Exciting future for Fermanagh County Show

as it moves to Castle Irvine

Fermanagh County Show will have a new home in 2023.

The two-day event will be staged at Castle Irvine, Necarne, near Irvinestown with new weekend dates of Friday and Saturday, 11th and 12th August.

The organisers of the Show, County Fermanagh Farming Society Ltd, which was established in 1836, made the announcement about the new show format this week.

The Chairman of Fermanagh Farming Society, Mrs Ann Orr, explained that the new showgrounds and new weekend dates offer lots of new opportunities for the popular County Show, the last agricultural show in the Northern Ireland Shows Association calendar.

She said; “In 13 years the County Fermanagh Farming Society will celebrate its 200th Anniversary, no mean feat for a rural organisation managed by volunteers. Generations of local families have their heart in Fermanagh County Show and have seen much change over their lifetimes and that of their ancestors. Moving from the Fairgreen and the Broadmeadow in 1994 to the new showgrounds at Lackaboy was a key move to grow the show further to add new elements as we were allowed to use the facilities of the Exhibition and Auction Centre along with our own fabulous Prunty Pitch showgrounds. The Johnston family have been instrumental in their wholehearted support of the Society since 1950 and this has been a very strong partnership of which we are very proud.”

“We know that Covid-19 impacted all agricultural shows but it was this affect that actually brought about the mindset that we have 187 years under our belt and a 200th Anniversary on the horizon to plan for and what better way to do this than to gasp this wonderful opportunity offered to us recently to grow Fermanagh County Show into one of Ireland’s leading agricultural shows of the future,” she added.   

Mr. Kyle Porter, spokesperson for Castle Irvine Estate, commenting on the news said; “We are thrilled to welcome the Fermanagh County Show to Castle Irvine Estate in 2023. The show is a highly regarded event in the community, with a history dating back to 1836 and we are excited to provide a new home for it at Castle Irvine. The facilities and rolling parkland, along with the magnificent backdrop of Necarne Castle, offer a unique setting for the show to continue to thrive and grow in the future.”

“At Castle Irvine, we host many events throughout the year and we are delighted to add the Fermanagh County Show to our calendar. We look forward to welcoming visitors to this beautiful estate.

“We can’t wait to see the future developments of the Fermanagh County Show at its new home at Castle Irvine Estate. It’s sure to be an amazing event.”

The last full Fermanagh County Show took place in 2019 with a scaled back event taking place in August 2022. The plans for 2023 are for a full programme of pedigree and commercial cattle, sheep, goats, poultry, dogs, schools, home industries and with a larger Food Pavilion. The pilot Classic Suckler Competition and Breeding Heifer Derby held last year was a great success and this will be continued as a herd competition for Fermanagh suckler farmers for non-pedigree stock. Herd judging will take place in early July and the best herds will qualify for the final at Castle Irvine on Saturday 12th August.

Castle Irvine Estate comprises 230 acres with unrivalled facilities including unlimited onsite car parking. The large indoor arena, the outdoor arena and walled garden will be ideal to accommodate large exhibits while the lawn at the front of the iconic Necarne Castle will provide a spectacular area for the livestock judging rings. Two beautiful courtyards will provide a great site for street food and music and with more space available to extend the popular Food Pavilion.

The rolling parkland on the estate also provides many potential opportunities to expand the Show programme in the next few years.

Looking forward to the 2023 Fermanagh County Show at Castle Irvine Estate on Friday and Saturday, 11 and 12 August are (from left); Albert Knox, Director, Fermanagh Farming Society; Tyrone Langham, Castle Irvine Estate; Adrian Irvine, Director, Fermanagh Farming Society; Ann Orr, Chairman of Fermanagh Farming Society; Harry Boles, Vice-Chairman, Fermanagh Farming Society; Kyle Porter, Castle Irvine Estate and Stuart Johnston, Life Member, Fermanagh Farming Society.

