Thousands jump hurdles to attend famous fixture
THE Royal Dublin Society has been hit by the bad times but yesterday the Horse Show proved the most resilient fixture in its social calendar.
As the show welcomed more than 10,000 visitors, RDS chief executive Michael Duffy said the event still held its own.
Equestrian entries were up 3pc on last year, while corporate hospitality had sold out and advance bookings were on a par with last year.
All 303 trade stands had been taken and they had a waiting list of 50 companies seeking space, he said.
The RDS was established in 1731 in a bid to improve the Irish economy by fostering scientific, agricultural and equestrian development. Since then, it has run a mixture of commercial and non-profit events at its Dublin 4 headquarters.
While the RDS had to contend with the general slowdown in the economy, and particularly a contraction in the number of commercial exhibitions and concert fixtures this year, the horse show raised more than €40m.
A consultants' report had shown that it contributed €43m to the economy through direct and indirect spending, which highlighted its importance, Mr Duffy said.
The RDS spent €8m in the last four years on upgrading its showjumping facilities, particularly the €1m main arena.
Even with the opening of the Aviva Stadium around the corner, the RDS would still continue to be the home of Leinster Rugby for all but the biggest games, as they were in year four of a successful 10-year contract.
The marriage of rugby and showjumping had proven very challenging for the arena surface, Mr Duffy said.
"You have to balance the demands of showjumping with two-tonne animals landing on two hooves with a guy who's 6ft 10in landing on two feet," he added.
And that balance has been achieved -- it is thought to be the best grass showjumping arena in the world.
The Irish national rugby team also used it for training because the surface was top quality, he said.
As part of its brief to develop the equine industry and help Ireland regain its pre-eminent position in showjumping, the RDS has also put a renewed emphasis on breeding.
"We are staying true to the mission in 2010, which is the same mission as was there in 1868 for the first horse show," Mr Duffy said.
To this end they introduced new classes for brood mares, and amended six other classes this year to emphasise genetic development.
Deputy Lord Mayor Edie Wynne arrived to formally open the event at noon. The Lord Mayor usually opens the horseshow after arriving on horsedrawn coach, in a tradition that dates back to 1791, but the present incumbent Gerry Breen is on holidays, she said.