Balmoral Park plays host to a feast of team showjumping action

Antrim Grammar winners tack n turnout intermediate Class ' Rachel McCartney with Nicky being presented with trophy by Simpson Cochrane (DC North Down Pony Club) ' Morgan Skillen on mayo ' Helen Cunningham with Lady- Michael fisher (Sponsor 'Decathlon)
Antrim Grammar winners tack n turnout intermediate Class ' Rachel McCartney with Nicky being presented with trophy by Simpson Cochrane (DC North Down Pony Club) ' Morgan Skillen on mayo ' Helen Cunningham with Lady- Michael fisher (Sponsor 'Decathlon)

On Saturday 19th October representatives from well over 70 schools from as far apart as Coleraine High to Beech Hill College, Monaghan, Ballymena Academy to Royal and Prior, Raphoe arrived at the RUAS Showgrounds at Balmoral Park, Lisburn for the annual team show jumping competition hosted by North Down branch of the Pony Club.

The weather on Friday was dreadful and it is a tribute to the contractors who laid the grass arenas that the competition took place as scheduled. They withstood the rain and after hundreds of jumping rounds were hardly marked and three great competitions ensued.

Challenging show jumping courses set up by Raymond and Nigel Jess left the competitors with varying degrees of success.

In the Senior section of 25 schools, six teams made it through to the jump off by finishing on a clean slate. Only a few seconds separated the schools after the exciting jump off with unbelievable turns being made by the horses and riders. The Ballyclare High School team was victorious with three clears in a time of 85.62 secs. Second was Ballymena Academy who also had three clear rounds in 88.05 secs and third was The Royal School, Armagh who completed on four faults, 4th was a mixed team of Regent House and Banbridge Academy, fifth was Methodist College and 6th Belfast Royal Academy team 1.

The fastest jump off time of the day was recorded by Ben Peppert on Paddy from Ballymena Academy – 24.16 secs. Two Ballyclare High girls followed next – Rebecca McConnell on Nicky on 26.21 secs and Sophie Dunn on O’Hara’s Dream on 26.95 secs.

The Intermediate section had 23 schools entered but only five teams made it through to the jump off – three of which were mixed teams and unable to qualify for the top three places. In first place was Regent House Grammar finishing one place higher than last year in not the fastest time of 134.12 secs but on zero faults. Second went to Victoria College with four faults in a time of 116.27 secs. The third team coming from a single school was Antrim Grammar who was the fastest four faults from the first round. A Wallace High and Banbridge team finished in fourth place on zero faults in a fast time of 111.25 secs. Fifth place was taken by competitors from Lurgan Junior High/Lisnagarvey with four faults in 113.69 secs and sixth was Cambridge House/Down High team also on four faults with the fastest times of the day – 104.54 secs.

Individually the fastest clear jump off time was Ellie Humphries on Princess Ita in 31.99secs from the Cambridge House/Down High team. Two girls from Wallace High/Banbridge were not far behind – Joanne Eames on Sam in 33.04 secs and Rachel Patterson on Lady Bug in 33.91 secs.

The Primary section had 10 teams representing 29 primary schools. The standard of riding was very good – indeed faster and more furious than the two other sections. One heavy shower didn’t slow them either. A jump off was needed here to decide the winners also. Six teams kept all the poles up in the first two rounds. Corners were cut and fences jumped from unbelievable angles! After the jump off there was still a clean sheet from four of the six teams so the time was all important. Only five seconds separated the first three teams. A team from Fairhill, Spa, Our Lady of Lourdes and Meadowbridge finished in 113.07 secs in first place. Moira Primary was one of only two schools to field a team of four from the one school and were in hot pursuit going into second in 118.18 secs. About half a second slower in third place on 118.72 secs was Glenann, Clough, and Mount St Michael’s. A close finish there! These times were all faster than the jump-off time of the winning Intermediate team. Fourth was Templepatrick Primary in 126.74 seconds. Fifh place was taken by Ballydown, Drumhillary and Tandragee on four faults and sixth by Fairview, Ballyclare and Tildarg on eight faults.

The fastest clear in the jump off was Charley Hanna in 30.58 secs followed by Katie McCombe on 33.07 secs. Charley’s time was over a second faster than the fastest Intermediate.

Also hotly contested was the Tack and Turnout competition. It was very evident that a great deal of hard work had been carried out as ponies and tack were in general sparkling – not to mention how smart the riders looked! Well done to all the grooms (mums and dad’s in many cases).

The Senior section was won by Ballyclare High School team 2 on an almost perfect score of 97/100. A mark behind in second was a mixed team from Shimna Integrated College and Friends School, Lisburn. Just one mark again separated them from Omagh Academy in third place. A close finish! Standards overall were good with every school finishing in the 80’s or 90’s except one on 70.

In the Intermediate section the proud winners were Antrim Grammar on another superb points total of 97/100. Second place went to Down High team 2 on 96 and third to Victoria College on 94. Lots of washing and polishing certainly paid off for these teams. Overall standards in this section were not as high with seven schools scoring in the 60’s and four in the 70’s.

Winners of the Primary section were Downpatrick, Saintfield Academy, Ballynahinch and Friends School prep on an almost perfect 99/100, closely followed by Templepatrick PS on 97 and Tildarg, Ballyclare and Fairview with 95/100 points – both placings for the second year running! Overall standards were high with only one school scoring 71 – the rest were in the 80’s or 90’s.

The North Down committee would like to extend thanks to the judges Mrs Hilary McClelland, Mrs Frances Monteith, Mrs D Beacom and Mrs S Cullen who did a fantastic job. Dora you are so patient and encouraging with all the competitors – keep it up! to Ulster Aerials for providing the radios, to Ronnie for getting the scores ready so promptly, to the Order of Malta Ambulance and Mr T Stitt for the medical cover, to the Jess family for two very challenging courses, - unfortunately small children on small ponies and often older ones as well know little about related distances but seem to get round just the same, to the ladies who provided stew, soup and tray bakes and to those who served food all day, to all who picked up poles, to judges for tack and turnout, to arena and warm-up stewards and all others who helped in so many different ways. Thank you for making the day run so smoothly.

A very special thanks go to Decathlon for their generous sponsorship – beautiful bags and lots of cleaning products which were gratefully received by all the top placed teams. The club is indebted to Mr Michael Fisher from Decathlon who gave up his Saturday afternoon to present the prizes and hope that many of the competitors will support Decathlon when purchasing new items for themselves or their ponies.

Once again North Down Pony Club would like to take this opportunity to thank the RUAS for all their help over the years in running this very popular competition. The club is grateful for the use of their splendid new facilities. This was the beginning of a new chapter and a great day was had by all. Organisers are really looking forward to next year.