AUTO Boland of Waterford, the main south east area Jaguar and Land Rover dealership, made a good call when once again sponsoring the Irish Pony Club National Minimus Championships as the Blue quartet representing the local Waterford Hunt Branch won the team competition last weekend.

The riding phase was held first on Saturday at the Maher family’s Nuenna Farm outside Freshford where there was overnight camping which made the whole Minimus experience much more exciting for the young members and their support crews. T.J. Dillon of D-Jumps was on site all week working with the organisers to build a technical course, with plenty of options, under the watchful eye of phase steward, Ivan Hatton. As ever, an army of volunteers assisted before, during and after this phase and others.

Prior to the competition, John Flood, the IPC’s chairman of Tetrathlon and Minimus, encouraged the less confident riders to make use of the many options on the 22-obstacle course but judging by the large number of competitors who lost points on this phase, riders chose not to heed his advice. In fact, in the National Championships just 16 of the 190 starters had retained their full 1,400 points by close of play on Saturday.

On Sunday, the action moved to Thurles where the swim phase was held at the local leisure centre, while the run took place at Thurles racecourse.

None of the successful Waterford Blue team of Breffni Walsh, Julie McDonald, Matilda Ormond and Emmet Walsh managed to go entirely clear across the country but the excellent winning and second-placed performances of McDonald and Walsh in the pool and the latter’s good run, helped them to victory on a total of 10,112 points. They were presented with the Flood trophy as overall winners and with the Meath trophy as the best-placed mixed team.

It was a weekend of mixed emotions for Jo Breheny who is so closely involved with the Waterford Branch and with both Minimus and Tetrathlon within the IPC. She was delighted to see the Blue team win on Sunday while on Saturday, as safety officer for the ride phase, she was more pleased that none of the two dozen or so young riders who had falls suffered any broken bones or serious injuries.

Being on duty at Nuenna Farm meant that Jo couldn’t travel to the five-star event at Luhmühlen in Germany where it was hoped her home-bred mare, LEB Lias Jewel, and rider Cathal Daniels could improve on their ninth-place finish of 2021. Sadly, it was not to be as the Limmerick 12-year-old fell early on the cross-country course.

The Carlow Rockets team, who finished second on 9,946, comprised Rocco Mulhall, Alfie Donohue, Orla Kelly and Cillian Tobin (who was clear in the ride). On a total of 9,878, the third-placed Kildare Red team of Sarah Smullen, Robyn Dempsey, Tadgh O’Haire and Hogan Byrne won the Clare trophy for the most cross-country clears with three of the quartet retaining their maximum 1,400 points.

Jonty Purcell displays his array of trophies at the IPC National Minimus \ Championships Mel Doyle

Given that he is from Co Tipperary, it was great to see Scarteen’s Jonty Purcell win the national boys’ title on a total of 3,670 points. On Saturday, he and his mother Melanie’s nine-year-old 138cms strawberry roan gelding HHO Wayne, who has one blue eye and one brown, put in an excellent clear round at Nuenna Farm. This came as no surprise as the combination had two outings under Eventing Ireland rules this year at EI90 level, finishing third at Hillcrest and fifth at Kilguilkey House.

Be he playing football – of any code – hurling or tennis, 11-year-old Jonty is highly competitive and he has improved his swimming by training with the Tiger Sharks club in Tipperary Town; he was delighted to set a personal best score on Sunday morning before finishing second in the run. As he was on the international team he also had to shoot, a phase that he is working on for the future. He is being coached by his uncle Nigel (brother of his father Ken) who represented the Scarteens before him.

The Purcells have a long relationship with the Branch as Jonty’s grandmother Maura is a former District Commissioner. She keeps a close eye on his progress and that of his siblings Georgina (eight) and Ruairi (seven). This weekend, Jonty is riding a Connemara mare for Maura at Charleville Show.

Lucy McCarthy with all her trophies and prizes at the IPC National Minimus Championships \ Mel Doyle

The Dublin Horse Show is the next big target for Lucy McCarthy who won the national girls’ title for the Newcastle Lyons Kildare Branch (to give it its full title). The 12-year-old has qualified for the 128cms championship at the RDS on the very well-known grey gelding, The Silver Legend.

Lucy was one of those who kept her full quota of 1,400 marks in the ride phase where she partnered the multi-purpose Beyond Precision on whom she started show jumping in the summer of 2019. This 21-year-old bay mare is owned by the rider’s father Killian who, back in the day, was a member of the United Branch.

Lucy, who finished third in the overall national standings behind Scarteen’s Jonty Purcell and Waterford’s Emmet Walsh, was the highest-placed IPC member in the international girls’ competition. There she also finished third and was particularly pleased to record the highest shooting score for an IPC member of 900 points.

In the national team competition, Lucy and her nine-year-old sister Emily joined forces with two Co Offaly Branch members, Alannah and Ben Roberts, and finished a highly creditable 16th.