National Joy as HM Queen Attends Royal Windsor Horse Show

To some, the surprise of the Royal Windsor Horse Show was the attendance of The Queen as She has been rather confined to barracks this year due to her well known mobility problems.  The R.W.H.S is one of the major events in the UK calendar for equine shows and this year was no exception.

HM Queen with Prince Edward and Sophie Countess of Wessex

At about 10.30 on the second day of the show, there was a flurry of activity as word came down from Windsor Castle – overlooking the show ground, that The Queen was intending to come to the show in person shortly. From security personnel to event organisers to range rover drivers and other necessary flunkies, the excitement built as Her Majesty was driven the short drive from home to the main arena where the championship of the Horse and Hound Mountain and Moorland was being judged. The fact that She arrived with no fanfare from anyone in the arena meant that to start with, at any rate, no public were aware that She was there. Word soon spread however and the public flocked into the seating to have a glimpse.

Champion – Balmoral Leia belonging to Her Majesty

Word had clearly got to Her Majesty that her show horses were all doing rather well in their respective classes especially Balmoral Leia chosen as the winner of the Highland Pony Class, and therefore expected to compete for the in hand Mountain and Moorland Championship. This was a very strong class, as one would expect, with the cream of the top UK native ponies pitting themselves against one another. Eighteen contenders came forward for judge David Puttock to muse over. As he judged and felt each pony and individually sent them all round around the arena, the results of his deliberations were awaited with anticipation. Finally, the result was announced to a delighted owner and breeder of the winner, H.M. The Queen with Balmoral Leia together with jubilation from the assembled crowd. Balmoral Leia, the 5 year old grey/dun mare was presented and shown by L. Briant.

Immediately following the class, The Queen stayed to see her granddaughter, Lady Louise Windsor, (daughter of Prince Edward and Sophie) lead in the pageant for the Fell Pony Society centenary parade. This must have been quite poignant for The Queen as Lady Louise headed the parade driving two in hand Fell ponies complete with coach/trap, now bequeathed to Lady Louise following  The Duke of Edinburgh’s passing last year. This was quite a sight as at least thirty five ponies made up the parade.

Henrik Von Eckermann (SWE)

By the time the first international jumping class started, a two phase competition over 1.45m with both parts being against the clock, the Queen had departed. Nevertheless, there was a strong line-up of 34 riders taking part with former and current Olympic, World and European champions in the start list. The Manama Stakes was won by Henrik Von Eckermann riding Iliana going clear in both parts and with a time of 25.20 seconds in the second phase. Germany’s Christian Ahlmann riding Calvino 16 was second on 25.14 seconds and Great Britain’s Guy Williams was third riding Rouge de Ravel in 25.66 seconds – so a very close and exciting for the first class of the 5 star event.

Daniel Deusser

Later in the day came the second of the 5 star classes in which 30 rode for the coveted Pearl Stakes. This was a class over two rounds, the second against the clock. Fourteen of the starters had a first round clear, so the jump off was well attended. In the end, The German rider Daniel Deusser took the honours riding Bingo Ste Hermelle with Jos Verlooy riding Luciano van het Geinsteinde  for Belgium in second. The third was the ever popular John Whitaker from GB riding Equine America Unick de Francport.

While the showing classes continued unabated in the outside arenas and despite the Queen having several horses and ponies competing – none of which were quite so successful as the Championship of yesterday, The Queen obviously enjoyed her day out as she attended the show again. This time, She watched the Land Rover Services Team jumping. This is a regular class at this show which is always very well competed for by regiments in the army as well as naval and air force teams – all vying for the coveted Services Plate presented by H.M. The Queen. The competition was split into two sections, phase one being the team event and phase two the individual. The team event was won by the Army 3 team with no faults from the three riders. The second with four faults was the team from Army 1 and third was The Cranleigh School Combined Cadet Force with a total of 8 faults. In the individual phase, the winner was from The Royal Horse Artillery, Bombardier Hannah Brasher with The Animal Defence Training Regiment taking second with Michael McGrath.

Jos Verlooy (BEL)

Meanwhile the show jumping classes continued, starting with The Falcon Stakes, over two rounds with the fences being just that little bit higher at 1.50m. Belgium came to the fore for this class taking both first and second places. In fact the foreign raiders made this class their own by taking the top six places. The winner was Jos Verlooy on a double clear as was his fellow countryman Wilm Vermeir. Also with double clears were Steve Guerdat from Switzerland who came third and Lorenzo de Luca for Italy, the only other rider to have two clear rounds.

Holly Smith. (GBR)

The Kingdom of Bahrain Stakes is the dress rehearsal really for the Windsor Rolex Grand Prix in the final day and is also part of the Rolex Grand Slam series. The course was set a 1.55m (nearly the top height allowed) which may be why there were only 19 starters – others wanting to rest their horses for the big one on the final day. The top three were the only three who all had double clear rounds with Holly Smith of Great Britain at the top of the podium riding Fruselli. Abdel Said, who now rides for Belgium was second riding Casalor and third was Lorenzo de Luca riding Cash du Plessis for Italy.

