Coco’s AIRC RC Festival Rundown – The Hard Work Pays Off!

Where do I even begin? It’s been a few weeks now since we ventured to our first ever away show to Mullingar Equestrian and I still can’t get over what an experience it was. Darielle gave a great overview of what the facilities were like in her blogpost and the whirlwind of getting there and getting the horses settled etc. so I won’t go into too much detail on that side of things. To be honest, the only thing I want to talk about from the show is Coco and how damn proud I am of the two of us for what we achieved.


When the schedule of competitions first came out for the AIRC Riding Club Festival, I knew instantly what competitions I wanted to do – the AP Team Showjumping on the Saturday and the AP Individual Showjumping on the Sunday. Getting a team together for the teams competition turned out easier than expected as there were other members of my riding club, Abbeylands RC, who were looking to form a team so I was in there like a shot! With entries, stabling and accommodation booked it was time to start preparing myself and Coco for our first competition since our last diabolical outing to Coilog at the end of the riding club showjumping league. This was the competition where I rode like a donkey and Coco refused twice – we managed to finish the round but it was by far the worst we’d ever done in competition. So with that as my last competition, I knew I needed to knuckle down and get some good training in if I wanted to not make a fool of myself.

The Prep

After Coilog, I was quite disappointed in myself and how I rode (but at the same time also feeling proud for managing to finish the round as I was genuinely seconds from giving up and calling it a day). Up to that point, we had had a few weeks of competing and I was looking forward to some quieter weekends taking it easy, with no lessons or particular focus in my riding. It was nice to take the break, I think we all need it from time to time. But with the Riding Club festival looming, it was time to get my ass in gear and start getting myself and Coco ready for a weekend of jumping and so enter my brilliant instructor…Ann Hatton.

Doesn’t seem that big but those fillers freaked me out!

I started with a private lesson in Ann’s own yard to brush off the cobwebs and get my jumping legs back. It was incredible how rusty I had gotten and how much my confidence had been knocked by our last outing. Ann doesn’t take it easy though and by the end she had us back jumping a fairly decent sized oxer which sent shivers down my spine as I rode Coco into it. We ended better than we had started but there was still a lot to work on.

A few weeks later we were confidently jumping bigger fences

After that, I made a point of doing a lesson with Ann once a week to keep us progressing and to get me back to riding Coco the way she needs to be ridden and not panic riding into fences. It was the best thing I could have done. Week by week, we got better and better and by the last lesson before the festival, it really felt like me and Coco had become partners. I felt confident and ready and so did Coco…

Day 1 – AP Team Showjumping

For those who don’t know – AP stands for Advance Primary which is the level I’m registered at for Riding Club competitions. Showjumping at AP level is all 80cms with little or no fillers (although they can throw some sneaky ones in at particular venues). All AP showjumping competitions are judged on Optimum Time which means there is a set time to complete your round in and the person who goes clear and finishes their round the closest to that time, wins. For the teams competition, each member of the team jumps a round of 1 – 9 one after the other and then you jump again, so you jump two rounds altogether.

Coco was on her toes!

My first competition of the Riding Club festival was the Team Showjumping. My team were due to be jumping at 1pm so thankfully I was able to take it easy that morning. I got Coco into the warm up and she was feeling good, forward and springy – just what I like to feel in the warm up. What I was shocked to find was actually how good she was REALLY feeling which I discovered as my team mates arrived into the warm up ring with me! The minute another horse trotted past her or came too close Coco would take off. And it wasn’t just running away with me..she full on leapt through the air. She did it about three times and the last time everyone in the arena was actually in shock that I managed to sit her solid attempt at a capriole – bitch must have thought I brought her to the feckin Spanish Riding School with the moves she was coming out with! All I could do was laugh as she was just feeling so good and happy to be there. Thankfully it didn’t come across to her jumping which was all spot on in the warm up.

Last jump of the course

Once it was time to jump, I had my usual belly of nerves but today was different. I realised I wasn’t petrified. I went into the ring feeling confident and ready to tackle jumps 1 – 9 with my partner in crime and man she did not disappoint. We approached number 1 and I felt a small flicker of doubt from Coco as she struggled to focus on the task at hand but with a squeeze of reassurance she put her game face on and soared over number 1 to start our round. We tackled every fence as if we were schooling around in one of our lessons, with a small exception in the combination when she got a little too eager and decided to take the four strides in three (unsuccessfully might I add, she ended up chipping in an extra stride at the last second). I didn’t mind too much though as we finished our first round with a clear and a massive smile on my face.

The form was mighty

Onto our second round and I went into this one with the sole intention of having fun…and apparently so was Coco! We started our round and it felt like Coco suddenly realised that she had done this before and decided to take the course on without my assistance. She became quite strong and started trying to tank into fences. For the most part I was able to hold her off and get her to come back to me, with the exception of that bloody combination again. We only had one very unfortunate pole down that looking back on the video I realised there was genuinely nothing I could have done any better to stop it from happening, it was just one of those things that happens in showjumping. Regardless I was thrilled with her and how we rode together. By the end of the competition, our team had put in a fantastic effort to finish in 3rd place so we came home with a lovely frilly for all our hard work 🙂

3rd Place for Team Abbeylands!

