Dublin Horse Show: Ulster riders all set to battle it out for Euro places
There is a very strong Ulster entry for the 2015 Discover Ireland Dublin Horse Show which opens today and runs until Sunday.
Simmonscourt, Ballsbridge is a flurry of clip clopping, buckets, wheelbarrows, sawdust cases and barrowloads of feeds as 1200 horses and ponies arrive for their paperwork and check over by the show vets.
Far from the madding crowd, the backroom boys and girls of the equine world are up from daybreak preparing for opening day of this world-famous horse show where Northern Ireland's quality entry will be vying for red ribands in the selection of classes which opening day is famed for.
However Irish showjumping riders have a lot on their minds this week as selection for the Aachen European Championships in September is looming with 10 riders, including Ulster's Dermott Lennon and Conor Swail, on the long list.
This week is crucial for Irish riders with top performances required, and newcomer to the top level, Greg Broderick, will come under close scrutiny with his Irish-bred MHS Going Global.
Not only that, but Ireland has yet to qualify their showjumping squad for the Olympics in Rio and time is running out.
Dublin is a vital prepping ground for the riders and Robert Splaine will be under pressure to deliver his final team for Aachen.
Friday is Nations Cup day and one of the largest events of the year for any horse to conquer.
Thousands watch the Aga Khan trophy battle, and the pressure on teams and chef d'equipes is intense.
As Alan Wade's course plan is top secret, riders always walk the course with attention to detail and every stride is measured carefully.
However the two days of warm-up international classes usually give the Nations Cup horses the prep required.
The show opens in the main arena with the Six Year Old HSI class from 9am, followed by the opening international Speed Stakes sponsored by Liam Shanaghan of Avery Crest Ski Chalets.
The Irish Sports Council Classic begins at 3.15pm followed by the 1.35m Young Riders.
Simmonscourt Arena features all the pony height classes from 128-148cms followed by an Eddie Macken and Christophe Hess Masterclass at 3pm.
The HSI highly acclaimed Four Year Old Qualifier is a favourite of the Ulster riders and breeders, starting at 4.25pm and followed by the first round of the Red Mills Seven and Eight Year Old Qualifier.
At 7pm the loose jumping Three Year Old Young Event horse class is held in the international warm-up arena, while the four and five year old and small event horses are in Ring 2.