High prices no hurdle for those selling (horsey) wares in RDS

‘I do a mental tally and realise my showjumping trolley is already tipping €7,000’

Conor Pope takes a look under hay, behind bridles and over jumps at the Dublin Horse Show.

 

“The helmet costs HOW much?”

I can’t contain my shock when Stacey McMahon, the woman who owns the absolutely ginormous pop-up horsey shop just outside one of the show-jumping circuits in the RDS casually mentions the riding hat I am holding will set me back more than €1,300.

And that’s just the start.

McMahon has been selling “high-end, luxury equestrian wear” from a shop in Cavan and at the Horse Show – which she describes as being “like my Christmas, my Christmas by five” – for 15 years and clearly knows her britches from her chaps.

“These are all Parlanti,” she says sweeping her arm in the direction of a display of boots. As she says the name Parlanti, she looks at me expectantly. I look blankly at her.

Her sigh is almost inaudible. Almost.

“If you knew horses, you’d know Parlanti. It is a good brand, a big brand, a lot of the best riders wear them.”

I look casually at the price tag. €800! “I could buy a pair of Christian Laboutin shoes for that,” I say.

Admittedly, I’d struggle to get them in my size and they’d be useless on a horse but even so, €800 seems steep for a pair of jumped-up jumping wellies.

She looks sadly at me as she caresses the boots. They are calfskin, she says and “custom made to the exact measurements of your leg”.

We move on to the coats. Or show jackets as she calls them. “These are Cavalleria Toscana,” she says. There’s that expectant look again. Followed by a blank one. “This is a fab brand, really beautiful fabrics in lots of different styles and it machine washable,” she says.

I say it is €475.

A short sleeve, button-down collared shirt is €120 while the britches I’ll need if I’m to make it in the show ring will set me back €220.

And then we move on to the dear stuff.

McMahon sells custom-made saddles and the one she shows me is made of calfskin (just how many calves are in this shop?) and will cost me just shy of four grand.

Tally

I do a mental tally and am horrified to realise my showjumping shopping trolley is already tipping €7,000. And there’s not so much as a bale of hay bought for the horse.

There’s no sign of a horse either.

“You see that one over there,” an equestrian journalist standing nearby tells me as she points at a white horse. “It is called Fibonocci and was in the Olympics. It sold recently for around €5million. And another Irish rider sold a horse to one of the Onassis family not long ago for something like €10 or €12 million.”

My dream of a show jumping career dies suddenly.

The dreams are still very much alive for Emily Moloney from Kilkenny. She is only 9½ and already a star of the junior circuit. She has fallen off her horses 63 times, she tells me gravely. But she is not afraid and she keeps getting back into the saddle. She should get a prize for that.

And she should get a prize for giving her horse the best name in show: Tayto.

She and Tayto will take part in a musical competition in which horse and child will ride to a mash-up of tunes from Beauty and the Beast later in the week. It’s no Nations Cup or even a Puissance but it sounds deadly.

When I say 63 sounds like a scarily high number of falls, the fearless little one shakes her head and tells me she has only had two or three serious tips.

Lorenzo has had a whole lot of tips, I suspect. He might not be as famous as Madonna or Rihanna or Beyoncé but like them he has no need for a surname.

I ask Lorenzo what he does. “My speciality is to stand on the horse and then the jumping,” he says.

That’s mad, I say. Why would he do such a thing? “When I was younger I made trick riding and I enjoyed standing on the horse,” he continues. “My family they love horses, my mother loves horses my brother was riding normally and I wanted to be different.”

As he talks his 16 horses stare adoringly at him. They all have different personalities, he tells me. Some are super chilled out while others are super stroppy. He looks over at Gina, his trickiest trick horse. “She was difficult to train. Very difficult. And she cannot be alone, she always needs her friends.”

I suggest with his skills Lorenzo would be natural rodeo rider. I ask if he’s ever given it a whirl? He looks unimpressed. “No, I will not do rodeo.”

Fair enough.

Brian Moran is a groomsman in his 40s and he once took part in a RDS rodeo. Well, sort of. As he brushes his horse he talks of his lifelong love of the animals. Then he stops suddenly and fishes out his phone. “Wait until you see this,” he says. He scrolls through the videos and images until he finds what he is looking for, footage of him competing at the Horse Show in 1983 in an under-12s category.

Hurdles

His round started well and he easily cleared a few hurdles. Then disaster struck. He fell off the horse. Well, nearly. He actually fell off the saddle but clung gamely on to the side of his horse like some class of rodeo rider in ridiculous britches. His arms were wrapped desperately around the horse’s neck as it cantered towards a fence.

Seconds past but the child who was to become the man standing in front of me did not let go of his ride. Just before the horse reached the fence the child Moran righted himself and got back into the saddle.

“Amazing. And you had no faults after all that,” I say. The old footage plays on and shows him crashing into the fence seconds later. He nearly made it though.

A 14-year-old girl called Emma Walsh nearly made it this year. She and her horse – the very fancy-sounding Sunday Ru Flavien – can’t compete because they didn’t meet the qualification criteria despite coming agonisingly close in four separate competitions in the run up to the big one. “All the best ponies are here,” she says. “So if you get to Dublin you know you’re doing well. It’s really tough basically.”

In one of the parade rings some judging is happening. “Rhythm, fluency technique, balance and harmony with the horse is what we are looking for,” the MC says as horses line up so judges can look up their noses at them. Then the riders lead their horses at a fair old clip around the parade ring. It doesn’t take anything out of the animals but some of the humans look like they’re about to expire by the end of the circuit. Tis lucky they’re not being judged, I think.

I ask a horsey person watching the judging what are the advantages to winning show? Is it just bragging rights?

“Oh no,” he says. “If you win here the horse will shoot up in value. That’s the main thing.”