Sunday is the last day of Dublin Horse Show and it’s a big one in every area. The show ponies are in the Ring One, as are the Pony Club mounted games, while the workers dominate proceedings in Ring Two. In the main arena we are building up to two of the most anticipated events at the Show, the Grand Prix of Ireland and the Hunt Chase (more on this barmy hunt relay later).
My morning is filled with young horse championships. Six-year-olds first, then the five-year-olds, and finally the seven and eight-year-olds, which is an international class.
The speed championship follows (another 1, 2, 3 for Ireland with Cian O’Connor the winner by five hundredths of a second) and then the course walk for the Grand Prix.
I have some challenges with this class. The show’s press office want images of all competitors over the sponsor’s Longines-branded combination. They also want any celebration by the winner as they cross the line after the jump off. The position of the Longines fence means that I will only really have one other fence from a decent angle during the first round and when I move to get the celebration shot I will only have a single fence of the jump off. This is the luck of the draw. If we didn’t have the press office requirements to think of I would position myself somewhere completely different but as this is unlikely to be a big competitors’ photo class we won’t worry too much!
Ironically, Werner Muff, the eventual winner, is second to go in the jump off. Although he sets a very challenging time to beat, there are lots of riders to go and he doesn’t celebrate at all. You win some and you lose some!
A small note for amusement. During the presentation ceremony, Werner’s horse Daimler was standing behind him and facing forward as you might expect. When the National Anthem was played and the riders turned towards the flags, so did Daimler, pulling the groom round in the process. He stayed there, ears pricked, for the duration of the anthem, then turned back to the front with the riders!
The last event of the show deserves a paragraph or two of its own because it is so uniquely mad that I suspect it wouldn’t be allowed at any other show.
Within minutes of the lap of honour for the Grand Prix, the arena has been emptied of show jumps. The course that replaces it is twisty and turny and duplicated on each side of the arena. The fences are more solid, cross country fences, but they are not secured, so they do fall over if hit hard. The bank and ponds are utilised at the Member’s end, as is the hedge/ditch/hedge combination at the Simmonscourt end. Two teams of four gather in the middle, each member fulfilling an age/gender requirement for fairness. Then the madness commences. Each horse and rider combination fires out of the blocks holding a hunting horn (think: baton) and hurtles around the course from one end to the next before entering the changeover chute and handing the horn over to the next rider. It’s a relay, and these teams are so good that any mistake is probably the end for yours. The noise levels are fabulous and challenge those during the puissance last night. It’s loud. It’s mad. It’s ridiculous. How anybody isn’t killed I don’t know.
See for yourself!
It is also quite clear why this is the last event of the show each year: the ground is ruined afterwards.
Anyway, a sense of elation prevails as we return to a busy stand and try to help where we can. The usual end of show rush has arrived and the queues have formed. Our record takings for any show were on the last day here one year so it is important to look after customers and do the best we can, despite the dodgy exchange rate.
A couple of years ago I was working over at the ring at Simmonscourt. A Thai restaurant was recommended to me by the lovely Chief Steward over there and we took her up on her suggestion. Where else would we turn on our last night here then? It didn’t disappoint.