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.


Castle Irvine, Necarne will open up its doors again on 22nd May and 14th August 2021 to welcome the Eventing Ireland National Horse Trials. This will see the return of eventing to Necarne on a National Level, the beginning of the aim to bring International events back to Necarne. Dora Beacom, Event Coordinator for Eventing Ireland Northern Region commented, ”It is very exciting to have this iconic venue back on our calendar for the forthcoming year. Necarne is unique for a number of reasons, not least because of the all-weather cross country course which, given the weather patterns of the past few years, will, undoubtedly, prove invaluable. The infrastructure and facilities are legendary as is the amazing backdrop of the beautiful 17th Century Tudor Castle. Many of the world’s leading event riders quote Necarne as their all-time favourite event and I have no doubt that there will be a collective welcome to the news that it is making its way back onto the schedule.” Catherine Abbott, Chair of Eventing Ireland, Northern Region commented, ”The inclusion of Necarne in our calendar for 2021 is great news for everyone, particularly since we are lacking parkland venues. Many of the fences from the last International are still there and can be used. It is wonderful to be working with the dynamic team from Gardrum Holdings who are equally keen to see eventing return to this amazing venue.”

Eventing Ireland site walk at Necarne. Pictured from left to right, Lithgow Currie, Jean Mitchell, Denis Currie, Vina Buller, Dora Beacom, David Morrison

Necarne have been renowned for holding horse trials at both a National and International level in the past. Necarne has hosted a total of 15 International events, with the last one dating back to 2009. They have also hosted FEI Eventing Championships at both Junior and Young Rider levels, and the FEI Pony Championships for dressage, showjumping and eventing. Many of the top eventers who are now competing all over the world, have competed at Necarne. This includes the current world number one Oliver Townend, World Number two Tim Price, along with Zara Philips. Vina Buller has been named as Course Designer for both dates, who represented Ireland at the highest level, in both Showjumping and Eventing, with input from world renowned course designer Ian Stark, it is sure to be two days of the highest quality Eventing.

Camiila Speirs on Portersize Just a Jiff – 2006

Camilla Speirs represented Ireland at the Junior European Championships at Necarne in 2006 with Portersize Just a Jiff, bred by Philip White of Maddybenny. This combination has since represented Ireland on many occasions including at 5* level at Badminton and Pau. She commented that, “We are very lucky to have a venue like Necarne back on the eventing calendar for 2021. Not only does Necarne boast some of the best facilities and picturesque courses in the country, but it holds very special memories for me, personally, as I competed here in my very first Junior European Championship with Portersize Just a Jiff.”

Jayne Doherty, Winner of the CCI2* Necarne 2009 on ‘The Only One’ also commented, ‘Necarne is incredibly special to me. Winning Necarne in 2009 on ‘The Only One’ was pivotal to my entire career. One year on from Necarne we were called up for the World Equestrian Championships in Kentucky USA to represent Ireland. Necarne gave me the belief that I could win amongst international competitors and is one of my favourite places in the world. The lure of Necarne to National and, potentially, International competitors is strong. The facilities are absolutely incredible. The remarkable Team that Derek Keys & Kyle Porter have put together to revitalize the venue has Necarne gleaming. With the professionalism of Dora Beacom & Eventing Ireland behind this venue, it’s the foremost event that everyone is going to be excited about!”

Vina Buller, Course Designer at Necarne

Castle Irvine Estate Ltd are delighted that Eventing Ireland have decided to include the Estate for two National Horse Trials this year (2021). Following on from our first Show Jumping Ireland Event held in “November 2020” We hope that these National Events will act as a stepping stone to further promote Castle Irvine, Necarne back to its former Glory as an International Equestrian Centre. We began conversations with the key members of eventing Ireland back in 2017. Following completion of our lease with Fermanagh & Omagh District Council in July 2020 we pursued discussions with the Eventing Ireland team who ran so many successful Events at Necarne. A special thanks to Jean Mitchell, Denis Currie, Vina Buller, Dora Beacom and David Morrison for their dedication, knowledge and wisdom. We truly are delighted to have approval for two dates in 2021. We would like to thank Eventing Ireland for their dedication in bringing Horse Trials back to Necarne. We extend a warm welcome to everyone coming to visit Castle Irvine, Necarne for these events. This is also a great opportunity for the local community to get involved in this sport so, if anyone is interested in helping on either of the two dates, they should contact the Event Co-ordinator, Dora Beacom, on 07876758979.