Side-saddle jumping adds extra twist to Olympian-studded Dublin Horse Show


The 139th show, which was scheduled later than usual to facilitate Olympic equestrian competitors, is set to attract 100,000 visitors

AN ATTEMPT to break a world record for the highest side-saddle jump will be one of the more novel events at the Discover Ireland Dublin Horse Show, which opens at the RDS today.

The 139th show, which runs until Sunday, was scheduled later than normal to facilitate the equestrian competitors in the Olympics.

That has given the show a boost with Olympic bronze medal winner Cian O’Connor due to compete in his first show since London. Olympic gold medallists competing at the RDS will include Steve Guerdat from Switzerland and Britain’s Nick Skelton.

O’Connor returned home early from the Olympics to prepare for the horse show, before rejoining the Team Ireland homecoming at Dublin Airport on Monday. “It is always a highlight of the year and it’s great to see all the Irish fans coming out to cheer me and the other Irish riders on,” he said.

RDS chief executive Michael Duffy said advance ticket sales were up on last year and entries had increased by over 10 per cent. “Typically pre-sales account for about one-third of total ticket sales so that is encouraging,” he said.

Duffy said the show was on target to attract some 100,000 visitors from Ireland and abroad. Research by Indecon in 2010 found that the show contributed total direct expenditure of €18 million, with €3 million of that coming from overseas visitors. He said the event pumped some €43 million into the Irish economy annually, when indirect spending was included. The five-day show has a prize fund of more than €944,000 for more than 1,400 horses and ponies taking part in showing classes and jumping competitions.

The 15 international showjumping competitions include the Knight Frank Speed Stakes tomorrow, the FEI Nations Cup for the Aga Khan trophy on Friday, the Land Rover Puissance on Saturday and the Longines International Grand Prix on Sunday.

President Michael D Higgins will present the Aga Khan trophy on Friday. Dublin Lord Mayor Naoise Ó Muirí will arrive in the Lord Mayor’s coach for the official opening at noon today.

The world record attempt will be made on Saturday when Susan Oakes tries to break her own side-saddle world record by jumping six feet over the Puissance wall. She set the current 5ft 8in record at Aintree in July.

The public will be given a chance to put their judging skills to the test when they enter the daily public judging competition. Some €1,000 will be on offer each day to the person who comes closest to predicting the winners of selected showing classes.

Racing fans will be interested in Saturday’s Racehorse to Riding Horse class. Horses such as Moscow Flyer, Beef or Salmon and Kicking King will be put through their paces in a riding class to showcase how retired racehorses can adapt to another discipline.

Tomorrow is Blossom Hill Ladies’ Day, when the most stylish entrants will be in with a chance to win a trip for two to New York, worth €8,000.

People attending the show are advised to take public transport as parking in the Ballsbridge area is limited. Park-and-ride facilities are available at Muckross College, Donnybrook, and UCD campus, Belfield.

Meanwhile, the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has called for a ban on “sulky racing”, arguing that it is dangerous for road users, participants and the horses.

Cream Of The Crop

The cream of international show jumping will be on display in Dublin Horse Show over the coming days.

Among them will be Irish Olympic individual jumping bronze medal winner Cian O’Connor, Swiss individual gold medallist Steve Guerdat and Nick Skelton from the gold medal-winning Team GB.

Other Irish competitors include Dermott Lennon, Conor Swail and Derry teenager Daniel Coyle.

International riders will include France’s Roger Yves Bost and Penelope Leprevost, US rider Laura Kraut and Britain’s Tina Fletcher.

Today’s events in the main arena kick off with the Fáilte Stakes, followed by the Speed Stakes and the Irish Sports Council Classic.

Tomorrow’s main draw will be the Serpentine Speed Stakes and the Anglesea Stakes, while the showpiece on Friday will be the Aga Khan Nations Cup, which has a prize fund of €200,000. Sunday will see the Longines International Grand Prix of Ireland, which also has a prize fund of €200,000. RUTH LONEY