The Irish Racehorse Experience at the National Stud in Tully, Co Kildare, spans 600sq m and creates an immersive experience which tells the story of the thoroughbred breed and the history of horse racing in Ireland.

The attraction also allows you to experience your own horse racing journey, from buying your foal to racing it, using state-of-art simulation technology.

A little help from technology

Each participant receives a tablet and headset as soon as they arrive at the Irish Racecourse Experience.

The high-tech equipment used in the immersive experience tracks the visitor’s position through all the rooms with an accuracy of 20cm. When a visitor approaches a movie or interactive section, the tablet is synced and automatically plays the voice-over and music in one of six selected languages.

The beginning of the experience sets the tone for what was to come: an impressive work of cinematography, offering an introduction to the history of the equine industry.

The big race

The exhibition allows you to experience what it’s like to train and purchase your own racehorse, from foal to finish. Irish Country Living “entered” GOFFS horse auction and watched the selection of yearlings led around the arena, listened to the horse auctioneers comments and also chose a yearling based on statistics displayed on the tablet.

In the next rooms, where you could choices about nutrition, trainers, training and which jockey the horse will ride. All these choices ultimately determine how fast your horse becomes. This all culminates in “The Big Race”, where the visitors ride against other visitors in an iMax-like setting, complete with mechanically moving horses, wind, sound design, dynamic commentary and a life-size projection of the race on a famous Irish circuit.

Emma Hannon, Ellen Mitchell and Conor Hyland at 'The Big Race'.

The education

Each room throughout also contains an assortment of voiceovers, diagrams, structures and information about horses and the industry.

Interesting features include an exact replica of a racing yard, life-size realistic structures of the equine anatomy and the penultimate stage of the experience before the big race, where you can try your hand at the art of horse racing commentary.

The design was made by Irish museum planners DMW Creative, and creative agency MCW was responsible for the content of the exhibit. Rob Molemaar from DMW Creative explained how his team were hired specifically as people without experience in the industry, and then given intensive training in the equine industry in order to create an experience accessible to those without previous horse racing knowledge.

The verdict

The horse racing experience creates a fun, interesting and knowledge-enhancing day out. It’s an impressive combination of an interactive experience and a state-of-the-art museum. As an attraction, it is accessible and interesting for anyone – regardless of age or horse racing knowledge – while also shining a light on the rich tapestry of Ireland’s horse racing history.

Ireland as ‘the land of the horse’

Fáilte Ireland (FI) was a major contributor to the programme, investing €1.9m in the project. Director of product development at FI Orla Carroll says FI is hugely excited to be involved.

“Ireland is renowned for horses and it is part of our cultural heritage,” she explains. “Kildare is the heart of the thoroughbred; it’s an ideal time to explain that. It really fits in with Ireland’s Ancient East as it offers that storytelling. When we talk about Irelands Ancient East, it really is about our heritage, and horseracing is part of that heritage.”

Chief executive of the Irish National Stud and Gardens Cathal Beale explains the storytelling roots of the overall experience.

Cathal Beale is chief executive of the Irish National Stud and Gardens.

“We wanted it to flow in a story,” he says. “It’s a full of journey from start to finish, you can see the entire lifecycle of a horse. It’s completely unique to anywhere in the world.”

He explains that an effort was made for the experience to be accessible to all. “The real audience here is the 95% of people who are not experts in horse racing,” he says. “We very much designed it with them in mind, because we want to open the doors and allow the general public to come in and understand and actually interact with it.”

Horses are everywhere in this country

Cathal hopes the experience alongside the National Stud will create an opportunity to showcase Ireland’s rich horsing tradition.

“It’s in every parish. It’s in every village. It’s in every township in the country. Horses are everywhere in this country. In the US, there are three thoroughbreds for every 10,000 people, in the UK it’s four. In Ireland, it’s 15. We really are the land of the horse.”

He added that it’s perfect for children interested in gaming.

“You can bring them here, they can play an interactive game and a computer game as such, but still get the walk in and still get the fresh air and get them back to nature.”

The Irish Racehorse Experience costs €5 in addition to the normal price of admission, for eight years and over. Pre-booking is essential.