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My trip to Dublin Horse Show with Horses Inside Out

Earlier this year I received a phone call from Gillian Higgins of Horses Inside Out. Always nice to have a catch up with Gillian, we spent quite a lot of time together in 2021, as I attended many Horses Inside Out courses and was a helping hand during filming of the Autumn Webinar Series. What I wasn’t expecting during this call was for Gillian to ask if I would travel with her to Dublin to help with Horses Inside Out at the Dublin International Horse Show! How could I possibly decline?

August soon crept up on us - this year seems to be flying by - and it was time to head to Dublin. This was my first time flying since pre Covid lockdowns.

Gillian and her partner Doug (who was also on the team with us) were travelling by ferry, bringing with them all the essentials such as paint and brushes for the demo horses, banners and signs for the stand, and of course plenty of copies of Gillian’s vast range of books.

I have never been to Dublin before, let alone the horse show. I was so shocked to arrive at the RDS venue to see that the horse show was right smack bang in the middle of the city centre, surrounded by busy roads. It just didn’t seem as if you would enter through the hall and head out into the showground to what must have been thousands of horses attending, along with their riders, handlers and grooms. (In fact I checked and 1,600 horses attended the show)

The show had several rings and arenas with everything going on from Pony Club Games, Showing Championships to FEI 4* Show Jumping.

Lots of food & drink stands and a vast amount of shopping stalls. As well as halls and halls of temporary stabling for the horses.

Each day Gillian was to perform a lecture demonstration in the Simmonscourt Arena with live painted horses as well as that, Horses Inside Out was to have an exhibition area in one of the food & shopping zones.

We would also have live painted horses on the stand throughout the day for people to look at and ask questions about, and Gillian would be doing short, informative talks throughout the day on the stand on various different anatomical structures. Gillian, Doug and I would be on hand throughout each day so that people could come to the Horses Inside Out zone, ask questions, find out more about Horses Inside Out, purchase books, learn more about the online content and Horses Inside Out Academy and also enter the show competition.

All sounds great, and very exciting, but how were we going to do this between the 3 of us and without having brought any horses with us?

Well……luckily, Gillian had teamed up with the Equine Science department from the University of Limerick. So we had a fab bunch of Equine Science students joining us and we were also kindly provided 3 gorgeous horses by some of the University staff for us to paint and for the students to ride/handle in the demos. Phew, that’s great, so we now have the Horses Inside Out Team, our stand, arena demo slots, students and horses.

Time for everyone to get acquainted and make plans for the next 3 days.

Not only had Gillian never met the horses or students before, the students had never met the horses before, let alone handle or ride them, there was a lot of getting to know each other to do. And of course the horses had never been painted before either. By the end of the first day Gillian had decided which horses would be painted with which structures, who would be riding/handling which horse and what the demos would entail. It had been a busy day and we hadn’t even gotten started yet. Time for an early night ready for the show to begin.

It was a 5am start for Gillian, Doug and I. Doug would be setting up the Horses Inside Out zone while Gillian and I would start on the painting. I have assisted Gillian in painting a few horses now over the last couple of years, so as long as she outlines the structures she is wanting to show on the horse, I can do the filling in, we now work as a pretty good team. Gillian had chosen the grey mare, Roxy, to be painted with the full skeleton to one side and flexor and extensor muscle chains to the other side. She was to be the in-hand and lunge horse in the lecture demonstrations so was to be painted with the full design on both sides.

We also painted the bay gelding Diego with this design, but leaving a space on his back for his saddle to sit as he would be ridden in the demos. After an hour’s head start the student team arrived. They were then able to get stuck in helping Gillian with some painting and giving them a chance to ask Gillian any questions as well as brush up on their anatomical knowledge - what a great opportunity!

Once the 2 horses were painted (this was mid morning as it takes a good few hours to paint each horse) we headed to the Horses Inside Out zone with them to start the day. Hay nets and buckets of water waited for them, so they could munch away, oblivious to the fact that crowds were flocking over to see them, many of whom had not seen or heard of Horses Inside Out before and could not believe what they were seeing!

It was fabulous to interact with the crowd, answer questions both general and specific to people’s individual experiences. Many people are wowed when they see for what might be the first time the true position of the bones of the neck, the spine and often also the hip.

Before we knew it, it was time for the first lunchtime lecture demo of the week.

Caoimhe would be lunging, Chloe would be riding Diego and Maria would be riding the chestnut mare, who we had not painted yet but with both riders in skeleton bodysuits, which look really cool as they show the bones of the rider and how their bodies are moving as the horse moves.

Gillian’s first demo of the week included how the horse moves in walk, trot and canter. The flexor & extensor chain of muscles and how they work to propel the horse and control movement. For this we set out some walk, trot & canter poles to show how simple exercises can increase range of movement in the horse’s body.

The demo was a great success, there was a great crowd watching and the girls were buzzing after performing in one of the main rings at the Dublin International Horse Show, a dream for them, and they did such a fab job with horses that were new to them. I think we were all on a high.

And then it was quick back to the Horses Inside Out zone as the crowds were flocking there after to ask questions and find out more about Horses Inside Out while the horses and students had a well deserved break. During the afternoon the horses joined us back on the stand. A little bit of smudged paint from sweating in the demo, but that was to be expected.

Gillian gave a few short talks during the afternoon where lots of people loved to stand, listen and learn.

It seemed like there was a never ending stream of people coming in, all so excited to see the horses, it was amazing to have children asking questions as well as very experienced horse people.

Before we knew it, the day came to an end, it was time for the horses to go back to their stables for their evening feeds and a well earned rest.

Same for us too - what a day, and still 2 more to go…….. find out more about day 2 & 3 in my next blog coming soon.

To find out where Gillian and Horses Inside Out are appearing next visit the Horses Inside Out What's On Page


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