
Mr Brady said the FEI Eventing Nations Cup has seven legs. Camphire was chosen in an application process to host the fourth leg — which will be integrated into the Internatinal Horse Trials (July 24-29).
The event will be held just a year before the Olympic Games which will add further interest as nations prepare teams for Tokyo.
Mr Brady said they have been requested to trial a new Olympic format being planning for Tokyo. That is likely to draw a lot of riders aiming to go the Games. It will also be an opportunity for nations and riders still a triving to qualify.
“We would be expecting a lot of high-profile riders from lots of different nations,” he said. “I would imagine we are going to get about 12 nations competing at Camphire.”
Mr Brady said eventing is a big sport in Ireland. Each year, the International Trials would have more than 300 entries, with top competitors from abroad.
He said Camphire was mentioned several times via the public address at the World Equestrian Games in the US last September with references to horses and riders who had competed at the West Waterford venue.
The success of the trials would not have been be possible, however, without the help of many people including the Wilks family, who own Camphire Estate, and the neighbouring Browne family.
Organisers say they get a lot of help from the local community, Waterford County Council, sponsors, and many others.
Horses play a big part, of course, in the economic and agribusiness life of the region through breeding, sales, competitions, leisure activities and the provision of services.
Camphire International Horse Trials have accordingly grown into a popular sporting and social event, with thousands of visitors enjoying a country fair, a shopping village and children’s activities that run alongside the equesglobal trian action each year.
Eventing’s growing appeal here was boosted by the success of Ireland’s team, which qualified for the Tokyo Olympics as a result of a superb silver medal winning performance at the World Equestrian Games.
The team of Cathal Daniels, Sam Watson, Sarah Ennis, and Padraig McCarthy, who also won the silver medal in the individual class, was managed by Sally Corscadden.
Ireland previously won a team gold medal in an eventing World Championships. That was in 1966 at Burghley in Britain, with a team that included Virginia Freeman-Jackson, Eddie Boylan, Penelope Moreton and Tommy Brennan.
But the triumph in America was the first in the World Equestrian Games and raised the profile of the sport in Ireland.
Eventing has certainly come a long way since the days of veteran Olympic horseman, the late Captain Harry Freeman Jackson of Mallow, a pioneer of eventing and Chef d’Equipe of the winning Irish team at Burghley 52 years ago.
It is thus fitting that a leg of the 2019 FEI Nations Cup should return to the Blackwater Valley, where he was a such a prominent figure.
“Eventing is best described as an equestrian triathlon, a cavalry test in three phases
Cathal Daniels (on Sammy Davis Jr) of Ireland’s equestrian team bound for the Tokyo Olympics, and one of the stars at the Eventing Nations Cup leg due to be hosted in Camphire, Cappoquin, West Waterford.