An equestrian team from Ballymahon Vocational School will become the first group from Longford to represent the county at the prestigious All England Inter-schools Championship in Hickstead next week.
The team won the invitation to compete at the competition at the famous Sussex venue after impressing at the All Ireland Inter-schools Championships held in Mullingar Equestrian Centre in April.
The talented team consists of Laura Reynolds, Edgeworthstown; Conor Mc Loughlin, Longford; James Whyte, Legan; Tara Esler, Tashinny and Eoghan Mc Loughlin, Longford and their chef d’equipe, Gerry Whtye.
Summing up the commitment the team have given all year, two members, Laura and Conor, will miss their graduation dance to travel to the competition. “To be honest, I’d rather show jump in Hickstead than go to the grad,” team member Laura said. “It’s possibly a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Commitment was the buzz word used by students, teachers and family members as they were presented with equipment by Connacht Gold – one of their many sponsors – last Wednesday morning.
“None of this would have been possible without the commitment of the families, who have given their time and energy to making this team a success. The school is just a facilitator but the success is down to the effort this bunch has shown,” principal Teresa Victory said.
Show jumping is relatively new to Ballymahon Vocational School and was only introduced nine or ten years ago. While new, the school lists one of Ireland’s finest equestrian stars as a former pupil – Capt. Michael Kelly. Captain Kelly, who has won several prestigious show jumping competitions, recently got in touch to wish the students the best of luck in Hickstead.
While admitting the difficulty of the task in hand, the team are quietly confident of success but realise it all depends on how they perform on the day. Conor, who has also qualified for this August’s Dublin Horse Show in the young rider class, believes it’s a high pressure sport. “It’s a team game with a horse and rider. You might have the best horse in the world but it doesn’t matter if the rider can’t keep their head under pressure,” he said.
The students have expressed their deep gratitude to the long list of generous sponsors who have enabled them to compete in this prestigious event.