'So, which one do you like?" I say to the expert.
The expert gestures at one of the fabulous beasts lined up before me.
"That one," he says.
"Magnificent creature," I note.
"It's the best one," the expert says earnestly.
"Indeed," I say, stroking my chin.
"Baa!" says the magnificent creature.
The expert is around eight. Behind me some 10-year-olds are manhandling a goat. A little girl with a serious face is milking a fake cow. Another child is shouting "I'm a horse! I'm a horse!" whilst his mother tries to calm him down. I'm at the urban farm in the Dublin Horse Show.
Out in the "rings" there's some kind of horse beauty-pageant going on – a series of them actually. A variety of fine looking horses are being led and ridden about a circular field as earnest men in bowler hats (they look like Mr Benn) poke and prod them and, I suppose, make them pronounce hard words.
"What's going on?" I ask the man next to me.
"They're looking for confirmation, presence, movement, manners and rideability," says Maurice, a farmer from Laois. He's decked out in the horse-lover's uniform – a white hat, beige trousers, a brown sports-jacket, brogues, a well-thumbed race-guide, and a genuine look of rapt attention whenever something on four legs goes by. "The horses have to walk, trot and canter," he explains. "Then the judges ride them and put them through their paces. These horses are well-schooled; they've got good pace."
Some horses go by. "Those three, I reckon, will be first, second and third," says Maurice softly.
"You can just tell that by a glance?" I say incredulously.
"I can," he asserts firmly.
Now, the only way I could tell a good horse from a bad horse, or indeed, a horse from a sheep, is if they were kitted out with idiosyncratic eye-patches, bandanas, gold teeth and monocles (i.e. if they decided to theme the event like the World Wrestling Federation). Then I could confidently say "I'm a big fan of the horse who's dressed like a pirate." Until then, however, I'm clueless.
Now, some of the human punters would look quite at home on a pirate ship, so I do feel qualified to judge them. Sophisticated fashionistas mingle with overwhelming numbers of casually-dressed, and the casually-dressed mingle with the (unintentionally) bizarrely dressed. Yes, all human life is here, and they all seem to tolerate (possibly even like) one other. The real fancy people gather by the Champagne and Seafood tents to one side of the rings, and in truth, I haven't seen so many folk with weird antennae jutting from their heads since my last Star Trek Convention.
"There but for the grace of God..." mutters one smartly-dressed middle-aged lady a little too audibly, as a woman with orange skin, a large bit of a gate stuck to her hat, and an admirable brass neck struts by.
"Oh, I'm here for the fashion," says the smartly-dressed lady. "It's nice to see everyone dressed up." At this point a girl in a too-short skirt and panda-influenced eye-makeup shuffles by, and the smartly dressed lady's eyes widen and she yelps to her friend... "But really, some people shouldn't have bothered!"
When you think about it, a horse show is a strange place for posing (what with the proximity to horse poo), but a horse-related pose-fest has been a long-standing tradition in this country, and the veterans have it down to a fine art.
You haven't seen fashionable nonchalance until you've seen a woman in sunglasses and what looks like a ball gown, draping herself languidly across a service buggy whilst sipping champagne and ignoring her gentleman-friend's pleas that it's time to leave.
Meanwhile, as the advertisements constantly asserted, there's more to the Horse Show than horses; all sorts of tack (that's the term for horse-riding gear) and tack (that's the term for general rubbish), can be found in an array of stalls in the Main Hall. Whether you're looking for glittery finger nails, leather goods, massage chairs, horse-themed art, antiquarian books, or a tarot reading from Fergus Gibson, the Main Hall is the place to be when the clouds start to mass and it looks like your massive hat might collapse under impending rain-water.
Of course, some people spend all their time out at the big arena. How does this show-jumping lark work? You ask. Well, imagine you've just hired some inept tradesman who's chosen to build a discontinuous fence all over your field instead of around it.
For some reason these idiots have also themed each section of fence with harps, or telephone boxes, or shamrocks. And people have to navigate their horses through this mess. Wait! Don't start shouting "JUST GO AROUND IT!" at them. Lepping over these fences is the point, and some of them are very good at it indeed.
And it's a very enjoyable spectator sport. "Ah, it's wonderful in these economically hard-pressed times," says Marian Condren, who's on the organising committee. "It raises people's spirits, and there's a wonderful buzz and atmosphere around... can't you feel it?"
And the atmosphere is lovely. After my first day of Horse Show fun, I'm joined by an older gentleman with a trimmed goatee wearing the requisite beige and mustard suit/pants combo and white hat.
A slightly-drunk, casually-dressed punter looms out of the RDS, navigates his way dangerously through the traffic and up to us: "Where's this bus go?" he asks in a Cavan accent. "Does it go to the party side of town? I bet it goes to the party side of town?" He turns to the older gentleman and says "and you'll come with me you old divil!" Then weirdly enough, they link arms, do a brief jig and part ways.