Sunday 19th September 2021 - Rider Report
Report by Frances Whooley Riding Level 3 with Siobhan Wolf.
We rode from the farm-yard through the quiet county roads of East Cork. Our first section of off road was riding at the Coolguerisque bridge where we turned righthanded and followed along one side of the river with a steep incline on the other, into a lush grass field.
Following the route on the map we found an opening in the hedge to another series of grass fields where we got the opportunity for a lovely canter. We came upon a closed gate onto the road, which Siobhan kindly opened and closed again. We went downhill to the left and our next entrance gate was open on our right which took us along a grassy track, a bit above the river. After about 5 minutes of trotting, we came to a river crossing followed by a second river crossing. Thankfully, both our horses were happy to step into the flowing water. We entered a lovely mature wood and followed the track to a steep incline to find our exit out onto the lawn of Aston Grove – a lovely old Georgian house. We followed the path out through the entrance, and when we rounded the corner we came upon our checkpoint 2 with Megan.
When our 5 minutes rest was up, Megan unexpectedly produced a sheet of paper with details of a grid referencing section, which we then had to transfer onto our map. Having completed this exercise, we negotiated our way via these grid reference points into a Christmas tree plantation, noting some tickets along the way. We exited the farm once again, and on our way out, along a country boreen, we met a small excavator mending potholes. Our two steeds were not bothered by this, and we carried on gaily, only to find Barbara and her daughter at checkpoint 3 lurking around the corner. Consulting our map, we saw that we were to go under the motorway and along another quiet small road. Mindful of our allocated speed, we kept up a brisk trot along the quiet stretch while we admired the dairying countryside that surrounded us.
On our way past the local disused graveyard, we came upon a checkpoint which was not for our level, so after a brief chat, we carried on down into a valley. Crossing the river again – over a bridge this time – we climbed up the steep hill on the other side. Shortly after passing an entrance to a large farm-yard, we found the entry to the next off-road section, which was in the main gate of the farmers house – then left into another grass field. Checking our route bearing we crossed the field and found the track which took us down to the river and up the other side. It lead us to a disused farmhouse, and from there out onto another lane just not far from the roundabout for Junction 18 of the motorway. We then turned left, and it lead us down to the outskirts of Riverstown. Here we went under the motorway again and swung left-handed at the edge of a housing estate. We rode down a long avenue into a farmyard where we found our checkpoint 4, along with the farm family out to greet us.
Our maps were then confiscated by Etaine – the checkpoint steward – and put into sealed envelopes for us to carry with us while we negotiated the next section. Etaine then gave us a sheet with a list of bearings which we were to follow. Having taken the first bearing we struck off, counting our strides to the next change of direction. We found this part of the route was very interesting. We followed a track from the farmyard to a little old narrow stone bridge crossing the river, then following the bearings we found ourselves in a deciduous wood just as it started to rain. Luckily the leaves were still on the trees, and we got some shelter, though our bearings sheet got a bit soggy. We then had to drop into the river to cross it, following a dirt path under the motorway again. We carefully followed the bearing directions and counted our strides. After a short steep descent and another few twists and turns, we found that we were at the Rocky Road – which is a local walking path. We crossed over the wooden footbridge to find checkpoint 5, just up the road. We had a 10 minute break there, as another pair of riders had come in just in front of us. When the stewards Diana and Maria got a chance they gave us permission to open our maps again.
We took advantage of the wait at the checkpoint to locate our position on the map. We were then given the go ahead, to leave the checkpoint. We proceeded up hill on the final leg of the route – homeward bound. The return journey took us along undulating and peaceful country lanes, bringing us to checkpoint 6 near the graveyard, and into familiar territory as we recognised the road back to the venue. We returned to the final checkpoint to hand in our record card. We were incredibly happy to have come to the end of a wonderful day out on our trusty steeds Brandy and Paris.
The Final phase – Sunday 19th September 2021
We concluded our 3-phase event with the POR phase on Sunday 19th Sept 2021. The venue for this event was Whooley’s Farm in Kilrussane, Knockraha, Co. Cork. Elaine Dolan Crowley was our Traceur for this phase of the event. Having traced a POR (Level 1 & 2) before, Elaine took it up a notch and traced her first Level 3 POR route for this competition. The technical delegate for the POR phase was Bastian.
A few competitors had travelled to the venue on Saturday and stayed overnight, but the remaining competitors and volunteers began arriving at Whooley’s Farm from 9am that morning. As they got their horses ready, the riders did a quick double check to confirm they had all their equipment before heading to the tack check steward; missing items could mean penalty points and possible delays. In the meantime, the stewards that would be out at the first couple of checkpoints on the route were shown to their locations with the Traceur, who advised them where they were to wait and helped them setup their checkpoint with entry and exit cones, CP numbers and speed signs for the next section. Having the longer and more difficult route ahead of the three levels, the four Level 3 riders (2 pairs) were the first to present themselves for the tack check at 10am, after which they waited for their turn to be called into the map room (checkpoint #1, aka CP1). Horses were tied up (or if required a rider could ask one of the helpers to hold their horse) while the riders were in the map room. Level 3 riders were given 15 minutes to copy down the route from the master map onto their own map, and take a note of the sample ticket and the speed set for the section to CP2. The first pair of Level 3 riders set off from CP1 at 10:15am, the second pair at 10:25am; all four riders blissfully unaware of Elaine’s plan for them at the next checkpoint!
