In early August, just outside the historic city of Dublin, Ireland is the Stena Line Dublin Horse Show. But this isn’t just any horse show. Along with the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Ireland is a myriad of competition foreign to us foreigners.
With frizzy hair from the light mist in the air, you will be amazed by all the show has to offer.
Throughout the five-days there are 134 classes/competitions with over 1600 horses and ponies taking part. Many of the classes we don’t have in North America, as several are steeped in Irish tradition. These classes include Performance Irish Draught, Connemara Performance, Three-year Old Loose Performance (free jumping), Side-saddle, Cobs, Puissance, Hunt Chase and many more.
The Puissance and the Hunt Chase are the most exhilarating to watch, and will have you on your feet, as boisterous as your Irish spectating neighbour. The crowds are immense, educated and the cheering so loud you will think you are at the Super Bowl instead of a horse show.
The show is held in the town of Ballsbridge, which is within walking distance to Dublin, and hosted by The Royal Dublin Society (RDS). Heading towards the RDS, you will have a hard time believing there is a horse show just behind the centuries old façade. Once inside, it feels as though the show is its own small town surrounded by stonewalls and flanked by churches.
There are several Tudor and stone halls holding over 300 vendors selling everything from artwork and antiques to tack and apparel. Make sure your wallet is full of Euros, because there is no way you will make it out empty handed.
Outside the vendor halls there are two lush grass show rings surrounded by trees, food trucks and Guinness stands. Lots of Guinness. The scene is full of bowler hats, top hats, tweed coats, canary coloured breeches, show numbers on browbands, colourful browbands, quarter marks, clock towers and hundreds of horses and ponies. It’s fantastic.
The main arena is just beyond the two grass rings, and seats over 18,000 people. During big classes, it is chock-a-block full of an enthusiastic crowd.
As you wander around, you will find your way down towards another host of vendors and food trucks. Guinness and fish and chips are never too far away. The main warm-up ring is in amongst it all, and you can eat your chips while watching the big boys readying themselves for the Grand Prix, of which there are many every day. Nick Skelton, Rodrigo Pessoa, McLain Ward and several other Olympians can be seen warming-up, coaching or chatting with their Olympic counter parts.
Then there are the Masterclasses. McLain Ward, Mary King and Cameron Hanley each gave a small clinic to three lucky riders and we spectators got to watch, learn and take notes. It was a fabulous way to spend an hour.
I promise you will not get bored for one second at the Dublin Horse Show. There is so much going on you will be spoiled for choice and the energy and excitement will keep you going for all five days. As will the shopping. If all this isn’t enough to lure you to Ireland next year, wait – there is more!
When booking my trip I searched the Internet endlessly to find what other horsey things may be happening around the same time. I learned that in the town of Kildare, an hour outside of Dublin, there is not only the Irish National Stud but also the famous Curragh Racecourse. Obviously, I had to do both.
The Irish National Stud is a lush thoroughbred breeding farm open to tourists to wander through. As you make your way around the farm, you will see stallions grazing in their fields, each with a sign on the fence letting you know the horse’s name, record and stud fee. There is also a Japanese Garden, beautiful willow trees, ponds and plenty of things for the kids to do.
The Curragh, as those in the know call it, is vast, breathtaking and seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The racing is spectacular, the horses are stunning and it is unlike anything in the states. The last race of the day had 32 horses in it, which is mind-boggling.
The Irish people are an extremely friendly bunch and when talking with some I learned about Leopardstown Racecourse, which luckily had a day of racing while I was in town. Of course I went. Leopardstown is 20 minutes outside of Ballsbridge, a simple taxi ride away. Unlike The Curragh, Leopardstown Racecourse feels like it is much closer to the town, but once through the gates it opens up. So open in fact there is a golf course in the infield.
Ireland is a wonderful place to visit. The people are incredibly friendly, there are horse things to do all year round and it is full of history. Go visit Ireland! Horse lovers especially won’t regret it.
About Horse Sport Destinations
Get inspired and informed before you leave on your horse centric vacation with Horse Sport Destinations. Simplify your travel planning with information on popular, and sometimes unfamiliar, horse related destinations. All information is pre-tested and equestrian approved. HSD offers planning ideas from FEI horse shows to horse centric towns from Wellington to Dublin. For equestrian travellers and their non-horsey friends and family. To learn more, check out our website, and follow us on Facebook or Instagram.