Our journey to Dublin Horse Show began in the ‘freight driver’s club’, meaning my mother and I were the only two girls in a room full of lorry drivers who had clearly never seen a female before (apart from a very unhappy looking waitress who’d dyed her hair orange, maybe to try and improve her mood although it appeared to have failed) who were eating a lunch which the mere sight of put us straight off our appetites. Despite our amused disappointment, only accentuated by the ‘Jubliee Restaurant’ and ‘Champagne Bar’, among others, which we had tantalising glimpses of as we passed them on our way to our designated canteen, excitement was high for the next four days.
On our first day we had an insight into why so many people rave about Dublin Show. Imagine a mix of the shopping at Olympia with horses competing on grass parks in the middle of an historic city, walkways which are converted from roads, huge barns which contain the stables and which feel alive from dawn till dusk, every Irishman who’s ever met a horse, visitors from all over the world, top showjumpers and innumerable potential superstars, with the result being an atmosphere more exciting, intense and completely different to any I’ve ever been in before.
That afternoon, a very urgent tannoy announcement to the entire showground instructed my mother to return to her stable immediately, and then, to be sure that the whole of Dublin had heard properly, repeated it as if announcing the outbreak of fire. Presuming of course, that something terrible had happened, we sprinted like Russian athletes only to find that, 10-minutes before it started, a rider was needed for a masterclass with the American, gold medal-winning event rider, Denny Emerson. This proved to be a fantastic opportunity with an incredible man, whose genius was proven when at the last minute someone lent him a five-year-old Connemara pony who went really quite beautifully for him, despite being warned that “by the way, it bucks”, just as he was walking into the ring.
Competing was equally memorable. I couldn’t believe how much more strongly you could feel the buzziness of the atmosphere really pressing down on you when you rode in the ring, as opposed to when you are just spectating.
Having been invited to go as part of the Great British team through Debbie Nickson of the British Connemara Society, who arranged the whole trip so brilliantly and worked incredibly hard for us all throughout the trip, we decided to also do the 153cm plaited working hunter pony class, where a casual pole proved extremely costly but I was thrilled with how Cash went and hopeful for the all-important team competition.
The following day we jumped a very inventive and testing course, which was also the biggest M&M we have seen, meaning clear rounds were at a premium. The whole team jumped brilliantly; with Amy Smith, Aimee White and Victoria Jones being the best teammates I could have wished for. Our supporters, from family and friends to Connemara devotees, to the breeders of our ponies, were also so fantastic and enthusiastic. To be announced as the winning team just perfected an already unforgettable few days, and to discover that my beloved pony, Cashel Bay JJ, had received the highest marks in each of the three phases of the class made me even more proud of him, particularly as his breeder, Robbie Fallon, was there to support him.
As BSPS members, last week we received a particularly rousing email from our chairman, Mrs Pattinson, talking about what an exciting time of year this is for our sport. After such a fantastic few days in Dublin, and now with Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) this week, we are really feeling this anticipation.
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I wish you all a fantastic time at RIHS, still my favourite ever show, although for us as a family it’s sadly only downhill, especially as my sister, Susie, who was supreme last year, has qualified but unexpectedly and most sadly will be unable to even compete this year. Nevertheless, it seems to be one of those remarkable places where you enjoy yourself whatever it brings and so I hope this will remain for everyone next week. Good luck!