All roads lead to Ballsbridge for the 140th Dublin Horse Show

Entries and ticket sales up on last year

 Gillian Bond from Waterford with Harry at final preparations for the Dublin Horse Show, which opens at the RDS today. Photograph: Eric Luke

Gillian Bond from Waterford with Harry at final preparations for the Dublin Horse Show, which opens at the RDS today. Photograph: Eric Luke


The early signs for this year’s Discover Ireland Dublin Horse Show are good, with a 2 per cent increase in competition entries and advance ticket sales up on last year. An attendance of more than 100,000 is expected at the five-day event, which opens at the RDS this morning.

The organisers are running park-and-ride facilities from Muckross College and University College Dublin.

Shuttle buses will run every 15 minutes between the car parks and the RDS from 7am to 9.30pm daily.

Old favourites
This is the 140th show and, while every show has innovations, the old favourites continue to draw the crowds.

Tomorrow is Blossom Hill Ladies Day when Sky Sports news presenter Rachel Wyse and actor Susan Loughnane will judge the best-dressed competition with RTÉ’s Brendan Courtney acting as MC. The winning lady will get an €8,000 trip to New York, while the best-dressed man will get a Louis Copeland suit.

On Friday the Irish team battles to retain the Aga Khan trophy it took last year for the first time in eight years, while the Rover Puissance competition will be held on Saturday.

The Longines International Grand Prix will be held on Sunday, the final day of the show. The popular pony club games and hunt chase also return this year.

This year’s show will introduce the delights of scurry racing to an Irish audience. This involves pairs of ponies pulling lightweight racing carriages, through narrow sets of cones at high speed. The drivers urge their ponies on while their grooms lean to the left and right to keep the carriages balanced.

Horse training
Over the five days of the show, Czech horseman Honza Bláha will demonstrate his alternative training techniques with horses Maxim, Quorum and Conte performing feats such as pirouettes, sliding stops and spins.

Visitors will also get a chance to pick their own winners in the judging rings. If their choices match the judges’ decisions, they could win €1,000 in the public judging competition.

This year’s show has a prize fund of more than €942,000 for its 125 showing classes and jumping competitions.

The horses began to arrive in Ballsbridge on Monday and the final touches were being put to the trade stands yesterday.

RDS chief executive Michael Duffy said it was very encouraging that entries had risen this year, following a 5 per cent increase last year, as the equestrian industry was experiencing tough times.

Tweaking competitions
He said the organisers were continually tweaking the competitions and classes to ensure that there was something for everyone.

And for those who don’t know their hooves from their hindquarters, there are 300 trade stands, arts and crafts, music, children’s entertainment and a gourmet food village.

It’s all a far cry from 1864 when the first show was held under the auspices of the RDS but organised by the Royal Agricultural Society of Ireland. That show had a prize fund of £520.

The RDS organised its first show four years later, on the lawns of Leinster House. It promised a show of led horses and leaping demonstrations. The leaping continues and will get under way before 9am today.