Horsey set defy slump and pony up for the greatest show in town
ADVANCE champagne sales are down but the basics are holding steady as the Failte Ireland Dublin Horse Show cuts its cloth to cater for the downturn.
Up to 88,000 visitors are expected to flock to the country's premier equestrian event this week, which opens in the RDS today.
Ticket prices have been pegged at last year's rates and are holding up well compared to last year -- which is a strong performance in comparison with other sporting and musical events, said RDS commercial director Michelle Griffin.
Corporate hospitality is definitely veering towards the leaner options, with 95pc of businesses opting for the silver option of a nice meal with wine rather than the more elite gold option involving champagne and all the trimmings, she said.
"Spending is obviously not as buoyant as it was at the height of the boom, but we saw that was coming in 2008 and tailored our offerings with that in mind."
The event is run on a breakeven basis as it is a foundation event of the RDS, aiming to showcase the equestrian industry, with the cost of putting it on being around €3m -- although a recent consultants' report put its value to the Irish economy at €42m.
Many of the 1,400 horses and ponies competing in the 100 different jumping and showing classes had already arrived on site yesterday and were being groomed and schooled for their big moment in the spotlight.
Some 1,200 stables have been erected to cater for their needs.
By contrast, many human competitors are roughing it, with horse boxes and lorries being the popular options for many riders and their entourages to bed down in.
Jenny Finch from Surrey, who is a first-time visitor to the show to assist her friend Debbie Boylan White in showing a hunter, was one of many choosing this option in a nearby rugby ground.
"It's a really strange experience to be at such a big show that's in a city," she said.
Horse whisperer Monty Roberts is one of the biggest attractions at this year's event as the former Hollywood stunt man -- who went on to inspire a movie himself -- will each day demonstrate his legendary horse breaking techniques.
The horse show is in its 137th year and has a prize fund of €920,000, with the Longines Grand Prix and the Meydan FEI Nations Cup worth over €200,000.
However, some of the hottest competition will be for Ladies' Day tomorrow, with newlywed actress Amy Huberman among the judges for the Best Dressed Lady who will win a €10,000 trip to San Francisco.