World records and personal bests abounded last week at the Alltech FEI European Jumping and Dressage Championships at Windsor.

But while some thrilling contests played out in the main arena, the banks of unsold seats against which much of it took place became a talking point, particularly for the show jumping.

And some of those who bought tickets for the non-championship performances felt they did not live up to their billing, particularly Friday’s gala evening performance.

Pre-publicity implied that Zara Phillips and Mary King would contest the eventers’ grand prix, but in the end neither took part.

“The whole evening felt rushed; things seemed to finish almost as soon as they began,” said visitor Rob Hulbert of Windsor.

“The eventers’ grand prix was brilliant, but needed more competitors, and the puissance was a bit messy. Some riders had refusals before even getting to the wall and others decided not to contest the second round.

“I found the whole thing a bit wet — unlike the freestyle to music on Saturday, which was amazing.”

A spokesman for organisers HPower did not have final gate numbers as H&H went to press on Monday, but said: “We estimate around 40,000 attended. Dressage definitely outsold show jumping with Saturday night’s performance of the kür the busiest.”

Readers have commented to H&H that many people were unaware that the championships were taking place at Windsor, and paltry coverage in the national papers — no one gave it more than a fifth of a page — did not help.

HPower spokesman Kelly Smith said organisers were disappointed with the coverage in the daily press, but added: “It seems to reflect the apathy of the support for show jumping, especially at the moment.”

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (3 September, ’09)