Showtime for the Cossacks
A team of death-defying stunt riders from Ukraine are among the attractions at the Dublin Horse Show which opens today in the RDS.
The Ballsbridge landmark was already buzzing with anticipation yesterday as an army of trainers and grooms -- along with gardeners, florists and caterers -- put the finishing touches on the 138th show.
But eclipsing the action in and outside the arena was the sight of the Ukrainian Cossack stunt rider team doing a final run-through of their traditional mounted stunt routines.
Based on ancient Cossack battle tradition, the six-member team from Kiev dress in 16th century military garb as they perform acrobatic stunts on their Ukrainian Warmblood mounts at breakneck speed.
This includes riding underneath their bellies, performing somersaults on their backs and standing in a pyramid formation atop two or three galloping horses while bellowing out battle cries.
"They go under the horses, beside the horses, stand on the horses. The first time can be a bit scary but it's normal work for us now," said trainer Illia Iurchyshyn (21), whose father Oleg (43) has been perfecting the show for decades.
The spectacle is a first for the Dublin Horse Show although the team have been performing worldwide for the past 25 years.
According to show CEO Michael Duffy, it's part of a strategy to inject new blood. "After 138 shows we're still trying to develop the show each year," he said.
Other novelties this year include masterclass sessions with world-renowned trainers and riders, including the veteran chef d'equipe of the US team, George Morris.
Close to €1m in prize money will be up for grabs as some of the world's top riders compete.
Three of the top 10 ranked showjumpers will vie for a purse of €625,000 in 15 international competitions over the next five days. They include Ireland's own Billy Twomey and Denis Lynch ranked at seven and eight respectively.
There will also be an additional €317,000 in prize money for showing and national showjumping competitions featuring some 1,500 horses and ponies.
There are also the perennial favourites, including tomorrow's glamorous Ladies Day competition.
The show runs from today until Sunday.