With Super League jumping, Nations Cup dressage, top-class showing and driving — and Olympic eventers thrown in for good measure — the RIHS is Britain’s answer to Aachen.

Although many show jumpers are in preparation for the Athens Games, there is still a quality international entry this year. Britain’s team hopes ride with Olympians Nick Skelton and Robert Smith, who will be joined by Robert Whitaker, Mark Armstrong or Richard Davenport on Friday afternoon.

They face strong opposition, particularly from the Irish. New chef d’equipe Ned Campion brings four Olympic short-listed riders – Cian O’Connor, Kevin Babington, Billy Twomey and Marion Hughes – plus the in-form Lt Shane Carey.

The French currently lead the league and have strength in depth. Chef d’equipe Laurent Elias has a good team in Laurent Goffinet, Robert Breul, Patrice Delaveau and Jean-Marc Nicolas.

Spectators also have a chance to see Sydney gold medallist Jeroen Dubbeldam and new national champion Emile Tacken on the Dutch team, which has won two Nations Cup this year.

National championships are on Wednesday, the Longines Grand Prix is on Saturday morning and the jumping finishes with its traditional Sunday climax – King’s and Queen’s Cup day.

Showing stars

The best show horses and ponies in Britain will be on display throughout the week, with most championships taking place in the International Arena. The showing builds up to a double finale on Sunday afternoon.

The horses are first off in their supreme ridden championship, which will be judged skating marks-style by Georgina Andrews, Richard Meade and William Funnell. Next in are all the champion ponies, who will compete for the Dick Saunders Memorial Trophy in a special class started in 2002 in honour of the show’s late showing director.

Cross-country action

Since its inception in 1998, the eventing grand prix, which pits international show jumpers against eventers, has proved a popular addition to Hickstead’s calendar. It is sponsored this year by Ford Ranger, with first prize being the use of a 4×4 Ford Ranger Thunder for a year plus £3,000.

The course, starting and finishing in the International Arena, features Hickstead’s famous permanent obstacles, some regular show jumps and a section consisting of knock-down cross-country fences, including water, banks, drops and arrowheads.

“It should be a level playing field,” says Lemieux. “The fences are all on cups, although they look pretty solid. And we’ve removed the bullfinch this time.”

Largely thanks to three-times winner Pippa Funnell, eventers have dominated the competition to date. Michael Whitaker finally broke the show jumpers’ duck last year, winning on Sir Dino after twice being the bridesmaid. In the absence of his uncle, who is competing abroad, Robert Whitaker carries the family baton — and he will be following Michael’s example by borrowing an as yet unnamed eventer for the challenge.

Pippa Funnell will ride the Bunns’ home-bred stallion Viceroy II, bidding for her first victory in the event without her specialist partner, The Tourmaline Rose. The only previous winning combination in the field, Gary Parsonage and Just So II, are gunning for a repeat success five years on.

Apart from Pippa, the class will star several Athens-bound eventers: Blyth Tait and Heidi Antikatzides take their Olympic rides Ready Teddy and Michaelmas, while Andrew Nicholson, Eddy Stibbe and Sarah Cutteridge are also on the entry list.

Watch dressage masters

International dressage is back at Hickstead again this year, following 2003’s European Dressage Championships, where Britain won a team bronze medal. This time, the CDIO (Nations Cup) may be missing top pairs – which compete instead at Aachen – but there will still be high-quality dressage from international riders.

For Britain, the team will be European bronze medallist Emile Faurie; former national champion Peter Storr; rising star Wayne Channon and German-based Fiona Bigwood. Riding as individuals in the CDIO are Joanna Fisher, Nicky Barrett and Tina Atkins.

Top internationals crossing the Channel include Holland’s Tineke and Imke Bartels and French rider Dominique d’Esme. Canada’s Shannon Dueck and Evi Strasser are making the trip to Sussex.

As well as the international classes, the show marks the culmination of the Hickstead Dressage Masters League – featuring combinations who have qualified by finishing first or second at a Premier League show in prix st georges to grand prix classes.

For more information, see www.hickstead.co.uk/RIhs.htm or (tel: 01444 882150).

Visit Horse & Hound

While you’re at the show, don’t forget to visit our stand (77), where the first 1,000 will receive a special giveaway prize. You can also try your luck in a free-to-enter competition. There will be one winner each day and an end-of-show prize worth £1,000, courtesy of NutriScience, Athriaid and Harry Hall.

There are special subscription offers that will give you up to 35% off the normal price, and if you subscribe during the show, you can take away your choice of a special gift – a new Horse & Hound fleece or a bottle of whisky.

