Big crowds expected as Horse Show gets under way at RDS
The Dublin Horse Show opens today at the Ballsbridge home of the Royal Dublin Society. Big crowds are once again expected to attend an event that has become a landmark on the Irish social and sporting calendar.
Last year, over 51,000 people attended the show where 1,115 horses were entered into competition. These figures underline the extent to which the Dublin Show has expanded in recent times: in 1881, when the impressive Ballsbridge venue was opened, 520 horses competed and 15,136 spectators came to watch.
It has become, The Freeman’s Journal has noted, the one week in the year when Dublin lives up to its ‘time-honoured traditions, as a city where gaiety and fashion are in the ascendant, and radiate their influence through all ranks and conditions of her populace.’
But as it has grown in scale and popularity, the Horse Show has become more than simply a Dublin or Irish event. It is international in its appeal and the attendance this year will not only include those from Great Britain and the United States; it will also include French, German, Italian and Argentine visitors, as well as Japanese nationals interested in the purchase of hunters and bloodstock for their military.
The influx has already brought a great bustle to the city with railway carriages busy and hotel accommodation difficult to find. Among the dignitaries who have travelled to Dublin for the week is the American Ambassador to London, Mr Walter Hines Page, who will be a guest of the Lord Lieutenant and Lady Aberdeen, and will be staying at the Viceregal Lodge in the Phoenix Park.
For all the great success it has enjoyed, the Horse Show is not without its critics. Arthur Griffith's newspaper Sinn Féin has decried the manner in which the event has been represented as a 'national institution' in certain sections of the national media. The paper points out that in a country in which agriculture is so important, the absence of farm horses from any of the categories is a remarkable oversight, adding that 'it is not a national institution and will not be until it weighs more the general interest of the nation and becomes less obsessed with the interests of a class.'