All roads lead to Balmoral
Balmoral Show has grown to be one of the most important events on the equestrian calendar and exhibitors from across Ireland will be preparing for three busy days at the popular Balmoral Park grounds from May 13-15.
Now in its 147th year, it caters for everything agricultural - from sheep, to cattle and pigs - but each year the equestrian programme marks an important start of the official showing season for a large number of exhibitors across the country.
In addition to the showing, there is also a full programme of show-jumping which draws a large crowd of spectators from both sides of the border.
The history of Balmoral dates back to the 1800s, when prize money was £1,000. These days the show jumping alone for the two-star fixture boasts some €50,000, with the curtain-closing Grand Prix on the Friday offering a fund of €24,000.
Winner of this feature class in 2014 was Alexander Butler on Will Wimble. He also won it the previous year, and again in 2011 with the same Irish-bred gelding.
Butler is among a large contingent from the south that is expected to travel north to contest the seven international show-jumping classes which also include the Connolly's Red Mills Spectacular on Thursday, May 14.
This year Pegus Horse Feeds will sponsor the Young Event Horse Championship at Balmoral. This is confined to four and five-year-old horses with the potential to become top-class eventers.
Qualifiers took place around the country in recent weeks, and the top four horses in each class at each qualifying venue will compete in the final which will take place over two days.