Veterans take on celebrities at Dublin Horse Show

100,000 expected to attend competitions and events at RDS over next five days

In the course of a day at the Dublin Horse Show, which started on Wednesday, you can meet child riders dwarfed by their saddles and veterans old enough to recall the times when horses arrived by train.

About 100,000 people are expected to attend over the next five days to see the various competitions and events, with the centrepiece remaining the international team event for the Aga Khan Trophy on Friday.

Greg Broderick, Ireland's Olympic showjumper in Rio next month, will again feature on the Irish team that claimed the Aga Khan last year. The 30-year-old first competed at the horse show 12 years ago and while a relative latecomer, he and his horse MHS Going Global are exemplars of its success.

“It’s huge. It’s great for the competitiveness in the kids to be here in Dublin. There is such an atmosphere [and] it’s good to get them acclimatised to that,” he said. “They can compete here and they can watch their idols.”

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Pony competition

Meanwhile, a short canter away and 11-year-old

Francis Derwin

, having jumped to a clean win in his pony competition, is grinning his way through a victory lap. He began so young he has no memory of his first ride, just photographic evidence at his Athlone home. “My dad told me I was four when I got on a horse,” he said, and explained the fun of mastering his sport in a small sand ring at home or a nearby field. “When I get in from school I get a bit to eat and I ride out straight away.”

But the ongoing success of the horse show is not entirely down to the rolling generations of Irish riders. There are increasingly important international aspects, millions of euro in annual trade, and the essential taste of celebrity.

Celebrity riders

In the US camp the daughters of

Bruce Springsteen

and former New York mayor

Michael Bloomberg

are preparing for the Aga Khan. Both of their fathers are expected at the RDS this week. If, in the next few years, the daughters of

Tom Selleck

and

Bill Gates

make the grade, the US team could become at least as famous for the parents of the riders as for the competitors.

The times are changing. Event steward Des Byrne came here in the 1940s and 25 years ago his own children were in competition. He and colleague Marian Condren remember guiding their horses from the nearby train station and across Merrion Road while a garda stopped the traffic.

“It was less commercial [then] and there were fewer tourists,” says Condren. “It was a place where the cream of the cream came to Dublin to prove who had the best horses.”

So, not everything has changed.

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times