Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tour of Powerstown Park

Today at Powerstown Park saw the Hare Husbandry Seminar set up by the Irish Coursing Club.  It was well attended by coursing club members from all over the country.  The whole day was excellent and extensive and I would like to thank the ICC for putting it on...........I personally came away a far wiser person.  Watching from the sidelines , you would not even begin to realize just how much work goes into putting on a coursing meeting and.....most importantly making sure the hares are kept...........and then released... in first class order.

I will try to cover.........for those who could not attend........part of the day.

we`ll start...I think with a tour of the coursing facilities of Powerstown Park..........known to us all as

"Clonmel"



To many spectators  our view of Clonmel Coursing grounds........often from the bar.... includes the Slippers Hut......the Hill.........then the hare...thought the escape and away.  Have you ever thought where he goes?

.....well find out shall we................

When hares first  arrive at Powestown Park they are  wormed , tagged and released into the grounds behind  the top of the coursing ground.  There are extensive paddocks to accommodate  the 150 plus hares that are needed.   There are 8 or 10 paddocks,  all of about a acre where hares are split up and rotated to make the most of the grazing.  There is also a special feeding paddock with CCTV facilities for night time security .  We were shown footage of this paddock where we saw hares feeding and playing totally stress free .Both day and night
 Here we see the main paddock where feeding stations are placed  these comprise of many buckets of Oats.........apples..........sallies and oat sheaves ............plus a plentiful supply of water.
This alley of trees affords great protection from the elements for night time feeding.  The whole complex is surrounded by conifers for screening , making a secure stress free area for hares to live.  They are attended by the same keepers on a strict routine keeping disturbance to a minimum.  Hares soon become accustomed to the feeding time visits.
Once training begins they are moved through the paddocks as quietly as possible and the whole place is set up so this can be done with the minimum of fuss. You can see in the photo above how all gateways are heavily padded to prevent the hares from blows as the run through to the next field.
It could not be stressed enough how essential it is to be unhurried and gentle in the handling of the hare

One of the final paddocks,  has a gateway  that mimics the "escape" at the top of the coursing grounds.......this is to add to the training and get hares comfortable with the escapes. As seen below



Once hares have settled,  they start training..........for this they are run down the shoot....or narrow lane on the far side of the coursing grounds..........This leads to the penning sheds.

 
This is a view from the top of the field...........you can see to the right the coursing field and the shoot on the left.............This is their run down to the penning shed..............embedded in the hedge on the right are small "shys" where men hide............as the hares pass them they step out of the shy to stop the hares returning back to the feeding pens





                   









and below we see the tour being led by our guide for the day....Aidan Supple......down the shoot to the penning sheds.

       
Once they reach the bottom of the shoot they are run down into the penning shed where they are funneled though holes into boxes..........this is set up so as it is done with no......or very little handling.

Sadly because I was flying about taking photos I missed much of Aidans speech so I can't tell you for sure if they are boxed for all schooling sessions..............I would guess its is only for the pre meeting trial session.

 Hares are sent through  these holes straight into the penning boxes the other side
You can see in the next photo how the rows of boxes line up with the holes......................the hares run through the boxes........that have all the sliding divisions taken out................to the end of the row to then be penned individually. They are now ready to to taken out and sent up the field for schooling or coursing.





Before hares are released,  however they are given a check over to make sure they are fit  During schooling and through the coursing all hares are rated.  Steward Aiden Supple does this job at Clonmel.  He watches every hare that runs and gives it a mark.  Any hare that is under 6lb in weight will not be coursed. Hares that get too many turns or flecked are not coursed again. On the final day only hares that have scored 7points the day before will be allowed to run again.


A view of the coursing grounds from the penning sheds...........on the day of coursing there is netting lined up past the slippers huts to keep hares straight. the gallop up the hill is mowed all year round and was in excellent condition.

 Members of the tour making there way to the top of the hill.

Once hares reach the escape they pop under a series of bars too low for greyhounds to get under...........through a shoot.... to a trap door into the back paddocks..................This is a flap held open by a hidden man.The hare is now in a area where hes asses for condition and routed to a different paddock according to this assessment

The flaps are worked by the pulleys that can be seen above..... by a man in the hut.



And this is the way back into the feeding pen............you can see the two flaps for grading the hares without handling.

After coursing all hares are checked in this pen......any that got too many turns or were flecked by the dogs will pass through the door on the left into a smaller pen for a vat check

The whole place was very impressive with the minimum of handing involved to save hares as much stress as possible.
It was a pleasure to spend time with so many people with such a vast knowledge of hares .....all pooling information in order to help the many clubs raise the standards of conditions for hares.

I hope you find this interesting and it gives you a idea of whats going on behind the scenes,  I will try to do more over the next few days..............up early in the morning and ff hare catching with Thurles club.