Ireland Day 6

I do not have a guest blogger for day 6. All the riders have decided they have had enough blogging for this trip.

Sunday was the second day of competition with session 3 and a final. The weather was sunny, chilly and windy.

Gen started out the morning riding on her four man Open team for Cork. She rode excellently. The pony she was riding, Freddy, was no match for the speed of the division but Gen rode mistake free and enjoyed riding with her team.

Two teams joined the U17 division for
Sunday and we were split into two heats of 5 and 6. The team rode a decent morning session with few
mistakes, which proved to be their general style for the week.

Ann brought by a fantastic home cooked lunch for everyone. I am a little amazed my pants still fit after all the amazing home cooked meals she prepared for us. And let’s not even talk about desserts.

During lunch break we did some packing, socializing and swapping of MGAA gear for Irish gear.

The final sessions started up and Gen continued to perform, riding mistake free and finishing 6th.

The U17 team went into the B final as the leaders. They were a little wound up and distracted with all their new friends. And the exhaustion from all of weeks activities was showing.

They started bumpy, but got it back together part way through. They took second in their joker race, Mug Shuffle, pulled off several perfect races. They went into the last race one point behind first but had a minor slip up and tired for second. The tie breaker was two flag, which had proved to not be their best race earlier in the competition. They did ride Two Flag much better than previously but it was not enough and they finished a very respectable third.

The week of perfect weather slipped up and it started to rain during the awards. Aw shucks. We rushed through a quick pack up, sending the Lockyer family including teammate Emma, off to catch their ferry. And we all made out way back to the Devitt’s house.

Ann greeted us with another amazing dinner, and we had a our last social evening, with some new Irish friends stopping by to join in.

We packed the van and after a short sleep we headed to the airport at 4am to make our flight home. I am writing this while make our way across the Atlantic and I am beyond ready for a nap.

The entire trip was amazing. We found the Irish to be exceptionally friendly and welcoming. The country is gorgeous, clean and gorgeous. What an awesome opportunity.

We are extremely grateful, and truly hope to return the opportunity to some of our new friends.

I will post some photos into another post in the near future. :0)

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Ireland Day 4

April 19, 2014

Guest blog by Aidan

This morning we woke up to hear Eliza and Emma had waken up early to corral the ponies back to their paddocks. Already a great start to the morning.. Then we went straight in for a frosted flakes and Nutella breakfast of champions.
Next was straight off to Rock of Dunnamaze, the local Portlaoise castle ruins. The Devitts had a castle in their backyard basically… After a quick 10 min drive consisting of a young boy around the age of 3 controlling passing cows with a large stick, we hopped out of the van to investigate the ruins.
Jill and Gen got loads of pictures of the beautiful ruins and countryside. Everyone else also enjoyed climbing and the view. Even Krista and Ms. Lauren got some good climbs and pictures in.
Afterwards we headed to Ann Devitt’s (marks mom’s) family’s restaurant in Portlaoise. We all had a great lunch and some simply AMAZING gluten-free chocolate cake. And a surprise appearance from Emma’s dad, Mr. Rob Lockyer. Also we got some antique shopping down for gen and all hit a tack store down the road. we cleaned out the store buying everything from five points to bits and tack cleaner to halters.
Then, we headed straight back to the house to tack up ponies. We hacked to Stradbally showgrounds for the competition with Marks cousins Andrew and Graham.
Meanwhile ms Lauren was following us in the van were hauling the caravan and the Devitts hauled the caravan for sleeping and lowery for marks pony and sleeping quarters. Also krista and the Lockyers brought the pens and blankets for the ponies. Everyone got to the grounds safe and sound and after some sheep chasing we got to work on starts and tyre with Rob.
Finally we Untacked and situated ponies just in time to eat pizza and fish & chips for dinner. Right before bed we got to do tentative orders and organize team equipment. Finally time for bed so we can be all pumped for the competition tomorrow! Wish us luck!

This blog was posted on a wifi drive-by of the Devitt home.

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Ireland Day 5

Guest blog by Genevieve

Saturday was a gorgeous 65-70 degrees with a light breeze and blue skies. I was up at 8 to care for my pony and prep for my session at 10. The rest of the team got in a bit more rest before their heat following mine at 11:10. I was very rushed to get ready as I had not yet found my team until about 20min before our ride time (so I didn’t have a jersey or pads). The team is very nice with Jesse, Jenny, and Jamie (along with myself, Genevieve) representing Quark. Here the teams do not have cool names but instead represent the counties that they come from within their country. My first heat was a little rough, I jumped off backwards at the canter and took a tumble but my pony waited for me and we finished the race. We also struggle with hand offs because Freddie was afraid of the fast ponies. We finished up that session with mostly 5th/6th/7th place finishes out of 7 teams.

Team USA had a very tidy first session, all the players had good vaults and strong hand offs. They were being regularly announced as in the running for 4th place out of 9 teams (historically the most teams in one heat for a competition in Ireland). The announcer called them USA or would announce by their pony names, “Here comes Batman” or “the pony is bucking home”. It was a fun way for them to engage us foreigners.

I took a nap before my next session and the kids spent some time eating and socializing. As I tacked up, the Irish kids asked me what Baseball was and how the rules work. They were excited that my brothers had played and could only reference the ‘Wii’ when it came to fouls and home runs. They also tried to say the TH sound in Three with some success and we tried to say Three with out pronouncing the H as they do. It was a fun way to connect with the kids and learn about differences in culture and speech.

My second session was very clean for me personally with no real mistakes and good solid vaults, my team was in 3rd or 4th consistently with one tidy 2nd place. I started every race and that allowed them to do handoffs at speed, the adjustments worked well.

