Clare Abbott and her Prince chasing Olympic dream
Lisburn maths teacher Clare Abbott (29) is gearing up for next week's Tattersalls International Horse Trials and Country Fair with her mount Euro Prince for a final shot at a place on the Irish Olympic three-day event team.
Seven nations - comprising 250 riders - will compete in the trials at Ratoath, Co Meath from June 1 to 5 on the site of the famous Tattersalls thoroughbred sales.
Three-day event riding - formerly known as the Irish Horse Trials Society and now Eventing Ireland - was founded over four decades ago by Hillsborough's Jean Mitchell, the late Bill Buller and the late George Bryson from Scarva and Poyntzpass.
Tattersalls is now the Irish equivalent of Badminton Horse Trials and much loved by competitors from Northern Ireland who will be supporting the event in their droves.
Top rider Clare, a former pupil at Armagh Royal School and a teacher in Dromore High School, is totally focused on booking that coveted place in Rio.
Horse trials in Ireland were also promoted by Viscountess Rosemary Brookeborough and the Viscount Brookeborough who along with the Bullers and Brysons opened up their land for competition.
Bill Buller represented Ireland at the Munich Olympics and competed in Kiev with Princess Anne, while Jean Mitchell went on to become an Olympic judge at Sydney.
In the early days of eventing Edwin Bryson from Poyntzpass competed in Kentucky with his horse Thunder and now Banbridge vet Hugh Suffern, himself an international rider, is the official Irish team vet travelling with the horses to Rio.
Trevor Smith from Gilford, County Down competed at the Sydney Olympics on Dr John McKay's High Scope. Now Dr McKay, from Donaghmore, and his son Cormac, a GP in Moy, will have a chance of attending another Olympic Games as they head to Tattersalls next week to see Clare riding their horse.
The McKays bred Euro Prince, a grandson of their Sydney Olympic stallion, who will be taking on the challenging Tattersalls track.
"It is our final selection for Rio," said Clare.
"We are training hard and Euro Prince and myself are at peak fitness. I am confident of a good placing next week. Tattersalls is a very exciting event which will have a strong course."
Clare added: "It will be around 10 days after Tattersalls when we will hear the final team selection of five travelling to Brazil."
Meanwhile six of the top 20 event riders in the world are competing, plus many of Northern Ireland's up and coming names such as Waringstown native Zara Nelson in the pony section.
Now based in Kilcullen, Zara won the 2015 bronze medal at the European pony championships in Malmo, Sweden on Millridge Buachaill Bui owned by her mother Michelle and Kieran Connors. She is the daughter of well known Waringstown cricketer Noel Nelson.
Roger Casey, Tattersalls MD, said: "We are looking forward to welcoming the Irish Olympic squad as they near the final stages of their preparation for Rio. Likewise, multiple Olympic gold medallist Andrew Hoy and silver medal winners William Fox Pitt and Zara Tindall."
Coleraine-bred Portersize Just A Jiff, which started out his career with breeder Phillip White at Maddybenny and finished ninth at Badminton last month, is also challenging for a Rio place with Camilla Spiers.
Andrew Lloyd Webber and his wife Madeleine will be supporting their daughter Bella in the one star class.
In addition to equestrian, the country fair will include 70 plus trade stands over two acres including an artisan food market and kids zone.
Tattersalls 2016 is part of the Boyne Valley Food Series and a new Mitsubishi Picnic Square has been created beside the famous water fence.
Visitors can drive to the picnic car park and watch all the cross country action.
The Irish Horse Welfare Trust Thoroughbred Club Show for retired racehorses will host a parade as will the Traditional Irish Horse Society.
Co-ordinator Amber Byrne added: "The competition is shaping up to be spectacular with leading riders and Olympic hopefuls from worldwide."
Ulster riders who have spent the winter preparing for Tattersalls include Suzanne Hagan, Scarva, Lucca Stubington, Antrim, Lesley Webb, Ards and Jim and Emma Newsum, Newcastle.
Other up and coming riders include Jonny Steele, Crossgar, Tegan White, Coleraine and European medal winning young rider Harold Megahey, Carrick.
Tattersalls 2016 kicks off on June 1 and 2 with dressage; international dressage and pony cross country is on Friday, June 3; while Saturday is cross country day for international riders; with top class showjumping on the Sunday.