Show jumping used to be only for the rich but now while it is still sometimes considered the thing to do the sport is open to everyone.”
Mrs Muriel Neill, secretary and treasurer of the Show Jumping Association of Ireland (Northern Region) attributes a great deal of this success to television as well as a maturing society which is re-directing its ‘snob values’.
“Interest has increased enormously over the past two or three years and more and more young people are asking their parents to buy them a pony so there is a great demand for training schools,” Mrs Neill told me when I chatted to
her at her home at Holly House, Hillhall, near Lisburn.
Mrs Neill has been a member of the Association for over 12 years and had no intention of becoming an office-bearer. But, at Dublin Show four years ago she was told that there was to be a resignation and the Association was “really stuck” for a secretary and treasurer.
She said she would take it on just to help out but she has made such a good job of the office that there is little chance of her being relieved of it.
What is the purpose of the Association? Mrs Neill explained that, for many years there was an Ulster Riding and Encouragement Society.
This was when the various shows made their own rules according to the districts concerned. As these rules varied from show to show it was obviously confusing for those taking part.
So a group of show-jumping enthusiasts got together to try to set up uniform rules by which all shows should abide. This was welcomed by everyone in the show jumping world and representatives from the various show committees joined the Association.
Soon there were representatives from all over Ireland and although the Association is divided into provincial regions the rules are the same all over the country.
“We are supposed to go round all the shows to make sure that the rules are being kept, that the course is suitable and the prize money is the correct amount.”
The Association itself runs two shows a year; one early in the season for young people as a school and one in July – this is a championship show at the RUAS.