The weather wasn’t quite stable but it took more than the threat of biblical-style floods to deter Ireland’s equestrian community who braved tumultuous downpours to attend the opening day of the 139th Dublin Horse Show at the RDS in Ballsbridge.
However, it’s fair to say the 300 exhibitors in the large indoor halls were happier than most riders and their mounts in the jumping arenas as visitors took refuge indoors to inspect the various trade stands.
Despite yesterday’s deluge, the show’s organisers estimate it will attract some 100,000 visitors over the five-day event which finishes on Sunday. This year’s Discover Ireland Dublin Horse Show boasts a total prize fund of €944,000 with 131 different competitions including 15 for international riders.
RDS CEO Michael Duffy said the postponement of the show from its traditional start date in early August due to the Olympics was proving “nothing but positive”.
Overall entries are up about 11% on last year’s figures to 1,400 horses, which the RDS has largely attributed to the introduction of new performance classes designed to promote traditional Irish breeds.
Among the main attractions is the presence of five showjumpers direct from London 2012 including Ireland’s bronze medallist, Cian O’Connor, as well as gold medallists Steve Guerdat from Switzerland and Nick Skelton of Britain.
O’Connor, who brought his Olympic medal to show to well-wishers, said it looked like being “a promising week” as his horse who jumped in London, Blue Loyd, was continuing to perform well. (However, the pair finished in 18th place in their first competition with one time fault in the Fáilte Stakes, yesterday.)
The Co Meath-based rider, who is expected to be part of the Irish team to compete for the Aga Khan Nations Cup tomorrow, took time out from the show yesterday to attend the homecoming celebrations for the Irish Olympic squad at the Mansion House in Dublin.
And he wasn’t alone as Dublin’s Lord Mayor, Naoise Ó Muirí, also raced between both events after performing the traditional opening ceremony at the RDS. The mayor, who was accompanied by his wife, Fionnuala and their daughters Ailbhe, 6, and Bríona, 4, said he had never in his wildest dreams believed as a child that he would one day officially open the event and welcome home Ireland’s Olympic team on the same day.
Cllr Ó Muirí described the show as a “true Dublin institution and one of the highlights of the Irish sporting calendar”.
Meanwhile, Mr Duffy revealed the RDS was commissioning a feasibility study on the possibility of staging a revival of the famous Spring Show.
The event, which ran for decades, was one of the top highlights in the farming calendar until it ceased in the 1980s in the face of strong competition from the National Ploughing Championships and the Tullamore Show.
Mr Duffy said any major new annual event whose main aim would be to support the agri-food industry was unlikely to begin before 2015.
He also claimed 2012 was proving a very busy year for the RDS, which hosted a number of major events such as the Eucharistic Conference and two Bruce Springsteen concerts as well as an upcoming international conference in December for the OSCE, currently chaired by Ireland.
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