David Lyons has been a prolific winner at the famous show over the last 40 years, writes
DAVID Lyons has accumulated more silverware at Balmoral Show than he probably cares to remember. As a regular on the horse-showing circuit there for well over 40 years, it is safe to say there’s not much he hasn’t won at this famous venue.
“My earliest memories are when I was there as a young child with my father,” the Ballynahinch, Co Down, native said. “It was great to get out of school to watch all the showing classes.”
His father Joe Lyons was another stalwart of the show and David remembers first joining him in the ring at the age of 16.
Some of the early successes include those with Beechgrove Light, a winner in Balmoral before going on to claim the reserve sash in the coveted Limerick Lady Championship.
“Felicity Roberts was another to have earned several ribbons at Balmoral in the 1990s, with her accolades including champion filly and reserve supreme.”
Having learned the trade from his father, David has since shown horses and ponies all over Ireland and the UK, but Balmoral continues to be one of his favourite venues.
From lead rein classes with his daughter Janet, to youngstock, broodmares and foals, he has done it all. His wife Gillian also has a long association with Balmoral, having grown up watching her parents exhibit in the cattle rings. Together they have passed on the interest to their three daughters, Janet, Gillian and Caroline. The show is also a popular venue for David’s brother Michael. Together with his wife Ann, they run a successful show horse operation nearby and were in the winner’s enclosure as recent as last year.
Noted for their successes at the RDS in the 1990s with Greenhall Flowing River, their most recent win at Ballsbridge came in 2017 when Emir’s Flight took the reserve champion yearling accolade behind Hughie and Mary Murphy’s Barnaview Misty River.
In recent years David has cut down on his own breeding stock and instead prefers to concentrate on keeping mares and show horses for some of his loyal clients.
In 2010 he showed Ronnie McCombe’s three-year-old, My Lisnagade by Emperor Augustus, to win the reserve filly title at the Dublin Horse Show.
Despite coming close on many occasions, it took David many years to crack the Breeders’ Championship at the RDS. In 2016 he and his daughter Caroline, a veterinary nurse, finally had their moment of glory when landing the coveted prize with Paula Howard’s Slatequarry Sasha and her colt foal by Greenan Fort. To cap off a great week, the daughter of Ghareeb was also crowned champion mare of the show for the Coote Cup.
Placed fourth at Balmoral in 2016, last year Slatequarry Sasha returned to the showgrounds and claimed the supreme sash before heading back to Dublin where her colt foal by Centrestage won his class. The mare was later sold on to Corkbased John Burchall.
As with most showing yards, as one horse leaves, another one soon arrives, and this year David brings along Paula’s fiveyear-old mare Dernahatten Out of Touch who will be shown inhand with her foal by the thoroughbred sire Greenan Fort.
A council worker for Belfast City Council, David now keeps many of the mares owned by Paula and has enjoyed watching some of their winning progeny go on to achieve further success as older horses.
“Piltown Lass did exceptionally well for us in the show ring and bred several winners at Dublin and Balmoral. These include Timpany King and Tim- pany Emperor.” Others boasting the prefix include Timpany Night, now eventing with Clare Abbott, and Timpany Flight Hero, winner of the All-Ireland Three-Year-Old Championship in 2010 for owner Betsy Dunne. He later went eventing with Richard Irwin.
This week David also heads to Balmoral with his daughter Caroline’s two-year-old filly Hillbilly Girl, another by Greenan Fort out of Country Ways, by Emperor Augustus.
“We bought her from Dessie Gibson as a foal and only showed her once as a yearling. She won that day and we’ve let her off to develop ever since,” David said.
Caroline, meanwhile, will be busy elsewhere on the show- grounds exhibiting her purebred Zwartble sheep as well as a new addition to the farm, an Irish Moiled heifer.
David’s eldest daughter Janet has won floral arranging competitions there for the past number of years, while Judith, who is a chef at the nearby Millbrook House Hotel, is a regular exhibitor of rare breed hens. Between them all this week they will contest a total of 24 classes, all with the assistance of David’s wife Gillian who is a crucial member of the support team.
“It’s going to be very a busy week and everyone will be relying on each other to lend a helping hand, but we wouldn’t have it any other way,” David concluded.