Day 2 – AP Individual Showjumping

For the individual showjumping, the format was Optimum Time again. You jump 1- 8 and if you go clear you continue to jump 9 – 13 which is timed.

Day 2 and it’s time for the Individual Showjumping! I’ll be honest and say I was feeling just a little worse for wear after a few beverages the night before. I wasn’t jumping until 11.20am so I had a bit of time to get my head right (although I definitely would have appreciated more time!). I went into the warm up and decided to keep our warm up jumps to a minimum as she was jumping just as well she had been the day before.

Number 1 and she makes it look about 40cms

We went in to jump our round, with the commentator remembering our success from the day before wishing us luck. I gave Coco a little pep talk..”Alright Pops, let’s do this.” and we kicked off with a huge-mongous jump over fence number 1. You can just barely hear me laughing and asking Coco to slow down in the video as she tanked off after the jump. Thankfully I was able to get her back to me and we jumped 1 – 8 clear. Before you go on to number 9, you have the opportunity to circle before going through the timers so when Coco landed on the wrong lead after number 8 I decided to bring her back and get her on the correct lead. We set off for our final few jumps of the weekend finishing with a flyer over number 13 giving us a clear round and just 1 time fault. I was absolutely beaming!!

Our flying finish over the last

While our time fault kept us out of the ribbons, I was over the moon with how well Coco and I jumped. Of 190 competitors in the class, there were only 19 clear rounds so to finish in the top 19 in our first national competition..I mean, what more could I want?


Well deserved much after a great weekend

And then it was over 😦 I’ve said this to a few people since Mullingar – I have genuinely never had so much fun competing. It’s incredible what a difference it can make to feel prepared for your competitions. I rarely come out of a round happy with my own riding, there’s always something I think I could have done better, but in Mullingar I was of course thrilled with how Coco jumped but I was also delighted with how I rode. I feel like we’re really ready now to go out and start jumping some SJI courses…

…or at least I did until our most recent mishap which has put a very sudden stop to all plans. Post coming about that soon so keep an eye out!

If you’ve gotten this far, thank you so much for reading! I appreciate every pair of eyes 🙂 If you’d like to see some videos from the weekend, check out the below!

Orla

Surviving The AIRC Riding Festival with Dante

What an experience the festival was, I mean like WOW! A massive thank you to AIRC & Mullingar Equestrian for all the organising, with over 2,000 entries/competitors, I think they deserve some recognition on all the hard work they put in to organising such an amazing event, not to mention all the volunteers & stewards keeping the show on the road over the weekend!

Both myself & Orla are part of Abbeylands Riding Club, and I think I can speak for both of us when I say we are thrilled to be part of such a fantastic, fun & helpful club! With a jam packed weekend full of individual showjumping & team showjumping, keep scrolling to see how we took on such a big weekend….

Arriving at The Venue – Mullingar Equestrian

This was our first ever Riding club festival, and being overwhelmed was quite an understatement. I didn’t know what to expect, what to pack or where to even go at times. We were lucky to have a hard core Riding Club “festivaler” with us to guide us along the way over the weekend. I think personally until you find your stable, unload all your belongings, grab some fresh water & haylage for your horse it really doesn’t sink in that your physically staying put for the coming days to compete! 

The Stables

To be honest, they were perfect. We paid €65 for two nights stabling which included bedding. It was great value & the stables themselves where quite spacious. Poor Dante being so big he took a while to get in to the stable at first, he had to duck his head under the cover going in! Once in though he was happy. He is not the best horse in the stable – he is filthy but the shavings were very generous & we managed the weekend perfectly.

The Grounds

Walking around the venue to get our bearings was quite something, the facilities in Mullingar are phenomenal. An International sand & International grass arena, 2 additional sand 1 & 2 arenas & not to forget all the warm up arenas & grass arenas. The venue itself was certainly stunning & a great choice for the festival if I do say so myself. With everything within walking distance of each other you don’t have to venture to far around the grounds whether it be getting your horse, or a bite to eat! 

Warming Up at The Venue

Riding on the Friday evening when we arrived was a major bonus. We were allowed the use of any of the 3 warm up sand arena’s which really helped to settle the horses into their surroundings that bit better. I think it really helped to settle their heads, rather than looking out of their stables and hearing & seeing limited amounts.

Dante was quite calm & relaxed warming up on Friday.

Day 1 – Individual Showjumping

Individual jumping was up first for myself & Dante on the Saturday. We arrived most mornings at 8.30/9.00am at the venue to feed & to do our course walks prior to the event starting. Course walks are so important, counting your strides and planning out your approaches to & from fences is key in riding that perfect round. I was thrilled with the course that was set in place for Day 1, it was mostly off the left rein, our better rein so there where no excuses!

