Limerick’s ‘horsiest village’ saddles up for novelty ride

Aine Fitzgerald

Reporter:

Aine Fitzgerald

Michael Collins, Limerick Polocrosse Club riding Stitch, Ann Marie Walsh riding hunter Cassie (chestnut mare), Ruth Irwin, showjumper, riding Bella, and jockey Raymond Barron on racehorse Dark Vader
Ireland’s horsiest village is saddling up for the country’s first novelty challenge for half-breds – with drafts, hunters, showjumpers and polocrosse horses going under starter’s orders just like their thoroughbred counterparts.

Ireland’s horsiest village is saddling up for the country’s first novelty challenge for half-breds – with drafts, hunters, showjumpers and polocrosse horses going under starter’s orders just like their thoroughbred counterparts.

The event is part of the new two-day Horses for Courses festival run in the village of Athlacca which is uniquely home to four equestrian sports – racing, hunting, polocrosse and showjumping.

The festival – which will be held in aid of the Robbie McNamara Trust for injured jockey Robbie McNamara and local community projects –will see the half-bred horses running over a natural course of banks, fun fences and surprise obstacles on Saturday, October 24. The two days of equestrian games, which are the brainchild of former Junior European Showjumping Champion Brian McMahon and racing trainer Enda Bolger, will feature novelty chases which are split into categories including hurlers on horseback, draft horse dash, side saddle, celebrity challenge, hunt staff chase, polocrosse, ladies donkey derby, relay, an over 50s and an open challenge.

The Dromin-Athlacca Charity Ride – recently voted one of the best of its kind in the world – will set off on the second day of the October bank holiday festival, October 25.

Brian McMahon says he is hoping the festival will be a hugely entertaining spectacle. The novelty challenge, he said, is a first. “It is cross-country challenges aimed to be fun, fair and competitive. It will be great for the spectator and a very good crowd-puller,” he said. “Each category will run over distances of up to two miles over banks and cross country fence.”

The small village Athlacca is home to horse trainers including Enda Bolger and Austin Leahy, along with Limerick Polocrosse Club run by Michael Collins, which recently featured on Sky’s Irish TV channel, along with hunting and showjumping yards.

“It’s been heavily steeped with horses for years going back to the trainer PP Hogan and it’s quite famous in all aspects of it,” said Brian.

The cross country ride, named by Horse and Hound as one of the best on the planet, has tested some of the top riders in Ireland and England including top jockeys Charlie Swan, Paul Carberry and Davy Russell, RTE pundit Ted Walsh and showjumping boy wonder Bertram Allen. To date, the charity fundraiser has raised approximately €400,000 for charity “a tremendous feat for a small village.” The festival will also have food stalls and children’s entertainment and a Halloween themed fancy dress contest. The festival will also be raising awareness about carbon monoxide following the untimely death of Christopher ‘Tiffer’ Morris in May. Tiffer was a regular visitor to the Athlacca area. His father, racing trainer Mouse Morris, mother Shanny, and her husband Bruree-based trainer Enda Bolger, spoke out about their sad loss last week in the hope of alerting people to the seriousness of the ‘silent killer’.

For more details on the festival see www.horsesforcoursesfestival.com or go to the Athlacca Horses for Courses Festival on facebook or ring Brian McMahon on 086-8367666.