The final day of any big show such as The Royal Windsor Horse Show is really a day for the culmination of all the different showing and showjumping classes. However there is one equine sport hardly mentioned in this piece – The International Driving Championships. This was something that Prince Philip tried on many occasions to make his own, and sometimes succeeded, and as said earlier, now a mantle he passed onto his granddaughter Lady Louise Windsor, including his horses and carriages, although she did not compete this year.

There were fifteen drivers set to compete in this three phase international competition. The first was the dressage when the horses and riders have to show adeptness around the arena. The second phase is the most exciting and maybe the most ‘fool hardy’ phase – anyway if you are a driver – The driving marathon. This part is when there are four in hand pulling a carriage through basically a cross country course with tricky bends and turns constantly having to be made. The final part is the precision part when the four in hand have to negotiate a course full of cones, all with balls on the top and with little room for the horses and carriages to go round. Penalties are lost every time one of those balls fall off any of the cones, and this part of the competition can change the leader board hugely. After the gruelling cross country marathon, the horses are tired and can get rather less accurate in their performance which causes them to collect many penalties.

Winner of the Driving Grand Prix. Boyd Exell. (AUS)

At the end of the dressage, Boyd Exell from Australia was in the lead with 32.79 penalties. At the end of the Driving Marathon, the British were nowhere to be seen. The winner was German driver Michael Brauchle (155.56 penalties) followed by Chester Weber from the United States (168.18 penaties) and third was Koos de Ronde from The Netherlands (175.84 penalties). The three British drivers were occupying the bottom three places on the leader board after day two. Although Boyd Exell had a handful of balls knocked off their cones, he still went onto win with the other placings following the Marathon unaltered.

Harry Charles GBR)

The penultimate show jumping class of the week was the Manama Rose Show Stakes in which thirty rider came forward. This was a class with a top height of 1.50m which was a class against the clock over one round. If a rider knocked a pole down, they received four time faults for each fence that dropped. There were fifteen riders who went clear, so the winner was the one who went the fastest and that was Harry Charles from Great Britain riding Billabong du Roubois in 57.25 seconds. The next fastest was Shane Breen from Ireland riding Haya in 59.79 seconds and third was Gregory Wathelet from Belgium riding Ace of Hearts in 60.36 seconds.

In the final showjumping class of the week, The Rolex Grand Prix there were 32 riders. The course was designed by Bernardo Costa Cabral of Portugal. He designed a 14 obstacle course with 17 jumping efforts required and to the top height of 1.60m.The treble combination came at fence 5 and the double at fence 13 proceeded by a huge oxer fence at 12. The time allowed was a generous one of 78 seconds and no one actually collected any time faults at all. But the first round was certainly challenging for these top world class riders. Only three managed to get clear. The main problem was that at fence 7, there was a big oxer which required power and speed which most if not all cleared well, but then they needed to brake and turn to a very open set of planks. Most riders found getting the paces required and having the delicacy needed was too much and down came the planks.

Gregory Wathelet (BEL) wins the Rolex Grand Prix

So there were only three successful riders with clears at the end of round one. Gregory Wathelet riding Nevardos S for Belgium, Max Kuhner riding Elektric Blue P for Austria and the final one to go; Daniel Bluman riding Ladriano Z for Israel.  The jump off as a result was a quick affair with Gregory Wathelet going first and leaving all the fences intact and in 34.79 seconds – a time not to beaten by his other two rivals which gave him the win. The second to go was Max Kuhner who also went clear but in 36.09 seconds and finally, Daniel Bluman who went round in 35.23 seconds but just didn’t have the jump to clear the last, so had 4 faults.

Lady Louise Windsor driving The Late Prince Philip’s Fell horses.

This was another very successful show incorporating the special evening performances at the end of each day celebrating the Platinum Jubilee of the Queen with an extravaganza of performance involving over 500 horses including once again, Lady Louise Windsor driving the same two horses two in hand with Prince Philip’s practice carriage/trap. Apart from The Queen, the show was attended by several other members of the Royal Family, but especially Prince Edward who has been recently appointed ‘President of the show’ following in his father’s footsteps – Prince Philip. Prince Edward was accompanied by The Countess of Wessex – Sophie, who were also on escorting duty for The Queen when she was there.

H.M. Queen enjoying Her Jubilee Pageant.

As The Queen had missed the state opening of Parliament earlier in the week, the first she had not attended since 1963, there was a big question mark as to whether She would attend. However, you cannot keep our Queen away from Her beloved horses!  . During the day time performances, as is usual and one of the things the show is famous for was the various displays for each of the four days. Heading the displays was the Musical Ride of the Household Cavalry supported this year with exhibitions from International display team from France – The Garde Republicain and further international displays from The Royal Calvary of The Oman and The King’s Guard of Norway.

Household Cavalry officers with trophies

These displays were also part of the evening Platinum Jubilee performances, especially titled “A Gallop Through History” As the first major celebration of Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee, together with the horses on parade, a star list of actors added their piece to the proceedings including Dame Helen Mirram and Tom Cruise. Clearly The Queen enjoyed the whole evening and received a standing ovation from Her loyal subjects.

Images Courtesy of Goldeneye Photography and RWHS

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