Irish TV channel among a host of horse-focused offerings on the big and small screen
Horses and riders are about to step into the limelight in a big way over the coming weeks as they star in a series of new programmes both online, on mainstream television and on the big screen.
Early next month, a new online TV channel featuring Irish horse racing and numerous sport horse disciplines will be launched.
Irish Horse TV will be the first Irish station of its kind to combine programmes about flat and jump racing, as well as the Olympic disciplines of show jumping, eventing, dressage and other equestrian pursuits.
The station will be targeted at both a domestic and an international audience, and aims to reinforce Ireland's image as the 'Land of the Horse'.
The channel has the backing of the biggest players in Irish equestrian sport, including Horse Sport Ireland, Horse Racing Ireland, the RDS and the Irish National Stud.
Irish Horse TV managing director Len Regan said his company had been working hard for the past two years in a bid to bring all the elements of the Irish horse sector together.
"The horse racing and sport horse industry has a combined value of €1.5bn and we are very pleased that we could bring all the relevant stakeholders together to essentially promote and celebrate the very best of the racing and sport horse industries," he said.
The content of the channel will be varied, in a bid to maximise audience share and viewership.
Among the 11 weekly programmes will be racing preview, news and review shows, as well as coverage of show jumping, eventing and dressage.
Also included in the line up will be feature-style programmes covering horse management, behind-the-scenes documentaries on top equestrian sport stars and a 'Dreams and Ambitions' programme that will focus on the ambitious plans of young riders and horse producers.
Irish Horse TV will be officially launched on February 5.
Later this year, Irish show jumper Paul Beecher is to star in an upcoming series called Horsin' Around, which will be broadcast on Horse & Country TV in the coming months.
One of Ireland's top young show jumping riders and producers, Beecher hit the headlines in 2012 when he became the first Irish winner of England's Hickstead Derby in nine years. Riding the Spring Elegance gelding Loughnatousa W B, Beecher saw off a challenge from the only other clear round over the invariably gruelling course, Britain's William Funnell and Dorada, to win the famous derby. The 30-year-old Waterford show jumper spent two days filming the documentary late last year.
The new series, which has been described as similar to 'Nationwide' for people with an interest in horses, will cover everything to do with equestrian life in Ireland.
Meanwhile, dressage has enjoyed a massive surge in popularity in recent years, due in no small part to the famous stallion Totilas and the remarkable success of the gold medal-winning British team at last summer's Olympics.
A new feature film 'The Equestrian', by Sybil H Mair, is set to ride the wave of their success.
The dark psychological drama stars young British actor Layke Anderson, who plays talented dressage rider Freddie Forester, and James Wilby (Maurice in Gosford Park),
who stars as his father.
The Equestrian tells the story of Freddie and his black stallion, Gaius, who look set to take the dressage world by storm.
However, when pride and vanity get in the way, things take a turn for the worse, and what was once a close partnership based on trust looks irreparable.
The film follows horse and rider's emotional journey together as they work hard to get back on track.
Olympic gold medallist Carl Hester makes a cameo appearance in the film, while the equine star of the show, Gaius, is played by Sandro's Dancer, a 16.2hh Swedish Warmblood.
Sandro's Dancer stands at Home Farm Stud, Hartpury, England, where most of the film was shot.
The team behind The Equestrian includes twice-Oscar-nominated cinematographer Tony Pierce Roberts and twice-BAFTA-nominated editor Jon Gregory, as well as dressage composer Tom Hunt, who has worked with top riders such as Michael Eilberg, Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester.
The Irish premiere for the film will take place on the weekend of March 2-3 at Kilshane House, Co Tipperary.
More details will be revealed on www.facebook.com/ theequestrianfilm in the coming weeks.