From Spitfire wings to jump wings - 75 years of the Royal Windsor Horse Show
The second weekend in may can only mean one thing for us at The Finer Horse - our annual pilgrimage to the Royal Windsor Horse Show. With everything from pint sized Shetland ponies to giant Household Cavalry drum horses there really is something for everyone to enjoy at the show, and this year was particularly special as the show celebrated its 75th anniversary. Started in 1943 as a one off fundraiser for 'Wings for Victory', the show originally had the aim of building as many Spitfire and Hurricane aircraft from the show’s proceeds as possible for the war effort. With a mixture of gymkhana, showing, driving and showjumping classes the show proved such a hit despite the war-time travel restrictions that it became an annual feature in the ‘back garden’ of Windsor Castle.
The feeling of the show being very much a 'horse show' rather than focussing on any one discipline is one of the things that makes Royal Windsor so enjoyable for the spectator over the 5 action-packed days of the show, and Her Majesty The Queen's regular visits to see her horses and ponies compete in their showing classes makes the show even more special in our eyes.
We attended the show on Saturday this year and, as always, got there early to watch one of the more 'entertaining' classes on the schedule, the Land Rover Services Team Jumping class, open to any members of the uniformed services. It’s always hard to see a horse you love but can’t be with (because they’ve been sold or were never yours to begin with) being ridden by someone else but are we the only ones who feel a sense of quiet satisfaction when you see them behaving badly for their current rider? This was definitely the case for us during this class, where our favourite former ride had a disagreement with her new rider that left the pair eliminated at the second fence. A quiet smile may or may not have been observed...
After a quick (ok ok, who are we kidding...) trip round the superb shops, including visits to both Hicks and Brown and Butler Stewart to see their gorgeous new pieces in person (featuring on the blog soon!), we headed back to our seats for the day's feature class, the CSI5* Kingdom of Bahrain Stakes for The King’s Cup.
It was so exciting for us showjumping fans to see so many top riders supporting the show, and many of the British riders present gave us a glimpse of their newer, less experienced horses. We were left particularly impressed by John Whitaker's improving partnership with the difficult Cassini's Chaplin, on whom the Whitaker magic worked beautifully, to see them through to the jump-off.
Although much more experienced, the equally tricky Catwalk IV was absolutely on song during the first round, taking Robert Whitaker through to the second round to pit himself against his father John, thus making life easy for the commentators!
The jump off was as exciting as they come and had us on the edge of our seats until the last to go - Daniel Deusser. Amazingly, he managed to shave 0.3 seconds off Catwalk IV's seemingly unbeatable time to take the class. A first-time visitor to the show, we definitely hope he'll be back!
Sadly the warm sunny weather we saw at Badminton had gone for its own summer holiday and in torrential rain we enjoyed displays from a very soggy Household Cavalry Musical Ride and the Equestrian Federation of Azerbaijan to finish the afternoon's performance.
Having negotiated a way back to the car through the puddles (our Fairfax and Favor Regina's turned out not to be the best option...) we were already looking forward to next year's show.
With thanks to Horse & Hound for their assistance with statistics and history for the Royal Windsor Horse Show.