Nerves to be honest didn’t play a massive role for us over the weekend. I didn’t have great or any high expectations set out for us at all as I only really had a full week to prepare so I didn’t bother putting that pressure on myself to “perform”. Going & having fun with Dante was my aim for the weekend.

Walking down to the arena to warm up was quite intimidating, people watching you, you watching people. Trying to remember your course all whilst sitting on Dante, who for once had that spring in his step, I think for him when he gets plaited up he knows its show time so he turns on! 

With a good 30/40 minutes warm up under our belt, jumping a handful of cross poles, verticals & Oxers I was set to head in. This is where I normally start to think “fuck, why do I do this” but this time I had a lot more confidence not only in myself, but in Dante. I was ready to go, I was ready to tackle this course of fences. 

The bell rang & away we went, over fences 1-3 with unbelievable rhythm & control, Dante was switched on and he was listening to what I was asking him to do. On our approach to the combination I set him in to deep in order for him not to get close to the second jump & well I quite frankly put him in way to deep to say the least, he tried to lift up over but ended up knocking a pole. He continued on after that as cautious as I have ever seen him, the rhythm he had was what I had been looking for these past few weeks & with that I was ecstatic with his round! Not all clear rounds are perfect, and not all knocks are careless. Sometimes you get a lot more out of rounds you don’t jump clear in. So I was thrilled!! 

Pro’s & Con’s of Day 1

  • We finally found our rhythm
  • We need to shorten our reins

Day 2 – Team Show Jumping

On such a high from Day 1 of the festival I had the morning of Day 2 to relax and chill out (get over a slight hangover) before my team jumping started, our allocated slot was at 4pm. With Dante being stabled all day on the Sunday prior to my jumping, I hand fed him for the guts of an hour to let him stretch his legs before I brought him out that evening. 

I don’t know how or what happened, but dear lord Dante had quite an attitude about doing some hard work on the Sunday.

A massive thank you to all the ladies from Cheval Riding Club who helped with holding him & helped in trying to put the plaiting bands back in his mane he just wouldn’t stand still, all the help was appreciated!(Note to self hire assistants for next year!!)

I knew our Day 2 of jumping was not going to be like Day 1. When he gets in these attitudes, I have learned that I never win. No matter what I do! 

Things only got worse. I arrived into the warm up, with 30/40 minutes allocated to get his head back in the game only to be told 5 minutes in that I had to go in to jump, I was quite rushed & pushed in to jump to be honest & looking back on it I wish I stood my ground and told then I wasn’t ready. 

We were jumping in the team Showjumping, which consisted each of our 4 team members jumping fences 1-12 twice.Not one after another, you jumped your second round after everyone else on you team had jumped their first. 

Our second round was a lot smoother. Not better, but more controllable. I just get on with it & pick the good parts about thing such as how calm & collected he was walking in & out of the arena!

Pro’s & Con’s of Day 2

  • A warm up of at least 30 minutes is needed before jumping
  • Stand your ground, if you are not ready don’t allow yourself to be rushed
  • He relaxed for his second round which was always going to be a bonus!

Do’s & Don’t’s – The Hidden Gems

  • Forever Equestrian at Mullingar Equestrian Center – Holy Fork. I think I spent €60 in total & walked out with so many bargains! Including numnahs, fly veils & a new jacket for myself. Be sure to add this to your list of must do’s!! Guaranteed to walk out with beautiful additions to your horsey collections.
  • Whilst it was a national show, try not to forget your riding etiquette at times, such as warm up arena’s left hand to left hand, only walking your horse in designated zones, no hurling abuse at each other going into arena’s (guilty!) 
  • The Local Mullingar Taxi Men – Note to self don’t have any craic in the taxi, you will only end up with the taxi man hurling abuse at you from his car when being dropped back to the hotel. Turns out he really took offence to Orla being called a wild whore,  Poor guy must of been having a bad day.
  • I think this really saved our asses over the Friday & Saturday, but the venue doesn’t serve drink until 6pm! Unless you have your own with you, there is zero drinkage available. You can be treated to some fine cuisine from the food trucks & bars around the venue itself, the pizza van was a stern favourite.

To summarise, the AIRC Riding Club Festival was unbelievable. I highly recommend you join your local club for next year so you can be making that journey with your horse or pony. If you are planning on attending any other big shows over the summer, this one certainly sets you up nicely.

A massive thank you to all the stewards & helpers over the weekend, the event itself ran so smoothly & without a blimp! It’s incredable what you can do when you set your mind to it, & its even nicer to see the support from people you dont even know, to everyone we chatted to over the weekend thank you, you really made our festival weekend one to remember!

A massive thank you to our 4th team member Emma from Rathangan Riding Club for joining very last minute in our team showjumping on Sunday maybe next year we can get better team results!

For myself & Dante, who know whats next for us. Our training schedule is currently in place, Watch this space, but for now why not enjoy our video below of our time at the festival!

Until next time,

Darielle