Farm Ireland

Sunday 22 April 2018

RDS to get €35m revamp

The grandstand at the RDS is to undergo major refurbishment in the next two years
The grandstand at the RDS is to undergo major refurbishment in the next two years
The Connemara performance class has grown to be a popular addition to the show schedule

Siobhán English

Visitors attending next month's Discover Ireland Dublin Horse Show will have one of the final opportunities to see the RDS in its current guise as plans move forward to commence redevelopment of the complex early next year.

Applications for planning permission for the expansion of the Main Arena are currently being processed, and it is hoped that work can start on the rugby and equestrian complex in the spring of 2016.

Though the expansion is expected to take several years to complete, neither the rugby fixtures, music events, or most importantly, the Dublin Horse Show, will be overly affected throughout this time.

The project is expected to cost in the region of €35m.

As home to Ireland's biggest horse show the RDS has also hosted home games for the Leinster Rugby team since 2007.

It currently has the capacity to seat 18,000, and an extra 2,000 in the standing areas, but the new grandstand will see that number increase to 25,000, a move which will be welcomed by the 200,000 or so spectators which flock to the RDS each August.

"It is all systems go now and we are in the process of financing the redevelopment," commented RDS horse show director Pat Hanly who is now counting down the days to the 2015 Discover Ireland Dublin Horse Show next month.

With the last of the season's rugby fixtures at the RDS only taking place in early May, there has been little time to prepare the Main Arena for a week of international show jumping, but Hanly ensures everything is on track for the kick-off on August 5.

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"We only have a nine-week window from when the rugby ended to show week, but we started the process within 48 hours of the players coming off the pitch when we removed the top layer and completely re-seeded it," he added.

Over the course of the week Hanly has the unenviable task of overseeing the arrival of 1,400 horses and ponies into the centre of Dublin and ensuring the smooth running of a five-day programme of events.

The RDS has 60 full-time employees and for the show they take on another 20 part-time staff.


"Of course that is in addition to the 300 stewards and the many other volunteers who come on board for the week," he commented.

Over the years the horse show has undergone many changes to promote the Irish horse and to also ensure that the export market remains healthy.

Mr Hanly says the new Connemara international team competition is expected to draw a large audience as Irish ponies compete again their British and French counterparts.

The competition is based on the Connemara performance hunter championship which has grown in popularity in recent years and proven to be a valuable showcase for the versatile Irish pony.

As part of their committment to promote the Irish horse the RDS played a fundamental role in developing a 10-year plan for the Sport Horse Industry which was launched earlier this year.

"We also de-brief the judges who travel in from abroad each year and get their opinions on any changes they believe could be made to improve the formats in the various classes," said Mr Hanly.

With this in mind the young event horses classes, in particular, will run on a slightly different format this year.

"This year the judges want to see more movements in the dressage, and horses will also now be tested over both show jumping and cross-country fences.

This will give riders a chance to open up their horses a bit more to see the animal's potential against the clock."

Since their inception these competitions and those for three-year-old potential event horses and show jumpers have gathered much interest from foreign buyers.

"Ten years ago we could see that the Irish breeder was being edged out with the influx of foreign animals.

Through these classes, and a steady increase in prize-money we hope this will encourage breeders to breed and produce the best of Irish horses that can go on and compete internationally," concluded Mr Hanly.

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