Royal Windsor has announced that it will bring back dressage and change the timetable to make the most of the new permanent all-weather surface, which will debut this year.

Organisers confirmed last week that the planned 120m x 60m all-weather arena, for which planning permission had been secured just before Christmas, would be ready for this year’s show. Martin Collins has been appointed to build the £500,000 ring, which will be known as Castle Arena, as well as a 50x25m collecting ring and an all-weather 400m horsewalk.

“For years Royal Windsor has had a stunning backdrop but a main ring that was at the mercy of the weather,” says show director Simon Brook-Ward. “We now not only have the picturesque setting but we also, arguably, have the best going for an outdoor equestrian event in the country.”

The new ring will allow Royal Windsor to bring back dressage, which had been cut out of the programme after the washout in 2003 because the venue didn’t have an all-weather surface. “[Dressage] competitors didn’t want to compete on grass any more — so now we have an all weather surface, they want to come back,” says spokeswoman Candy Burnyeat.

A new gala evening on Friday 13 May will see a dressage demonstration by Carl Hester and four pairs of international competitors engage in a pas-de-deux. All the displays — including the Musical Drive of the King’s Troop, RHA and the Musical Ride of the Household Cavalry — will also take place on Friday evening.

Royal Windsor may well expand its dressage programme in coming years “to make the maximum possible use of the surface and include the highest possible level of competition,” according to Burnyeat, but she can’t yet confirm what will be included in the future.

Show jumping also stands to benefit from the new arena, as all the classes, including the Horse & Hound Foxhunter and others which used to take place in outer rings, will now take place on the all-weather surface.

However, the show will only have three rings in 2005 — the new Castle Arena, Frogmore and Copper Horse — and this has inevitably led to cuts in classes.

The amateur hunter classes, heavy horse turnouts and obstacle driving and three show jumping classes which had duplicates in the new arena will all go, as will the private driving, although the BDS Concours d’Elegance, the Country Life Coaching Marathon and the light trade and agricultural turnouts remain. The RDA Concours d’Elegance has also been cut, but one driving class and one non-driving class have been retained for this group.

For more information visit: www.royal-windsor-horse-show.co.uk