Boats, trains, planes and automobiles, but no horses, were all used as means of transport to get members of the BHS F&I association and their guests to the recent Blossom Hill Ladies’ Day at the Discover Ireland Dublin Horse Show. Style was to be seen everywhere, our party included, and thanks to the very kind arrangements made by Joan O’Connor, we were allowed to use the judges and stewards box and felt rather like VIP’S with ring side seats at the main arena for the day.
Most of our party met early to watch the jumping phase of the young event horse classes. These were divided into small, 4 yr old and 5 year old classes. Horses have tough competition to qualify over the spring and summer to reach the Dublin finals. There were a lot of quality horses on view with the obvious influence of continental blood being injected into the Irish breeding program so as to meet the demands of the modern sporting animal. It was nice to see good mares competing and we all agreed the winner of the 5 year olds, OBOS Impressive, a mare by OBOS Quality 004, did indeed live up to her name and was indeed impressive.
There was however much debate as to just how much work these young horses have had to do so as to gain the experience required to take on not only the jumping track but also the sights, sounds and atmosphere of the main arena at Dublin. The course was brilliantly presented and demanding enough, some model sheep in a pen caused plenty of issues for the young horses. The question was asked, How many of these horses go on to future success? It is difficult to say as many are sold out of Ireland, have their names changed and are hard to follow when they leave the country.
Once the Event horse classes had concluded members of the party split up to take in some of the other classes and demonstrations in the outer arenas where there was something to interest everyone. This is traditionally a day for breeding classes, young horses and the Irish breeds. Classes for Irish Draughts and Connemara ponies both in hand and performance classes were taking place. Again quality horses were everywhere to be seen. These classes were punctuated by Demonstrations with a parade of Irish Draught stallions and a Traditional Irish Sports horse breeding demonstration showing the influence of the T.B. on the Irish horse. We were also treated to a Master class on rider biomechanics given by Colleen Kelly and a natural horsemanship demonstration from Montana based Buck Brannaman, a true cow boy who showed total respect for the horse as an individual. Walking around the show was like a meeting place for members of our party with so many U.K. visitors attending the show.
At the end of these classes it was off for some serious retail therapy and no better place for equine shopping than Dublin horse show. With over 300 trade stands and lots of great bargains to be had carrier bags were being stored in our seating area for collection later. Eating was also at VIP level and a seafood platter in the Champaign bar was the choice for some of our party. With a tricky lobster claw requiring extreme measures! The Champaign bar was conveniently situated next to the stage for the best dressed lady competition keeping the gentlemen in our party well entertained.
In the afternoon we returned to the main arena and our VIP seats to watch the international show jumping classes, as the next day was the FEI Nations Cup many of the team riders used the Anglesea Stakes international competition as a warm up. Our seats were meters away from an influential line of fences that was ridden in a variety of stride patterns. Once again it was noted the influence of continental blood in these top jumping horses. With only Dermott Lennon and Billy Twomey riding Irish Sport Horses, both with more than a smattering of continental blood in their breeding. A well deserved win went to Jessica Springsteen (USA) daughter of rock star Bruce Springsteen. Second was Thomas Ryan (IRL) and the USA were into third with Elizabeth Madden. We were impressed with rounds from the British riders Guy Williams (5th) and Ben Maher (9th). Also from the less well known Brazilian rider Marlon Módolo Zanotelli and Oleg Krasyuk from the Ukraine who made all the related distances on perfect stride patterns and with superb balance.
In the outside arena one of our members, Faith Ponsonby, was busy in her official capacity with the ladies side saddle class. Here we stopped for a while to watch the very elegant competitors go through their paces. Side Saddle is growing in interest in Ireland with classes for children and ponies being included at Dublin. Credit must go to Faith Ponsonby as a driving force in this rising popularity.
After this some members went to see the 3yrold loose jumping competition, discussion returned to the continental influence and about how much these young horses had done to get to this final, we agreed upon one horse we liked the dynamics of in the colt class and it placed third. By this point it was gone 7pm and we hurried off to all meet at Bellucci Italian Resteraunt just over the road from the show ground. Our meal was delicious and washed down with some very enjoyable wine. Then it was lots of good bye’s and everyone dispersed to their various hotels and beds for the night. Those who were staying for a couple of days made arrangements to meet up the next day at the show or were given local knowledge of where to go for a non horse day out in Dublin.
On a personal note I have been to Dublin Horse show in many capacities, as an exhibitor, as a competitor, on a trade stand and just to watch, I can honestly say 2014 was the best! To be in the company of like minded knowledgeable people who share a respect for the horse and are not against having the “craic”.
From me Jessica Soley, it only remains to say if you were thinking of coming in 2015 then do the dates are August 5th to 9th so put them on your calendars now. Many thanks to Jillie Rogers for organising the day and Joan O’Connor for her generous support of BHS F&I’S. To all those who travelled, Biddy Brasted Watts, Simon Sommers, Jenny Ham, Amanda Holloway, Jo Winfield, Jude Murphy and the friends and partners who attended with them.