Fabulous return of eventing to Castle Irvine

DOUBLE: Master Smart gave Tara Dixon the first leg of a double, winning the EI 115 class at Castle Irvine, Necarne. (FW33-535AH) PICTURES: Anne Hughes

THE memory box was opened for many people on Saturday, as Northern Region held their first national event at Necarne for almost 20 years. The last International was held in 2009.

The buzz and excitement around this Co. Fermanagh venue was tangible, with many of the competitors from yesteryear returning for another epic experience around the undulating hills of the estate. The reminiscences began on Friday evening, with many choosing to stable overnight and, indeed, retire to the one and only Mahon’s Hotel for their evening meal and a beverage or two.

Vina Buller designed four exceptional tracks, each with a perfect combination of challenges and questions, which were described by many of the competitors as ‘super, up to standard, educational courses’.

The water fences were a favourite gathering point for the large group of spectators, including visitors from Holland, Portugal and Sweden, who cheered each rider on and created an atmosphere reminiscent of a top class International.

Aaron McCusker’s colourful show jumping course, set in front of the magnificent 17th century Castle, certainly caused plenty of problems, with its technicality and natural undulating terrain.

Steven Smith galloped to victory in the EI 115 Open class on board Caryn Walker’s 10-year-old home-bred gelding, ‘Newferry Jagermeister’, having moved up two places from dressage after the early leader, Louise Bloomer, picked up 20 penalties across the country. Gerald Bloomer slotted into second place, over two points adrift on Caroline Bjoerk’s 10-year-old gelding, ‘DSL The Entertainer’.

Organisers were delighted to be hosting three classes from the ISH Young Horse Eventing Studbook Series. The Seven and Eight-year-old class was won in fine style by Steven Smith riding the John McBride bred ‘Ringfort Cruise’ gelding, ‘Mike of Mourne’, who has enjoyed three top four placings in these Young Horse classes on their last three outings. Second place went to Sarah Ennis on her seven-year-old ‘Plot Blue’ mare, which won her class last week at Hillcrest.

Meantime, a delighted Tara Dixon took the honours in the EI 115 class with ‘Master Smart’, a first victory for this combination, who just added a few time faults to their first phase score. Casey Webb came in behind on ‘April’s Pacino Time’, when her cross-country time penalties dropped her down one spot from her first phase score.

There were just three starters in the EI 110 Open class, where Sarah Ennis had a fabulous victory on her seven-year-old ‘OBOS’ mare, ‘KSH Touch of Quality’, which has now had three wins at this level.

Best of the 18 starters in the EI 110 class was Kathryn McKibbin on her 11-year-old gelding, ‘Seapatrick Murphy’, who was also on the winner’s podium at Tullymurry 2. They led from the outset and finished just under two points clear of Michael McNally on Sarah Elebert’s ‘Ringfort Cruise’ mare, ‘EE Parlanti Cruise’.

The EI 110 Six-Year-Old class saw Clare Abbott replicate her Millstreet International performance with her mother’s ‘Valent’ mare, ‘Arthalent’. They had a runaway victory, ending almost 10 points clear of second placed Steven Smith and ‘Urneypark Big Cat’, who won on his last outing at Hazeldene.

18-year-old Bessbrook girl, Lucy McIlroy, had plenty to celebrate as she emerged victorious in the EI 110J class with her mother’s ‘Imperial Hights’ gelding, ‘Major Black’, clocking up a very comfortable lead over Julia Adams and ‘Milchem Ardeo’. Lucy also picked up third place with ‘Imperial Black Velvet’.

A super first phase performance by Tori Dixon on ‘Mawillan’ meant she amassed an incredible lead of 10 points over second placed Denis Currie and ‘Arodstown Aramis’. Two fences down show jumping and a number of time penalties cross-country still gave her a sufficient advantage to claim the red rosette.

Sarah Ennis returned to winning ways in the EI 100 Five-Year-Old class with Eilish Arkwright’s ‘Diamond Fusion’, a gelding by ‘Tullabeg Fusion’, out of ‘Expectation’. This success went some way towards appeasing Sarah’s disappointment of two dismounts with her other mounts.