Jill’s pony Batman came up lame for the second session so she took my pony into her second heat which threw off their rhythm a little. They had some petty mistakes but the announcer routinely encouraged them on with the other top teams. There were some very nice vaults and steady rides in the second session for team USA and by the end they had some very clean rides.

We spent the next few hours socializing and having a wonderful Irish meal catered by Tynnans (Miss Anne’s sister’s Diner). We then went out to see a hunter page that had already ended and found ourselves playing with some of the Irish u17/u14 kids. They taught us that to “Leg Up” means to run as fast as you can and that “Fine Lad” means that a person is good and trustworthy. They also don’t have trash cans, but instead have “bins”. They tell time a bit differently too, 8:30 is half-eight, 9:30 is half-nine, etc. These differences were neat to learn.

Finally we went to a Pub for a quiz session on IMGA and Ireland games rules or celebrity figures. It was well organized and fun, we all got very competitive with our teams and did very well making it into the top points. Eliza and Emma were with three Irish boys and they were recognized as top U12 quiz team. The back of the pub was arranged more like a large dining hall with black lights and booth seating. The quiz went quite late and we were all ready to get back to our beds at 11:30 for tomorrow.

Photos coming soon.

Ireland Day 3

April 18, 2014

Guest blog by Eliza

Today in the morning, after finishing barn work, we rode all the ponies and got a games clinic from Mark Devitt. Next, we took a 2-3 hour car ride to the Aillwee Cave. In the car we saw multiple small towns and if you blinked you would miss them! In one of the towns, we saw Gypsies!

The cave is beautiful! There was a water fall that went from the top of the cave to the bottom. There was also, BEAR BONES. The bones where from European Brown bear that went extinct 1,000 years ago in Ireland from deforestation and European hunters!

Also, on the first day we saw a Carol Ann look like walking through a small town.

To follow all that we stopped off at the really stunning The Cliffs of Moher! We took lots of photos and walked along the paths that looked over the drop/edge! We came to an old building like a small castle that was very cool! We stopped for a rest there and took pictures with the team and cliffs!

We then carried on to the end where we saw adorable lambs and sheep which ate the grass on the very edge giving us all a heart attack! Finally after regrouping and walking all the way back, we were off again in the car back home.

We saw signs for “Obama’s ancestral heritage town”. And then we stopped off on the way for gas and food and rushed home for a delicious meal cooked by our host mom! Yummmm….

The dinner was amazing! We had home raised pork and home grown veggies. All topped off with outstanding gravy. This was a traditional Ireland dinner and could not ask for a better host family!

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Ireland Day 2

April 17, 2014

Guest Blog: Genevieve Arens

It was a bright, yet brisk morning today when we woke to prepare for our first ride on the ponies. We mucked, fed and watered them quickly before dispersing to our respective rides for tacking. I tacked up Freddie, a 13.2 fleabitten grey pony with a really sweet disposition who loves to rub on his handler that looks like Pepper but rides very laid back. Aiden tacked up a chunky white pony named Batman, he’s so fat that he needed a different girth from the one the owners provided, I attribute this to our host’s amazing food. Jill tacked up Fizz, a little feisty chestnut pony that rides a lot like Krista’s old pony Osh Kosh. Emma rode an ex-event pony named Bambi and Abby started on Tucker, a pretty bay/black pony with a really funky racing saddle.

Ponies switched around quite a bit, Jill ended up playing beautifully on Batman while Aiden was strong enough to keep Tucker going and tolerate his formidable saddle. Abby rode Fizz’s jiggy gait and fit him remarkably well for his 11.3 hand size. Eliza worked through some kinks on JC who was less forward than Dusty at home but really petite and about the size of Fizz. I rode on Freddie who was the tallest of the bunch at 13.2 (I think we are doing it wrong in the states, I like these little ponies :D). Freddie is super laid back and fun to ride, so the practice was really more about ponies and riders meshing than it was for practice or for training. After about two hours of coaching and talking we were all making our running vaults, getting hand offs, bending, and playing mug shuffle clean (and at speed).

I can’t stress enough how gorgeous the scenery is around here, the fields are beautifully manicured with clean hedges and rolling hills. It’s stunning!

After we rode everyone got changed and we ventured off to the Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens. The park is wonderfully maintained and we ran across many proud momma’s and friendly foals. The place was filled with flowers and elaborate natural rock structures. After spending at least an hour venturing around the stud we toured the horse museum, which showed us the history of thoroughbreds and racing in Ireland. (Also had a crazy full sized skeleton of the most famous racehorse in Ireland).

Next we went to a Tack Superstore and Café’ which was like three Dover stores combined and filled with pony sized tack (amazing if you have a small pony in the US). There was even a section of racing equipment and racing saddles, much like the one that Aiden was riding in on Tucker. After spending about an hour indulging our consumerism we headed back to the host’s house to care for the ponies, change, and go to an Irish Pub for dinner. It was a lot like an old diner with vines growing up along the side of it and gorgeous wood paneling lining the walls. There is a dining area, a bar for drinks and then a separate ‘bar’ (with a different entrance) from the dining area. Mark’s parents joined us and we coincidentally ran into Aiden and Abby’s parents (without them knowing where we were located, let alone when we were going to be there). The food was delightful like a fine restaurant with bigger portions and the company was absolutely wonderful.

Let me take a moment to comment on how wonderful the host family has been to us, preparing meals, making sure that we are comfortable and treating us like family.

Krista told me not to keep writing because she wants to go to bed now.

This was a perfect day and a wonderful experience for all of us. I’ll make Krista let me write more later. :D

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