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Top new equestrian centre opens in Ireland

Next month a state-of-the-art equestrian centre will open at Castle Leslie in Co Monaghan, Ireland, offering a comprehensive training facility to appeal to tourists and Irish riders alike.

Some €10.5million has been ploughed into the centre, which was bought back into the family estate in 2004. It now boasts a 50x30m indoor school, 20x40m outdoor school, 1,000 acres with 300 cross-country jumps, 55 stables set in five courtyards and two all-weather gallops.

“There’s nothing like it in Ireland — Cavan is our nearest equestrian centre, a 40min drive away, but it appeals to a different market. We are for tourists as well as competitors, and have the cross-country course and gallops, too,” said Castle Leslie’s spokesman, Susanne Donelly.

The family-owned and -run castle and estate offers four- and five-star accommodation and cookery courses. Set 70min from Belfast and 90min from Dublin, it is four miles south of the border with Northern Ireland, and run by Sammy Leslie, who gained her BHSII at Talland with Pammy Hutton in the 1980s.

Badminton course-builders the Willis Brothers have built 250 of the 300 cross-country jumps, and the equestrian centre manager, Julie Sargeant, hopes to run riding club dressage and show jumping, and to offer the estate as a training venue for the Irish team.

Irish event rider Jeremy Spring already visits once a month, and Ian Stark, Lucinda Green, Yogi Breisner and Pippa and William Funnell are booked to teach there over the coming year. Side-saddle and carriage driving instruction is also available.

New horses have been bought, bringing the total to 39, ranging from Connemaras to Irish hunters and ex-racehorses. The centre also boasts Ireland’s first mechanical horse.

Half the funding for the centre (€5.25m) came from the Irish government and European Union as part of a programme to regenerate the area after the troubles. The other half was raised by the castle.

Eventing Ireland’s team trainer, Lars Christensson, visited the castle last year when work had just begun.

“There are quite a few training facilities spread around Ireland, but nothing quite like Castle Leslie,” he told H&H. “It’s fantastic, the work they’ve put into the centre and we’ll definitely use it for team training.”

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