Robyn McCluskey occupied the runner up spot with Caroline Dennison’s ‘Tolan R’ mare, ‘Nectarine’.

13 Amateurs contested the EI 100 Amateur class, where show jumping was as influential as the cross-country phase. Hannah Thompson rose to the fore with ‘Jemeela Charm’, her mare by ‘Loughry Lad’, out of the Thoroughbred dam, ‘Night Fire’. They finished on their flatwork mark one point clear of Jayne Moore and ‘Laylas Way’, who won on their last outing at Hazeldene.

13-year-old Connie Cullen continued her good form with ‘Finding Nemo’ in the EI 100 Pony class, and, after a fabulous dressage test, had no problems in show jumping and made the cross-country look like a stroll in the park. They finished with a margin of nine over second placed Erin Mathieson riding ‘Longwood Dawn’, who also finished her six minute cross-country round inside the time.

Sarah O’Shea went into the EI 100 Junior class double-handed. She finished top of the group on her first outing with ‘Laura’s Imp’, her mother’s eight-year-old mare by ‘Lougherne Carrick-A-Rede’. Unfortunately, Sarah suffered an elimination with her other mount, ‘The Cherokee Flight’ following a dismount. Cross-country time penalties relegated the early leader, Alex Byrne, to second place with ‘Major Cross’, her mother’s six-year-old ‘Insatiable’ gelding.

It was certainly a worthwhile journey for 18-year-old Killinchy girl, Tara Dixon, who had a duo of wins. As well as taking the EI 115 title, she also emerged victorious in the EI 100 Junior class with ‘LB Mettaphor’, her six-year-old gelding which, despite having one fence down and the addition of 1.2 time penalties, still finished over seven points clear of Leah Knight and Meaghan Sinclair’s ‘Kings Master’ mare, ‘Kings City Angel’.

Co. Louth’s Aoife Hanratty enjoyed back to back victories in the EI 90 Amateur class with ‘Newtowns Silver Bobby’. She was also the winner of this class at Tullylish. The runner up spot was occupied by Eilidh Gribben riding Barbara Dixon’s ‘Namelus R’ gelding, ‘V Zermie 51’, who finished on her dressage score.

24 combinations took on the challenge of the EI 90 class, where Kaitie McCann rose to the fore with ‘Boyher Cookies N Crème’, adding nothing to their fabulous dressage mark of 22.3, finishing six points clear of Jake Rawlinson riding Jane Huey’s six-year-old mare, ‘Knockaleery Legacy’. This combination has been clocking up a host of great results this year and are certainly one to keep an eye on for the future.

Another pairing that got off to an incredible start was Kodie Clarke and ‘Heolas Queen Anne’, a six-year-old mare by ‘Trefaes Black Flyer’. They were neck and neck with Rachel Fletcher and ‘Lurgans Diamond Princess’, a mare by ‘Carrick Diamond Lad’, so it was proximity to the optimum time which eventually gave Kodie Clarke the marginal advantage.

Northern Region of Eventing Ireland extends a sincere thank you to Derek Keys and the team at Castle Irvine, Necarne for hosting last week’s event and for helping to realise the dreams and aspirations of so many eventers, who have been longing to get back competing at this favourite venue.

A huge thank you to Vina Buller for her long hours and hard work designing and building, assisted by Adam Stevenson, the four incredible top quality courses.

As always, organisers express thanks to the army of volunteers, many of whom travelled a long distance to join them in Necarne. They need to single out Roxanne and Steven Kelly, who were on duty at 6am to do Contact Tracing Check in, followed by five hours of fence judging which, undoubtedly, exemplifies pure dedication.

Organisers are particularly indebted to the Fermanagh Harriers Branch of the Pony Club, Erne Lakeland Riding Club and Fermanagh Harriers Hunt, who provided many helpers on the day.

This week sees the Northern Region return to Finvoy, courtesy of Alan and Muriel Campbell.


