Olympia hosted a record number of visitors to its show in December, with 95,276 spectators flocking to the London International Horse Show.
Ticket sales were up 6% from 2012 and the additional Gala night on December 16 bought an extra 6,000 people. Well known faces in attendance included HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, Denise Lewis, England Rugby legends Ben Cohen and Phil Vickery, Deborah Meaden, Martin Clunes and Rory Bremner.
Highlights included FEI World Cups in three different disciplines; Dressage, Show Jumping and Driving, the thrilling Alltech Christmas Puissance won by Italian rider Luca Moneta and a breath-taking world record breaking Dressage performance by British superstars Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro.
But the icing on the cake undoubtedly came from Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art whose outstanding displays of horsemanship mesmerised spectators. It was the first time that the stunning pure bred Andalusian horses from Jerez de la Frontera, south-west Spain have performed in the UK for more than 40 years.
The show started with a bang as sensational Dressage duo Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro smashed the world record score in the Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Grand Prix Freestyle at the Tuesday evening performance. Spectators can claim to have experienced one of those spine tingling ‘I was there’ moments when the Olympic gold medalists performed to their famous ‘Great Escape’ music for the last time and accumulated a staggering score of 93.975%. The score beat the former world record of 92.3% set by Edward Gal and Totilas, also at Olympia, in 2009.
Italian rider Luca Moneta won the hearts of a packed house on Thursday evening when he cleared 7ft 2in to win the thrilling Alltech Christmas Puissance. The competition went to five rounds with only Guy Williams (GBR), on Richi Rich lll, and Luca on the gallant nine-year-old mare Quovo de Vains making it through to the final round. Guy’s grey mare just brushed a brick with his knee, leaving Luca to take the gamble. Unbelievably, it was Luca’s first ever Puissance win.
The Extreme Driving FEI World Cup Leg on Friday evening was won by long-standing champion driver IJsbrand Chardon from The Netherlands. In a tense final round, Chardon beat compatriot Koos de Ronde in an outstanding display of speed, accuracy and boldness. The shock result came from World No.1 Boyd Exell (AUS) who left an impossible margin to catch up after collecting two knock downs. Britain’s Georgina Hunt, the first ever woman to be granted a wild card at a qualifier, put in a terrific show to finish seventh.
A packed house on the Saturday afternoon was treated to a thrilling 11-horse jump-off in the Longines FEI World Cup qualifier, which built to the dream finish from Maikel Van der Vleuten (NED) – the very last rider into the arena pulling off victory. Riding VDL Groep Sapphire B, Maikel beat Belgium’s Francois Mathy Jr on Polinska des Isles by the tiny margin of 5/100th of a second. The 25-year-old also made history at Olympia, The London International Horse Show when he matched his father Eric’s achievement of winning this prestigious competition in 2009.
It was a fairy tale win in the Under 23 British Championship sponsored by Dodson & Horrell and The World Class Programme for young promising rider Jess Dimmock. Jess missed last year’s Olympia because her horse Capello II had to undergo colic surgery. However, he made a full recovery and came back to Olympia this year to help Jess land what is regarded as the most prestigious competition for young riders in the world.
HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, again enjoying her annual visit to Olympia on Thursday evening, presented the prestigious Raymond Brooks-Ward trophy, which is given in memory of the late commentator and show director by his three sons, Simon, James and Nick, to the most promising young rider of the year. This year’s recipient was show jumper Louise Saywell, 23, a member of the Lottery-funded World Class Development squad, who was a last-minute call-up to the British team at the FEI Nations Cup Final in Barcelona in September.
It was a one-two for Great Britain in the final big class of the week, the Olympia Grand Prix, when Ben Maher narrowly beat his 58-year-old compatriot John Whitaker.
Riding his London 2012 hero, Tripple X III, Ben rattled the second fence in the nail biting jump off, but the World No. 2 kept his cool. John then produced his gallant effort, but a tiny check in front of the penultimate fence cost him a fraction of a second and first place in one of the few competitions he has yet to win.
The H & M Leading Rider of Show accolade went to another popular Brit, Laura Renwick, whose consistency meant she beat Peder Fredricson (SWE) by four points to the award. Jur Vrieling (NED) was third, William Funnell (GBR) fourth, Italy’s Luca Moneta fifth and the talented young Dutchman, Maikel Van der Vleuten, winner of the Christmas Masters as well as the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping, was sixth.