Plenty of horseplay and shopping as stage is set for the real competition


No doubt the gloves will be on – and breeding to the fore as always – as ladies go head to head

THE LORD Mayor of Dublin, Andrew Montague, was challenged yesterday to decide which was the best form of transport, the bike or the horse-drawn carriage in which he arrived to formally open the 138th Discover Ireland Horse Show.

It was pointed out that at least the horse could not exceed the 30km/per hour speed limit his council had imposed on the city centre and, if times got hard, at least you could eat your horse but not the bikes he had introduced.

The poor man, who after all is a qualified vet, paled when the suggestion of eating a horse was put to him but he confessed to having enjoyed his first ever trip in the 200-year-old carriage from the Mansion House to the RDS.

There weren’t many signs of the hard times around the showgrounds here yesterday where an estimated 15,000 people, many in family groups, packed the grounds for the opening day of the event.

The stand operators said there seemed to be a lift in spending yesterday compared with the action on the same day last year.

But, of course, the first day of the show is always the gentlest and even the weather, though sulky, did not weep down on the crowd who packed the rails around the show rings, crowded the exhibition areas and bars and sat on the band lawn.

The Punch and Judy shows and the excellent traditional music supplied by Dublin based group, Arís Arún, supplied a marvellous background for the children who danced and pranced around in front of the stage.

Today is Ladies’ Day, which provides competition at times more fierce than the showjumping, and it is almost certain the riders are kinder to one another than the competing ladies and their supporters.

It was at such a competition some years ago that one lady was heard to say of her rival’s outfit that her bra looked more like the Dundrum suspension bridge than anything she had seen before.

Another reckoned a rival competitor had “picked her dress up in Grafton Street, like she always did, without paying for it”. These women came from what is known as “The Killiney Cavalry” and “The Howth Harriers” and today they will be out in all their splendour competing for the €10,000 top prize and a trip to California.

There are also very decent prizes for the most colourful outfit, the most creative hat and those results will be announced at 4.30 pm today by the judges, Sharon Corr, Brendan Courtney and Michael Leong.

There was a touch of cattiness in the air yesterday at the ringside when John Fox and his Virginia mule called Job, went on display and John extolled the virtues of mules compared to horses.

Now the bewhiskered John, no more than myself, is unlikely to win the Best Dressed Male competition, which also takes place today. He had a stetson, chaps and all the other attire you associate with mountain men from the Blue Ridge range.

He spoke of the patience, surefootedness, hardy long-eared mule which he said was less obstinate, faster and more intelligent than donkeys and had superior intelligence to either horses or donkeys.

As he slouched in his saddle taking questions being gathered from the audience by a bowler-hatted MC, one very unkind man, clearly a horse lover, was heard to shout out: “Can you tell me, which is the man and which is the mule?”

That heckler surely must have a place later today when the ladies with their whiplash tongues compete for the top prize.