What a wet week! Day one at the Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) saw the coloureds have the best of the weather and the going. Great progress was made in these classes, where record numbers were forward yet again. Hickstead reported that they have shaved a whopping two-and-a-half hours off the class times from last year, where they were renowned for over- running.

Every effort was made to still allow each competitor equal time and not to rush anyone. The conscious choice to not implicate set shows was a real welcome, not only to allow rider creativity, but also to keep the crowd interested.

It was good to see standards being upheld with a strict dress code for the grooms and prizes on offer for the best turned out. To see everybody looking smart really gives a sense of occasion to such a special show.

After speaking at length to show director David Ingle, who admitted to slightly feeling the pressure of solely taking over from the late, great Roger Stack, he was very pleased how the show ran and hinted of even more changes for next year. Describing the show as Roger’s legacy, you can see just how passionate David is about Hickstead, and competitors reported how he’s always on- hand to oversee proceedings and is approachable and open to suggestions.

One thing that I know Roger and myself were adamant about, was keeping competitors and sponsors separate from the judges, and this was still the case. Competitors and friends of Roger were invited to sign a book of memories. There were some wonderful photographs and we certainly spent some time in the pavilion reminiscing.

Tractors were working over-time in the lorry park and, on the whole, spirits were high. Hickstead was not going to be defeated by the weather and the show team really pulled together and soldiered on.

The deep going in some of the rings favoured some horses and handicapped others. I myself came unstuck in one class.

The supremes were full of quality and riders quickly had to adapt to the ground conditions.

An official decision was made to not allow galloping in the main arena and certain areas were off limits. I’m sure all understood that the ground was being preserved for the King George class, and that arena is still a great privilege to ride in, even with restrictions. Therefore, rather than the usual blistering gallops, we saw riders resorting to more technical shows, with more precise elements, showing off obedience, control and playing to the crowd. Some would argue that the hunter and cob would be handicapped, but I think it was still a great final and Allister Hood’s riding horse really wowed. I must mention, though, Jayne Ross’ incredible feat of winning all three hunter weight sections, which she also did this year at Royal Windsor.

With further improvements on the cards next year, I’m already looking forward to it — but let’s have some sunshine please.

Ref: Horse & Hound, 3 August 2017