THE Showjumping Association of Ireland certainly backed the right horse when they decided to host the National Pony and Young Riders Championship in Ennis. The entrants, who arrived earlier this week, have been given a wide welcome in the town. Some local businesses have even gone as far as to show their support with themed window displays.
The competitions will be held in Ennis’ Showgrounds from this Thursday to Sunday, with riders from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales travelling for the prestigious event. This is the first time that these championships will take place outside of Leinster and the organising committee is very excited about the level of interest from competitors.
According to organisers, the town is set to benefit from a financial boost, with 3,000 entrants to the competition, along with 1,000 families arriving in Ennis this week.
Claire O’Meara, PRO for the championships, said, “Absolutely there will be a financial boost. This is going to bring huge business to the town. With the pony and young riders, it’s not just the competitors who come, they bring their dads, mums, grannies, granddads. They’ll all be here in Ennis. We have 3,000 entrants to the competition but, on top of that, there are 1,000 different families. We have about 300 lorries pulled into the Showgrounds and the rest of those who have come for the four days of the competition are staying in local hotels and bed and breakfasts. We have been working in conjunction with the Showjumping Association of Ireland on this and we want to do a good show so that hopefully they will come back again next year and again after that.”
She went on, “Ennis Chamber have been working with us to promote the event and local businesses have really come on board. We’ve been asking businesses to welcome the competitors and their families and to put up equestrian-themed window displays or posters. We are delighted that so many businesses have come on board with this. It’s going to bring in huge revenue.”
The themed windows are not the only way that Ennis is welcoming the showjumpers, with a special pack being given to all competitors. Claire explained, “There have been welcome packs put together for the competitors, giving them discounts around the town and also to many of the tourist attractions around the county so the benefit won’t just be to Ennis but to all of County Clare, hopefully. There are discounts to lots of surrounding businesses, eateries, tourist attractions, lots of things.”
This isn’t the first time that Ennis has been chosen to host a high-profile showjumping event. In 2011, the Showgrounds hosted the National Showjumping Championships for the first time and following the success of that event, the competition returned to the venue again in 2012.
According to Claire, the ability of the Showgrounds to attract major events like this is testament to the investment made in recent years in the grounds.
“We’ve previously hosted the National Showjumping Championships, which was a great honour for us and we’re delighted to have Dubai Duty Free on board as sponsors for this year’s Pony and Young Rider Championship.
“A few years ago, €200,000 of an investment was made in the Showgrounds and we have one of the best jumping surfaces in the country at the moment. We’re right up there with Dublin and all of the elite shows. We’re so lucky here in Ennis that the Showgrounds are right in the town. Usually with these shows they’re in the middle of nowhere but here all of the amenities are right on our doorstep, which is great for those who come to the competition.”
She encouraged the people of Ennis and the rest of the county to come along to the Showgrounds this week to enjoy the spectacle of the competition.
“The competitors will be jumping over the course of four days and it should be a fantastic event. It’s free admission and we are hoping that the people of Ennis and Clare will come out and support this event.”
The SJI National Pony and Young Rider Championships received a major boost with confirmation that Dubai Duty Free has come on board. Dubai Duty Free’s executive vice-chairman, Colm McLoughlin said, “We are delighted to be involved with the SJI National Pony and Young-Rider Showjumping Championships in Ennis. Continuing our association the horse industry in Ireland, this is a great opportunity to showcase our brand in the Mid-West of Ireland.”
Commenting on the preparations, County Clare Show Society chairman, Bernard Hanrahan said, “Ennis was chosen because of our major investment in the grounds and facilities. It is a major undertaking and a major festival for the town and the organising committee have been very busy over the past few months.”
Show director, Jimmy Quinn said, “There is a lot of interest in the event and there will be competitors from all over the country. These pony championships cater for everyone from U-8 right up to the future stars of Irish showjumping (U-23), so all levels will be participating in the show next week”.
He also paid tribute to Showjumping Ireland (SJI) chairman, Tony Hurley and the SJI for their support.
Mr Quinn added, “Dubai Duty Free president, George Horan, will be here to present the prizes to the finalists on Sunday and with over 3,000 entries competing over the four days, the finals on Sunday promises to be a very exciting and competitive day”.