'Heroes' provide inspiration for young riders at show
It was 'the biggest day of their lives' as members of the Riding for the Disabled Association rubbed shoulders with the Irish Aga Khan squad on the eve of the Dublin Horse Show.
As show jumpers and other equestrians prepared for today's official opening at the RDS, Oisín O'Connell (7) couldn't contain his excitement as he met his hero, Olympian show jumper Cian O'Connor, at the Simmonscourt arena yesterday.
The charity offers free riding lessons and experiences to more than 700 people nationwide with physical and intellectual disabilities. But for Oisín, from Clashmore, Co Waterford, the encounter was particularly poignant, as a passion for horse riding runs through his veins.
He is the nephew of legendary show jumper and coach Commandant John Ledingham, who took home silver and gold medals for the Irish Army squad at the World Military Championships in Rome, and was on the Irish equestrian team at the Seoul Olympics.
Oisín, who has cerebral palsy, has been riding a pony for the past two years and cannot wait to show off his skills at a demonstration by the riders at the horse show on Saturday.
"He was very excited to meet Cian," said his mum Anne O'Connell (36).
O'Connor, meanwhile, said that he was more than happy to support the charity and its riders.
"Anything we can do to lend our support," he said.
"That's the great thing about the RDS - they have something for everyone; all different classes and competitions. It's no different for us, we're all kind of anxious for the big day, hoping it will go well."
Some 100,000 visitors are expected at the event, with about 1,600 horses and ponies in 132 events.