'They were two of the best years of my life'
Published 20/07/2016 | 02:30
No trip to the Dublin Horse Show is complete without dropping by the stand of the Irish Draught Horse Breeders' Association to catch up with the great Eiline Brennan.
A stalwart in Irish Draught circles for decades, Eiline was sadly missed at the show last year following an accident, but this week she will be back at her usual spot in the Main Hall for the 25th year.
"It's a busy week but I love it and we always get a crowd, especially for the sweets. They are a great conversation starter," she said.
Indeed her sweets are as legendary as herself and last year, as she recuperated in hospital, a special book with get well wishes was set up at the trade stand in her absence.
Though sorry to have missed the RDS, Eiline bounced back to full health and within a few weeks she was preparing to help out at the IDHBA National Show at its new location in Punchestown.
A native of Laois and now living in Carlow, Eiline has been involved in farming and horses all her life through her own family and her husband Thomas.
She was crowned Queen of the Plough at the National Ploughing Championships in 1961, at a time when her sister Anna-May (McHugh) was then secretary of the NPA.
Anna-May took over the role of managing director in 1973 and continues to run the Ploughing Championships to this day.
Over the years, Eiline has shared many roles at the event, including the judging of the National Brown Bread Baking Competition which was reintroduced after a lengthy absence in 2014. She had won the inaugural competition herself 40 years earlier.
Their sons Donal and Padraig are now also farming, while Eiline's passion for horses has been passed on to her daughter Elizabeth's children Lorna (13), twins Jill and Kate (12) and Neil (9).
In the early days Eiline bred a few sport horses, including a winner of the Guinness Stakes at the RDS in the 1980s, before switching her focus to Irish Draughts.
Never a woman to sit and watch the world go by, Eiline has always contributed greatly to the equestrian world and first remembers getting involved in the Carlow Pony Club when her daughter Elizabeth was just eight.
That was over 30 years ago and just recently Eiline was back at Springhill to oversee the hospitality side of the Pony Camp which was attended by almost 100 children.
"That was another great week and of course the bonbons were out for it too!" As secretary of the Laois branch of the IDHBA since the 1980s, just days earlier she again oversaw a hugely successful show held in conjunction with the National Hound Show at Stradbally Hall.
Attended by competitors from all over the country, it was a testament to the organising committee who do great promotional work year-round.
The Laois branch also runs a one-day event for Irish Draughts which is very popular.
"Performance Irish Draughts are really coming back and it is encouraging to see that," she said.
Once Dublin is over we will then be getting ready for Punchestown on Saturday, August 27. It has grown to be a wonderful show, and it is great to be part of it too," she concluded.