Moving up to three-star status proved a boon for this year’s Royal Windsor Horse Show, which welcomed more than 50,000 visitors over five days and has been described by its show director as “the best we’ve had for a long time”.
Spectators at the show from May 14 to May 18 enjoyed some of the warmest few days in Britain so far this year in the stunning grounds of Windsor Castle – the only time of the year that the Queen opens up the private grounds to the public.
The introduction of ‘Windsor Wednesday’, where the organisers offered free admission to all visitors on the opening day was seen as a huge success with attendances of over 8,500 on what had, in previous years, been a quiet day.
Windsor hosted international competitions in showjumping, dressage, driving and endurance, as well as more than 100 National Showing classes with more than 30 breeds of horses and ponies. Other highlights included spectacular displays from The Kings Troop RHA, The Household Cavalry and the DAKS Pony Club Mounted Games – this year won by Wales.
Show Director Simon Brooks-Ward said: “It was the best Royal Windsor Horse Show we’ve had for a long time. The new format really worked and we have had great feedback from spectators and riders from all the disciplines.
“To have the likes of Charlotte Dujardin, Carl Hester and Nick Skelton with Big Star competing here was fabulous and the influx of overseas visitors coming over from as far as the USA and Saudi Arabia gave it a true international feel. Royal Windsor Horse Show has a lot of offer as an international multi-discipline equestrian event and we have really showcased that this year.”
International dressage returned to Royal Windsor Horse Show for the first time since 2002 and World No.1 Charlotte Dujardin did not disappoint the packed crowds in the stands when she stole the show on Thursday and Friday evening, winning both the CDI3* Grand Prix and Freestyle.
It was a British one, two, three as Michael Eilberg and Carl Hester took the runner up places behind the Olympic Gold Medallist, who was riding the stallion Uthopia in front of a 4000 strong crowd.
Hester said: “We need to add venues to the British calendar and it is great that Windsor has stepped back in especially with its great surfaces and packed stadiums. British riders don’t get the opportunity to prepare for Championships in this country so to have this venue is fantastic and long may it stay.”
The introduction of international three-star showjumping proved a hit, with an outstanding list of entries from 24 countries competing for the new injection of prize money at this year’s show.
Saudi Arabia’s Abdullah Al Sharbatly had a stellar week, clinching the top spot in the CSI3* Bahrain Pearl Stakes on Friday and the CSI3* Six Bar and the CSI3* Kingdom of Bahrain Stakes for the Kings Cup on Saturday.
Shane Breen of Ireland took the CSI3* Falcon Stakes on Farao van T Vennehof, whilst the Land Rover Speed Stakes was won by the UK’s No.1 female Show Jumper, Laura Renwick riding Beluga.
The climax of the international show jumping was the Alltech Grand Prix for The Kingdom of Bahrain Trophy on Sunday, when Robert Whitaker clinched first place from his cousin William in a spectacular jump off.
Castle Arena spectators were also treated to the return from injury of Nick Skelton’s Olympic Gold Medal winning horse, Big Star, who made his come back to competition after an eight month absence. Big Star was foot perfect in all rounds but was not put against the clock in the jump offs.
Tthe Land Rover International Driving Grand Prix played out under near cloudless skies making perfect underfoot conditions through all three phases. 32 competitors from 13 nations, including six competitors from GB, gathered to do battle in horse four-in-hands.
Chester Weber (USA) took the top spot in the fiercely contested four-day competition after an edge of the seat final phase on Sunday, May 18.
Weber, who last competed (and won) at Royal Windsor Horse Show with a horse pair in 1996, posted a smooth and accurate dressage test, earning him the early lead by some five points over six-time IDGP winner, Boyd Exell (AUS). However, he was slower than most in the marathon and dropped down to fourth place going into the final phase on Sunday. The cones phase saw only three double clears – one of which was from Weber, meaning that he ended up taking top spot, putting a smile on his face that competed with the bright sunshine.
“I am so pleased,” he said. “This really means a lot to me – to win at Royal Windsor is particularly special.”
In a class traditionally dominated by men, this year saw the greatest number of women four-in-hand drivers at Royal Windsor – a record four coming from Germany, USA and GB. Highest placed was Mareike Harm from Germany, who has been driving horse four-in-hands competitively for less than five years – she turned in an extremely impressive performance which will make for future interest.
The horse pairs competition was won by Ireland’s Barry Capstick, whilst the pony four-in-hand class was won by Jan de Boer (NED) with Great Britain’s Sara Howe in second.
Royal Windsor Horse Show is seen as the early season mecca of showing and this year celebrated more showing championships in the main Castle Arena than ever before, which was welcomed by the showing community.
The stars of the show were undoubtedly Suffolk producers Simon Charlesworth, Steve Pitt and Vicky Smith who went to Windsor with six horses and came away with a record five winners, including the champion hack, champion cob and champion riding horse.
There was local success for Jayne Ross and Carol Bardo who are based just outside Maidenhead. They experienced a hugely successful show with six winners, five of them ridden by Jayne herself.
The second running of the Royal Windsor Endurance 120km CEI** competition resulted in a win shared by Sheikh Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa of Bahrain and Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum of The United Arab Emirates. The two competitors are brothers-in-law and a joint win allowed family pride to be more greatly spread.
The course included a stretch on the turf in front of the stunning Ascot Racecourse Grandstand, before sweeping around the edge of Windsor Great Park. The three loops that followed took in iconic landmarks within the park, including Jubilee Statue, Prince Consort Statue and The Long Walk, and also treated riders to spectacular panoramic views of Berkshire and Windsor Castle.