Saturday, August 14

EI 115 Open: 1) Steven Smith, Newferry Jagermeister; 2) Gerald Bloomer, DSL The Entertainer; 3) Steven Smith, HHF Elegance; 4) Alex Houston, Minty Imp; 5) Emma Newsam, Magennis; 6) Tegan White-McMorrow, Texan Style.

ISH YH Eventing Studbook EI115 (7 & 8 YO): 1) Steven Smith, Mike of Mourne; 2) Sarah Ennis, Action Lady M; 3) Declan Cullen, Ultimate Quality; 4) Janie Cairns, Premier Charlie; 5) Lucca Stubington, Xanthe Green.

EI 115: 1) Tara Dixon, Master Smart; 2) Casey Webb, April’s Pacino Time; 3) Michael McNally, Port Sunshine; 4) Robyn McCluskey, Carsonstown Alice.

EI 110 Open: 1) Sarah Ennis, KSH Touch of Quality; 2) Louise Bloomer, Herald of Milltown; 3) Conor Savage, Leapfrog.

EI 110: 1) Kathryn McKibbin, Seapatrick Murphy; 2) Michael McNally, EE Parlanti Cruise; 3) Nicola Ennis, Dawn Arrival; 4) Elaine Murphy, QT (An Tanaiste); 5) Katie Parker, Midway; 6) Louise Duffy, Arvika Ligeonniere.

ISH YH Eventing Studbook EI110 (6YO): 1) Clare Abbott, Arthalent; 2) Steven Smith, Urneypark Big Cat; 3) Jonathan Steele, R Kidd; 4) David O’Connor, Tullymurry Hope; 5) Jonathan Steele, R Showman; 6) Alex Houston, Atlantic Rockstar.

EI 110 J: 1) Lucy McIlroy, Major Black; 2) Julia Adams, Milchem Ardeo; 3) Lucy McIlroy, Imperial Black Pearl; 4) Rebekah McKinstry, Cornhill Rose.

EI 110P: 1) Matthew Love, Lucky For Some.

EI 110 Amateur: 1) Tori Dixon, Mawillan; 2) Denis Currie, Arodstown Aramis; 3) Dayna Ann Curtis, Cillnabradden Cuig; 4) Rachel Keys, Drumnaconnell Bellagio; 5) Symone Brown, Merlot.

ISH YH Eventing Studbook EI 100 (5YO): 1) Sarah Ennis, Diamond Fusion; 2) Robyn McCluskey, Nectarine.

EI 100 Amateur: 1) Hannah Thompson, Jemeela Charm; 2) Jayne Moore, Laylas Way; 3) Olivia Johns, Lagans Peter; 4) Grainne Baxter, Cillbhrid Splash; 5) Christine McVeigh, Keeford Elamo; 6) Claire Liddle, Ballytrim Molly.

EI 100P: 1) Connie Cullen, Finding Nemo; 2) Erin Mathieson, Longwood Dawn.

EI 100J: 1) Sarah O’Shea, Laura’s Imp; 2) Alex Byrne, Major Cross; 3) Anna White, Kilcoltrim Dora; 4) Ben Cousins, Broughshane Boy; 5) Ralph Robinson, Lanigan O; 6) Kate McLaughlin, Bocade Renaissance.

EI 100: 1) Tara Dixon, LB Mettaphor; 2) Leah Knight, Kings City Angel; 3) Casey Webb, Cosmic Flight; 4) Rachael Thompson, Govalent; 5) Helen Sinton, Ashtree Apple Blossom; 6) Annie Madden, Summer Bear.

EI 90 Amateur: 1) Aoife Hanratty, Newtowns Silver Bobby; 2) Eilidh Gribben, V Zermie 51; 3) Beth Toner, Cavalier Cobra; 4) Nichola Wray, Springhill Showman; 5) Kathryn Henderson, Mocking Bird; 6) Heather Champion, Drumcara Red.

