INTERNATIONAL equestrian stars Cameron Hanley and Aoife Clark returned to Ireland yesterday (Monday) to accept their prizes at the prestigious The Irish Field Awards in The K Club in Straffan, Co Kildare.
Hanley, who made a remarkable return from injury in 2013, was presented with the senior show jumper of the year accolade, while Clark was honoured with the eventing counterpart.
Germany-based Hanley had been sidelined since June 2011 when he injured his knee in a freak accident while playing with his children in his garden at home.
He returned to action last February and highlights included a Grand Prix victory at Wiesbaden, being part of Ireland’s winning Nations Cup team at Spruce Meadows Nations Cup and winning team bronze at the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Final in Barcelona last September.
Hanley, who paid tribute to his wife Evelyn, said: “It was good to be back in the saddle, but the highlight was to be in the Irish Nations Cup team in Calgary. It may not have been the biggest Nations Cup, but to jump a double clear and be representing Ireland once again was fantastic.”
Clark enjoyed one of her most successful seasons in 2013, highlighted by victory at Blenheim Palace on P.J. Hegarty’s homebred mare Fenyas Elegance. The following month, she travelled with her young horses to Le Lion d’Angers where she claimed a silver medal on the Irish-bred Fernhill Adventure.
Clark said: “It has been a great year and I want to pay special thanks to my owners, without whom none of it would be possible.”
Bertram Allen made a flying visit to Ireland and was presented with the inaugural Gain Horse Feeds/The Irish Field Star of the Year Award. Along with winning an individual silver medal at the European Junior Championships, he was the leading international rider at the Dublin Horse Show and clocked up a host of victories across Europe during the season.
Also present in Co Kildare for the awards ceremony was Roland Tong, who accepted the senior dressage rider of the year award. Last June he won his first international Grand Prix at the three-star show in Compiegne on his top mount Pompidou and also won the Irish national dressage championship.
European junior team gold and individual silver medallist Elizabeth Hayden won the junior event rider of the year award, while European pony team bronze and individual gold medallist Susan Fitzpatrick took time out from her mock Leaving Certificate exams to accept the junior show jumping rider of the year.
All winners in the Gain Horse Feeds/The Irish Field Star of the Month were also presented with their prizes on the day.