For more information visit: www.hickstead.co.uk

RIHS TIMETABLE

Tuesday, 20 July

Junior and senior show jumping in rings 2, 3 & 4, including Osborne Refrigerators Winter Grade C Championship prelim (Equistro ring 3, pm).

Wednesday, 21 July

International Arena: am: 8.45, Oakley Coachbuilders Winter JC ch; 10.15, winter Novice ch; 11.30, Hackney pony ch; 11.45, winter 138cm ch; pm; 1.15, winter 128cm ch; 2.45, Sandal-BMW SHP ch; 3, Hackney horse ch; 3.30, Osborne Refrigerators Winter Grade C ch.

Showing: ring 5: 7.30am: Sandal-BMW SHP; 12 noon: Team Hollings WHP (ch after 3.30pm). Driving ground: 9am: Hackney pony; Hackney horse

Thursday, 22 July

International Arena: am: 10.30, easibed YR ch; 11.30, Coyle Hamilton Chase; pm: 2, hunter ch; 2.50, Ford Ranger Eventing Grand Prix. Ring 2: am: 8, Brighton Speed Stakes.

Showing: ring 5: 8am: ridden hunter; 12.30pm: Saran Stud amateur hack; Hutton Management amateur RH; 3.30pm: 4-y-o hunter; 4.30pm: ladies’ hunter.

Friday, 23 July

International Arena: am: 9.30, Jumpers Horseline 1.30m ch; 10.15, band of Corps of Royal Engineers; 10.35, Osborne Refrigerators Stakes; pm: 12.40, Garrick/Waring-Collins RH ch; 12.55, WH ch; band; 1.30, ridden Arabian ch; 1.45, Thornton Amateur Hunt ch; 1.55, parade for Nations Cup; band; 2.15, Samsung Super League Nations Cup.

Showing: ring 3: 8am: Garrick/Waring-Collins RH; 11.30am, ridden pure-bred Arab; 2.30pm, Alpine Anglo/PBA (ch to follow). Ring 5: 7.30am: working hunter; 10.30am: Thornton amateur hunter; pm: 1.30, Indian Trail coloured horse; ch to follow. River Lawn: am: 8, McDonald BSPS Heritage M&M: mini ch before 11am; open ch after 3.30pm.

Saturday, 24 July

International Arena: am: 11, Equine America side-saddle concours d’elegance; 11.15, hack ch; 11.45, Longines British Grand Prix; pm: Osborne Refrigerators double harness scurry ch; 3, Continental & North Eastern Tyres sml hunter; 3.15, BSPS Pretty Polly sup ch; 3.30, BMHS miniature horse ch; 3.45, Speed Classic.

Showing: Ring 3: am: 8, hack; 11, Osborne Refrigerators double harness scurry; pm: Continental & North Eastern Tyres sml hunter; 3.30, Claydon Horsewalkers ladies’ side-saddle. Ring 5: BSPS Pretty Polly classes. River Lawn: am: 9, Equine America side-saddle concours d’elegance; 10.30, miniature horse.

Sunday, 25 July

International Arena: am: 10.30, Dorian Williams Trophy; 10.35, BHS Horsemastership Trophy; 10.45, band; 11, Refco Queen Elizabeth II Cup; pm: 1, BHS Trade Turnout ch; 1.35, Surrey Envelopes cob ch; 1.50, Garrick/Waring-Collins show pony ch; 2.05, BHS sup ridden horse ch; 2.30, Dick Saunders sup ridden pony ch; 3, Longines King George V Gold Cup. Ring 4: am: 8, BHS RC team jumping.

Showing: Ring 2: am: 8, Surrey Envelopes cob; pm: 1, Muriel Bowen amateur cob. Ring 3: am: 8, Garrick/Waring-Collins show pony; pm:12.30, Jackson Homes (Cornwall) Ltd BSPS intermediate (ch to follow after 3.30pm). Ring 5: am: 8, Genders mini pony (ch to follow); pm: 2, WHP nursery stakes. Driving ground: am 10, trade & costers’ turnouts.

Dressage Timetable

Monday, 19: national novice; medium.

Tuesday, 20: national elementary; advanced medium pro-am first round.

Wednesday, 21: Rhinegold Young Horse 5-y-o national final; do, 6-y-o; international 5-y-o semi-final; do, 6-y-o; pro-am.

Thursday, 22: international PSG: Dressage Masters PSG; Dressage Masters grand prix; Dressage Masters inter II; pm: Olympics pres & Paralympic display.

Friday, 23: international GP; inter I; Dressage Masters inter I FSM; Dressage Masters GP kür.

Saturday, 24: international GPS; GP; inter FS.

Sunday, 25: int GP FS; CDIO GP FS; inter II, Rhinegold British Young Horse 5-y-o int final; do, 6-y-o; Rhinegold Pas de Deux.