EI 90: 1) Kaitie McCann, Boyher Cookies N Crème; 2) Jake Rawlinson, Knockaleery Legacy; 3) Cate O’Neill, Shanaghan Grace; 4) Emma Webster, Half A Chuckle; 5) Ellen Douglas, Rock Phoenix; 6) Emma Newsam, Hill Monarch.

EI 90P: 1) Kodie Clarke, Heolas Queen Anne; 2) Rachel Fletcher, Lurgans Diamond Princess; 3) Emily Black, Donn Boy; 4) Eva Murray, Lough Fadda Rudi; 5) Adam Booth, Melview Chester.

Dare to Dance: Dressage at Castle Irvine Necarne

GALA EVENING: Pegasus Dressage Music musical editor, Jonathan Magowan and Marketing Director, Anna Beattie, pictured with Victoria McCandless on Koolstyle and Fiona Gerring on Jumping Fox at the Gala Evening of Dressage to Music at Castle Irvine, Necarne

THE walled garden at Castle Irvine, Necarne was filled with music at the beginning of August, as this magical venue played host to a Gala Evening of Dressage to Music, hosted by local Tyrone-based company, Pegasus Dressage Music.

First established in 2020 during the pandemic, Pegasus Dressage Music are the first and only company of their kind in Ireland and are passionate about promoting dressage to music from grassroots upwards. Their clients range from riders at Introductory Level to Grand Prix, with their arrangements performed not only here in Ireland, but also in Canada, the US and Australia.

Castle Irvine, Necarne was the perfect setting to showcase the skill of some of Pegasus’ local dressage talent.

Anna Beattie, Marketing Director of Pegasus, is delighted that the venue is going from strength to strength: “We are so lucky to have a venue of this calibre operating in the north of Ireland. The facilities are second to none and the staff, ably directed by Rodney (Gault), could not have been more helpful.

“Hosting a dressage to music demo is quite an undertaking, given the sound system requirements and, of course, the building of a 20 x 60 arena, which has to be accurate to the last centimetre. The staff were super and, when the music played on a sunny Saturday evening for our dressage riders against the backdrop of the castle, we couldn’t have asked for a more lovely setting for our music.”

The audience were treated to a talk by Anna on the creative process for each piece: balancing the technical aspect of music editing overseen by Jonathan Magowan, against the choreography requirements, expertly handled by chief Pegasus choreographer, Jill Hobson.

Long-standing Pegasus client, Victoria McCandless opened the demo with her Elementary Freestyle arrangement on the theme of Cobra Kai: featuring 80s classics, such as Joe Esposito and Queen, evidently hugely enjoyed by her mount ‘Koolstyle’, who rose to the occasion.

This was followed by an instrumental Tina Turner medley for Jill Hobson and her home-bred mare ‘Miss Hanne J Walker’. The track ‘Simply the Best’ was a real highlight in this piece and had the audience tapping their toes.

Fiona Gerring, of FG Dressage and Training, provided the evening’s finale with her Inter I arrangement of instrumental Nathan Carter. Fiona explained to the audience how Jill’s choreography really highlighted ‘Jumping Fox’s’ strengths, such as his pirouettes and tempi changes (hitting those coveted marks for degree of difficulty), whilst Jonathan’s musical edit accentuated these as ‘party pieces’. No doubt Nathan Carter would be delighted to see a horse dancing to the strains of Temple Bar.

All in all, it was a beautiful evening showcasing the best Ireland has to offer in terms of a top class venue at Castle Irvine, Necarne, skilled dressage performances from local riders and, of course, top class professional music arrangements from local company Pegasus Dressage Music.

Pegasus Dressage Music are returning to Castle Irvine, Necarne on September 24 for the Dare to Dance Dressage Camp, hosted by Para Equestrian Ireland, where both able-bodied and para dressage riders can avail of the expertise of International Coach Clive Milkins, 5* FEI Para Dressage Judge Sarah Rogers and the Irish Para Team Adviser Debora Pijpers. Contact Lucinda Blakiston-Houston ([email protected]) to reserve your place.

Report & Photo by Farm Week


Dare to Dance: Dressage at Castle Irvine Necarne