For sports-loving kids of the 80s, The Dublin Horse Show formed as big a part of an Irish summer as tracing the fortunes of Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche in the Tour de France.
Precious school holiday time was built around the drama of the puissance (aka ‘the big wall’), watching pony clubs careering through obstacles on the Ballsbridge sod and whether or not Ireland would taste Aga Khan glory.
Captain Gerry Mullins and the magnificent Rockbarton, the diminutive brilliance of the greatly missed Paul Darragh, Eddie Macken’s grace under pressure and the consistency of Britain’s Nick Skelton and John Whitaker provided many a great memory.
In 2008, the Fáilte Ireland Dublin Horse Show at the RDS (August 6th-10th) remains one of the great comings-together on the global equestrian calendar and this year should prove no exception.
This year’s event will feature an Irish team thankfully restored to Samsung Super League status.
While life in the top flight began well back in the early summer, it looks like the bottom line target of league survival, as set by team manager Robert Splaine, will be as good as it gets.
Yet those that decry a less than exemplary return to the sport’s highest ranking competition should, well, hold their horses, according to Eddie Macken, recently recalled to the Irish team.
“The Samsung Super League is a massive competition and it is great that Ireland are involved this year,” said the 59-year-old showjumping legend.
“Only the top eight teams are in there and I think Robert Splaine and the team deserve more credit than they are getting. In how many other sports are we in the top eight in the world?”
The Dublin Horse Show will play host to the Samsung Super Leaguers, with Ireland competing against Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, Sweden and the United States for the coveted Aga Khan trophy.
The RDS marks the League’s penultimate round, with the top eight subsequently traveling to Barcelona for September’s final round.
With Ireland not competing in the team event at the Beijing Olympics, Splaine & co will be particularly keen to put on a keen show for the home support.
This year’s show is the fourth edition sponsored by Fáilte Ireland, a source of great pride to its CEO Shaun Quinn.
“We are delighted to sponsor such a high profile event through the Fáilte Ireland International Sports Tourism Initiative, which targets and sponsors events that enjoy a high-profile position in their own sporting calendar,” he said.
“In excess of 53,000 overseas visitors flock to our shores each year to discover for themselves why Ireland is truly the ‘Land of The Horse’.
“Ireland is renowned as a premier equestrian holiday destination whether for trail riding, trekking or cross country. The Fáilte Ireland Dublin Horse Show will once again put Ireland on the map for the staging of international sporting events.”
Of course, there’s a lot more to the Horse Show than just horses. During the Show, the RDS will be decked out with over 300 trade stands, and will also feature children’s entertainment and live music.
All the fashions of the season will also be on display at Evian Ladies’ Day on Thursday August 7th, while endless food and drink options make it an occasion that truly tailors to every discernible taste.
A new working hunter class for Connemara ponies has been added to this year’s programme, and according to organisers “promises to be a spectacular affair”.
Renowned course designers Tommy Brennan and Ted Gibney are working on a new hunter course for the class which this year boasts a prize fund of €5,000 to be awarded among the top five ponies.
The new class has been provisionally scheduled for Wednesday, August 6th, the same day as the led Connemara classes.
The new class will be consistent with the Show’s mission statement which “aims to showcase and develop the Irish equine product and set standards in breeding and performance”.
Several other innovations for this year’s event look set to make the latest Dublin Horse Show the biggest and most successful yet staged. And should Eddie Macken ride a clear to win the Aga Khan for Ireland, what a story that would be.
For more details and online booking benefits, log onto www.dublinhorseshow.com