From nags to riches... Lulu rescued from a life of grime
ALL eyes were fixed on the gleaming little bundles of energy prancing around the show rings.
But few of the spectators leaning over the white railings would ever have dreamed that one of the little entrants was discovered starving and at death's door in a Dublin housing estate.
"I'm delighted, absolutely thrilled," said Katie Tobin, from Bennettsbridge, Co Kilkenny, the 'legal guardian' of Irish Horse Welfare Trust pony Lulu.
"The Irish Horse Welfare Trust found her in a housing estate in Finglas when she was a yearling and she was skin and bone. She was covered in lice. She had pneumonia in both her lungs. She was practically dead. She is a lucky pony that she survived it at all," she explained, as the seven-year-old chestnut mare exited the show hunter pony class with a highly commended rosette.
"It is horrible what goes on out there. What goes on in Dublin and Limerick and places like that is ignorance more so than cruelty."
Her rider, Shannon Sheridan, said she was delighted with how the pony had performed as she could be a handful.
"I have had horses all my life myself, but she is just a madam. I fostered her and I'm her legal guardian. She won't go anywhere, we all love her to bits," Ms Tobin said.
The charity said there was no sign of the horse welfare problems declining.
"We just took another horse in, a beautiful coloured stallion found tied to a tree in Offaly and left to die. He was starved and dehydrated. He is recovering," an Irish Horse Welfare Trust spokeswoman said.
"We took another starving pony in this week. Obviously, it is still going on, it is non-stop. We rehome one and we get six or seven in. People don't realise it is quality horses," she added.
Thousands had flocked to the show on Saturday to watch the brave take on the mammoth Puissance wall, while many were eager to see the former stars of the racetrack, including two-time Champion Hurdle winner Hardy Eustace, Beef or Salmon, Brave Inca and Michael O'Leary's War of Attrition back in action.
For the most part, it was the turn of the little people to take centre stage yesterday as the action packed Pony Club games left the commentators breathlessly trying to keep up with the flailing hooves and baton changes.
Inside, in the shopping and arts and crafts hall, there were still plenty of people milling around with shopping bags.
One of the trade stand holders, Thomas Berney from Berney Bros Saddlery, in Kilcullen, Co Kildare, said: "The crowds are up, entries are up and business is up as well. We are delighted."
The craftsman said it was all about being competitive and offering the right price.
"We cut the prices for a special show price. We are selling our adult saddles for €750 and our pony saddles for €550," Mr Berney added.
"Sport will keep this country afloat," he said.
"This is probably the biggest equestrian event in the country. It is where the best horses come to compete, to test themselves against the best. From our point of view it is our shop window, it is the best shop window that we have."
And, as the trade stand holders gathered up their unsold wares, a major clean-up operation was already under way.