It's green for go at the Emerald Irish Masters
€55,000 prize fund for inaugural three-day show at new international equestrian centre in Co Kildare
As a select group of Irish show jumping riders continue their quest for glory in the FEI World Cup Jumping series, which got underway earlier this month, our home-based competitors are looking forward to the Emerald Irish Masters, the latest fixture on the national competition calendar.
Next weekend (November 14-16) the Emerald International Equestrian Centre (formerly Jessbrook) near Enfield in Co Kildare opens its doors to this new three-day show which boasts a total prize-fund of €55,000.
It is the first of what the organisers hope will be many shows to take place at the 3,000-seater venue.
While the lack of top-class show jumping events and relatively low prize-money have long been a bone of contention among those who support the sport, it is hoped that this new venue will encourage more riders to support their local shows before heading further afield over the winter months.
One such rider is Alexander Butler who, having competed at the Cavan International this past weekend, will now take his string of horses to the Emerald Centre which is only an hour's drive from his base in Kells.
"It's just brilliant to see new shows like this coming on board. As well as some big competitions, the added master classes will prove popular," the multiple Grand Prix winning rider said. "We badly need more of them and the fact that it follows on from Cavan is a clever move. It is a fantastic facility and I hope it will provide a great service to the industry."
The Cavan International Show each November has been a prominent fixture on the Irish show jumping calendar for many years. Although it does not attract as many international riders as it has in the past, Butler believes that, in time, the close proximity of two big shows will be a lot more inviting for those living overseas.
"Not too many riders can afford to travel abroad for just one show, myself included. It is a lot more encouraging to see two shows of this calibre, with upwards of €50,000 in prize-money, back-to-back. I think this will definitely be more attractive to riders coming over from Britain in particular."
Butler, who claimed two victories on the GAIN/Alltech Autumn Grand Prix League in recent weeks, is also greatly encouraged by plans to have an international show at Emerald take place directly after the Mullingar International CSI** next June.
The forthcoming Irish Masters is being run as a national show, but the FEI has approved the venue to run three internationals in 2015. This includes a three-star show which will take place from June 2-7.
"I have already spoken to a few riders who are very keen to come over for both shows. I also believe both venues will try and run legs of the 'Great Britain/Ireland Tour' which will also take in several top shows in the UK," Butler added.
Although Emerald International also has plans for another international show in March, Butler believes the timing will not suit some riders. Many will have given their horses a break, while others will be competing abroad.
"Personally I will be travelling to a few big shows in Europe. I usually take a few of the older horses to prepare them for Nations Cups later in the year. For me there's not much in Ireland by way of bigger classes between now and the opening round of the Grand Prix League and Premier Series in Dundalk in April, so I more or less have to go."
Butler is one of many Irish riders who leave these shores during quiet times in search of bigger and better shows, and even the temptation of the Welcome Tour in Millstreet is not enough to keep them at home.
Many shows such as Millstreet go to great lengths to ensure good prize-money, but the picture overall during the spring months is tough on riders trying to make a living.
"The sport really needs more sponsors to improve the prize-money at a lot of shows, especially at that time of year," Butler said.
The average prize-fund for a National Grand Prix is between €3,000 and €4,000, with the recent Cavan International Grand Prix event offering a prize-fund of €8,000. "And a lot of that money was raised by the riders themselves so effectively we are sponsoring it," said Butler.
The Cavan fixture, which offered a total of €50,000 in prize-money, is one of seven international show jumping events currently held in Ireland. These include Balmoral, Coilog, and, of course, the Dublin Horse Show.
Many others have come and gone and Butler believes that timing and ensuring the support of riders is there from the start is vital for long-term success. "Shows in Ireland need a lot of support, particularly from the sponsors, but also the riders themselves. And it's a catch 22 as sponsors need to see big numbers of riders to be encouraged to go forward."
Butler also agrees that the current Irish show jumping scene has been badly affected by the exodus of riders in recent years.
Dozens of Irish riders are now based in America, with some achieving much success there.
One of the first to emigrate was Kevin Babington in 1987. He has since been followed by fellow internationals Darragh Kerins, Shane Sweetnam and Andrew Bourns, among others.
Over the years mainland Europe has also poached some of our best riders, including Cameron Hanley, Denis Lynch, and rising star Bertram Allen.
Not surprisingly, Allen, who has had a fantastic year on the international circuit, was recently named on the squad for the FEI World Cup Jumping series which got underway in Norway three weeks ago.
Shane Breen and Cameron Hanley will fly the flag for the German leg of the series in Stuttgart (November 19-23), while Allen and Lynch will line out in Madrid at the end of the month (November 28-30).
From there the series moves to the popular location of Olympia in London the week before Christmas. Allen will again be bidding for glory along with Lynch, who is also expected to compete at the lucrative Longines Global Champions Tour Final in Doha next weekend alongside Hanley.
The Longines Global Champions Tour is currently the richest show jumping series in the world. The final alone will have €1.7m on offer, including the record €1m end of season bonus.
The eighth leg of the FEI World Cup Jumping series starts in Mechelen, Belgium on St Stephen's Day, and Thomas Ryan has already been named as one of two Irish representatives. The other has yet to be confirmed.
A further four legs take place in early 2015. These are confirmed as Leipzig, Germany (January 15-18), Zurich, Switzerland (January 23-25), Bordeaux, France (February 6-8), and Gothenberg, Sweden (February 26-March 1).
The 2014/2015 FEI World Cup Jumping Final returns to Las Vegas on April 15 next.
This will be the sixth time for the event to visit the American venue and the ninth occasion for the final to take place in the USA. A total of 14 leagues around the globe will culminate in this championship which has been a career-defining achievement for every winning horse-and-rider combination since the series first began back in 1978.
The defending champion is Germany's Daniel Deusser who claimed the accolade with Cornet D'Amour at the 2013/2014 final in Lyon, France earlier this year.
Trainer Jim Bolger to address horse breeding event in Kilkenny
The Kilkenny branch of the Irish Draught Horse Breeders' Association is hosting an information evening on horse breeding this evening(Tuesday, November 11) in the Ormonde Hotel, starting at 8.30pm.
Shane Ryan MRCVS of Kilcash Equine Clinic will discuss ovuplant, a drug used to increase fertility in breeding, especially when used in ocnjunction with frozen semen.
Following this leading trainer Jim Bolger will discuss his breeding programmes and outline the attributes he looks for in a broodmare.
All are welcome and admission is free. These talks promise to be very enjoyable and informative to all horse breeders.
Meanwhile, tickets are still available for the IDHBA Annual Awards Dinner which takes place in the Armagh City Hotel next Saturday, November 15.
Tickets, priced at €35, can be purchased from local branches or the main office on 044-9661199.
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