The map room was then set up with the Level 2 maps. With their tack check completed, the Level 2 riders were called at intervals into the map room and given 10 minutes to copy the route from the master map. The only individual rider was called in first, followed by the four sets of pair riders. The Level 2 route would be a bit shorter and not as complicated as the Level 3 route, as traceurs do try to include some sections of off-road riding for them and the riders don’t have the challenge of plotting grid references and working off compass bearings that the more advanced levels “enjoy” (but for some that might translate as “endure”). Once all Level 2 riders had departed, the map room was again changed and set up with the maps for Level 1. For all six L1 riders (three pairs) this was their first ever POR, again with 10 minutes to copy the route, and it wasn’t long before all riders had departed from the yard.
The steward at CP2 for the level 3 route (which was also CP2 for the level 2 route) arrived back to the yard shortly after the Level 1 riders had departed, and told us of the surprise that had awaited the Level 3 riders: just as they were about to depart the checkpoint, they were stopped and handed a sheet of paper stating that their route had been unexpectedly changed. They were given a list of grid references that they were to plot on their map, and told to find their way to each of the points until they rejoined their originally marked route. A small table was set up at the CP for the riders to use so they dismounted and plotted their new route via the grid reference points. Despite the curveball, it wasn’t totally unwelcome, as the new route cut across country and shortened their expected journey considerably. The level 2 riders heard about the surprise while resting during their 5 minute break at the CP and were grateful they did not have to worry about such challenges.
The PTV helps to prepare the riders for obstacles they may face while out on a POR. This particular route took them over a footbridge, which they could cross in hand or ridden, through a stream and open and close gates. Should they have encountered these obstacles during a PTV, they would be well equipped to handle them in the POR.
The first riders arrived back to the venue around 2pm, with the last pair clocking in just before 4pm. We finished the day with tea and biscuits while waiting for the scores to be processed. Once the Scorer, Traceur and TD were happy with the scores they were posted for the riders to view them. Some of the riders had already left the venue, so those that remained were given a period of 30 minutes to query the POR scores should they need to. After a brief award giving and thank you speeches, riders and stewards alike were off homeward bound.
The day ran smoothly, leaving stewards, riders and organisers happy after having a great day out. It was wonderful to hear from all the riders that they had enjoyed riding along their respective routes, and in such lovely sunny weather (ignoring a couple of drops of light rain here and there). Both riders and the checkpoint stewards got to enjoy some beautiful views of the Knockraha countryside during the day, and the stewards also managed to take a few photos for us all to enjoy.
This day would not have been possible if it weren’t for Elaine who put in such a great job of tracing the routes, Bastian fulfilling all his duties as Technical Delegate, Jill for scoring, the Whooley family for hosting this phase of our event at their farm, all the landowners for agreeing to Elaine’s requests and letting the riders have access across their land, the stewards for manning checkpoints and undertaking different roles throughout the day, Brid-Anne for providing tea, coffee, biscuits and food for stewards (and the riders who had arrived on Saturday) and finally all the riders for giving us a reason for this event to happen. Thank you all.
The First 2 phases – Sunday 12th September 2021
The first day of this 3-phase event took place in Glengarriff on a rainy Sunday 12th of September, and comprised of the MA (occasionally referred to as Control of Paces) and the PTV (Obstacle) course.
The first rider set out for the MA phase of this event just after 10am, when it looked like there was no hope of the rain stopping. Each rider completed the timed and marked 150m long x 2m wide corridor first one way, in as slow and controlled a canter as they could manage without breaking stride or stepping out of the narrow corridor, and then back the other way, trying to get their steeds to walk as quickly as possible, again not stepping out/or changing gait. It was our first time using electronic timing equipment in a competition. With the timing equipment beeping merrily away as the rider passed between the flags, we were also manually timing the rider with a stop watches (our backup system should the electronic sensors and wet weather not be compatible after all!)
There were 20 riders entered for the day and after completing the MA, it was time for the PTV (obstacle) phase. This was to be no ordinary PTV phase. Designed by the Chef de Piste - Bastian - to allow riders to experience a greater variety of obstacles on the same day this phase would consist of not just one PTV course of 16 obstacles but two separate courses giving a total of 32 obstacles in all – thus, the PTV XL.
With the help of the volunteers and some of the riders (who would be judging levels other than their own), the first course of the PTV got under way. Thankfully the rain had started to clear just as the PTV started. Level 3 and Level 1 riders rode Course 1 first while the Level 2 riders helped judge. The horses and their riders had to negotiate jumps, water crossing, inclines, a footbridge and to duck under low branches without touching them. After breaking for lunch and a quick swap over of judges, we then saw our Level 2 riders complete Course 1. There was a brief changeover of the course transitioning from Course 1 to Course 2. This time we began the course with our Level 2 riders before the last short break to change parts of the course, and riders and judges changed over, with Level 1 and then Level 3 getting their chance to do Course 2 obstacles. It was a wonderful day out and everyone got to experience a wide range of obstacles. We completed the day with a group photo of the riders that had been able to stay until the end.
The day was an overall success, but we couldn’t have done it without Bastian letting us use his land for the venue or creating the wonderful courses, our TD Gwen - handling all sorts of queries, Jill our scorer, and all our judges and all the riders not only gave us competitors to judge but were also there to help with judging.
Looking forward to Sunday the 19th for the final phase – the POR!
Browse our news or click here to view our Results page