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, his only down fall was this horrible napping issue that he has picked up. If I bring him to a halt in the centre of the arena then try push him back out to work he will nap towards any horses standing there in order for him to get out of work.

You may have noticed me carrying a small whip, the napping issue is why! Every time he does it he gets a tap on the shoulder… so far it seems to be working and the habit is quickly fading away! 

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. Getting him ready to go warm up was quite difficult, trying to get on him alone was a task in itself let alone trying to keep him composed. Bearing in mind this was at the stable!

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!!)

Leaving the stabled area to go to the warm was also a challenge, I am hoping no1 seen it to be honest, he put in a few rears in temper of me telling him where to go down the poxy stable aisles, like this horse really know where to pick his tantrums. From this 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. 

Jesus Christ. These two words explain my first round of jumping perfectly. To be honest I find it quite funny & slightly embarrassing that I physically could not stop Dante until I got to fence 11, and the minute I landed he shot off again! He was wild. It has been a while since I needed to hold on to the Jesus strap & it’s safe to say I never let go of it after I jumped fence 2! There were times were my stirrups were on the verge of going & I am pretty sure the stewards in the arena were getting concerned for the girl mumbling fuck sake after each fence as I went around. It is without a doubt, safe to say that It was a massive fail.

Our second round was a lot smoother. Not better, but more controllable. Once Dante gets an inch with something, he tends to run off for 50 miles with it! Not ideal, but this is the reality.  I have learned not to fault myself in these situations, 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

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