The Royal Show is to extend its equestrian scope by staging polo this year for the first time. The action — sandwiched between established showing, show jumping and driving classes, and displays in the equine and grand rings — will consist of daily “have a go” sessions for visitors, mounted and on foot, and afternoon matches involving high-goal players.

Several other firsts are planned for the 2004 Royal (4-7 July): the British Percheron Society is holding its breed show; the Pony Club celebrates its 75th anniversary with a display; Saffron Walden Riding Club will perform its quadrille and new demonstrations include Western riding and harness racing.

Besides classes and displays in the grand ring — equestrian action takes up 80% of time there — all other competitive classes are to take place in one equine arena and demonstrations and displays in the other. This is designed to reflect the differing interests of spectators.

Livestock specialist Debbie Dann explains: “The show has such a history and tradition behind it [it is in its 165th year and its 41st at the same site] but it has to keep moving on and providing what the public wants. The showing days are themed: Sunday is workers and children’s ponies; Monday ridden classes; Tuesday in-hand and Wednesday natives and supreme championships.”

The announcement follows various changes introduced last year to the equestrian programme at Stoneleigh, such as an overall supreme in-hand championship between the four section champions, which was deemed a success. Ridden and driven supreme championships could take place at some time in future but not, as suggested last year, in 2004.

Last year’s other major alteration was running the show — which attracts 160,000 visitors —from Sunday to Wednesday rather than Monday to Thursday, which will be repeated this year.

  • Read the full story in the current issue of Horse & Hound (19 February 2004).


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