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History of the Dublin Horse Show

Few countries on Earth are as famed for their love of all things equestrian as Ireland; a country boasting a rich culture and heritage of rearing and riding horses. Perhaps this is why Ireland boasts some of best jockeys in the world, as well as some of the most prestigious stud farms. It should come as no surprise then that the nation’s capital plays host to one of Europe’s most popular horse events - the Dublin Horse Show.


Image Source: Founded in 1864, the first horse show was organised by the Royal Agricultural Society of Ireland. It started as a low key event, with just 366 entries and a cumulative prize fund of £520. It primarily featured displays of horse-leading, as well as some so called ‘horse leaping’. Despite its modest beginnings, the event soon grew to become a venerated fixture of the show jumping calendar, attracting a legion of loyal fans that included celebrities and international royalty. Initially, the Dublin Horse Show had been a bit of mixed bag. It included a mule and ass division and for a while, was merged with Ireland’s national sheep show.

The seeds for change were sown in 1869 when “horse leaping” first came to prominence at the Dublin Horse Show. There were three categories of “horse leaping” event, with small prizes awarded to the winner and first runner up of each competition. The horse leaping proved a massive success and by 1881 the organisers were forced to move the event to larger premises, in order to accommodate the ever growing crowd of spectators.

By 1925 the popularity of the jumping events at the Dublin Horse Show had spread across the world. A wealthy Swiss soldier by the name of Colonel Ziegler approached the organising committee to suggest the creation of an international show jumping event, which could be opened up to participants from all over the world. The idea was warmly received, especially by one of the Dublin Horse Show’s most prominent supporters, Sultan Mohammed Shah, the Aga Khan, who generously offered to fund a trophy for the winners.

Image Source: In 1926 the first International Competitions were held at the Dublin Horse Show. Teams from six different nations competed to win the newly created Aga Khan Challenge Trophy. Initially, all the members of these international teams were military officers, but this changed in 1949 when a British civilian competed with his national team. The first championship was won by the team from Switzerland, who were competing on Irish-bred horses. The Dublin Horse show has been held annually in the Irish capital since its creation, except during the First and Second World Wars.

As you might imagine, the event was suspended during these periods for obvious reasons. Since its inception the Dublin Horse Show has seen some major changes, including the admittance of female competitors in 1919. Like many other major sporting events, the Dublin Horse Show has evolved with the times and embraced change, making it the renowned and hugely popular event we’re now used to.

Today the Dublin Horse Show remains a highlight of the show jumping calendar both in Ireland and in Europe generally. The event has broadened to include live music, art installations, fashion displays and fine dining, giving it a more universal appeal and cementing its place as one of the most prominent equestrian events in Europe. The Dublin Horse Show started yesterday (7th August) and will run until the 11th. This year’s event will see prize money of almost one million euros shared out between the competitors.

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Susan is super passionate about hotels and in a past life was a travel writer and hotel critic. As a Dublin native she also loves everything about the city and wants to share her knowledge on all the best bits.