One of the most rewarding of my summer photography jobs is the week I spend in Dublin for E.S. Photography, who are the official event photographers for the Discover Ireland Dublin Horse Show.
Describing RDS, as it is universally known in Ireland, is a challenge. It’s been likened to a cross between Royal Ascot and The Royal International Horse Show. The show manages to combine the best of showing and show jumping classes with a social event which draws visitors from every corner of the nation. The result is huge, well-dressed crowds, and top competition which attracts top international riders. As with al successful shows, there are also those unique features which help to market the event worldwide. More of those later.
Set in the district of Ballsbridge, an upmarket area of Dublin, the RDS site comprises three large and immaculately turned out grass arenas as well as a large artificial area, big enough to accommodate the main National jumping arena and adjacent warm-up areas.
The main ring hosts a mixture of showing and national and international show jumping classes, as well as a slew of feature displays and competitions which draw in large crowds. The other two grass arenas hold showing classes as well as a range of different displays and demos. The artificial surface on the Simmonscourt site is the home of the National jumping classes.
So what makes Dublin Horse Show so special?
One of the public attractions to any show is the presence of internationally well-known competitors. RDS hosts a round of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup on Friday evening, attracting 8 or more teams of international riders, many Olympians, World and European Champions, to compete for the Aga Khan Trophy. This ensures that throughout the event you are likely to see the World’s top riders jumping in other international classes, giving masterclasses to younger riders, or even judging special classes for young horses.
The “Aga Khan” is followed by the final of the 128cm Pony show jumping classes – the crowd don’t get any quieter as theses amazing riders and ponies complete their jump-off.
It goes without saying that the Puissance, on Saturday night, is a huge attraction.
Dublin Horse Show is also famous for its Hunt Chase: a hunt relay on drugs. Teams compete against each other over identical courses in the main ring. Temporary and permanent features are included: water, hedges, banks and tricky, more technical combinations of fences. The noise emitting from the main arena during this event have to be heard to be believed. Check out YouTube highlights of the RDS Hunt Chase for some of the reasons why!
One of the most unique features of the show is the number of young horse classes. There are the usual mare and foal showing classes, of course, but what the Irish public really want to see is the next generation of young show jumpers, and to find out which breeding lines are successful. From the three-year-old loose jumping class on Thursday evening to the slew of young horse championships in the main arena over the weekend.
A few more useful facts and figures:
- Ladies Day is Thursday and includes competitions and special events galore.
- Thursday night is “Jury’s Night” when the entire show ground seems to descend on one poor local hotel for a party.
- Iron Sulphate is put on the grass in the three arenas to kill moss and produce a lovely rich colour.
- Some Show Jumping Classes in Simmonscourt have to be timed manually as well as electronically. This is because the British Embassy, which backs on to the arena, sends out an electromagnetic pulse as part of its security routine and it resets the electronic timers in the middle of a round.
Hope to see you there next year!