So a few weeks ago the time finally came for the one judging appointment I had been more than a little excited about undertaking since I had been invited earlier in the year; Royal Windsor Horse Show.
If you have ever seen any of my other blogs about Windsor over the years you will know it is one of my favourite shows. I didn’t always have the best record for results at Windsor until I had my wonderful old intermediate, Snip who won the small intermediate title three years in a row!
But regardless of how you do, Windsor is always an honour to ride at. The beautiful setting and the whole atmosphere, plus the chance to see Her Royal Highness The Queen makes it quite special, so to be asked to judge there has just about made my season.
I had been asked to ride judge the amateur horse classes – riding horses on the Thursday and cobs and hacks on the Friday. However as the show had received such large entries I was asked to step in and ride the novice cobs as well, very early on the Friday morning.
My first class on Thursday was around midday, but you can imagine my dismay at waking up to the pouring rain, especially as the day before had been glorious! Typically mum and I got held up a bit on the motorway so had a slight dash from the car park to the judges area. Thankfully judge’s perks meant we flagged down a buggy and after a quick change it was down to my ring with my wonderful co judge.
As we entered the ring the heavens opened along with the wind but I wasn’t going to let that depress me as I had a lovely ring of horses to judge. Thankfully they were all pretty well behaved considering the conditions, and although it got harder to hold my reins by the end, I had some really nice rides. There were certainly some horses I would have loved to have taken home, it was just a shame the weather didn’t let me enjoy them a bit more! After the class mum and I headed straight home to dry out my clothes, hat and boots ready for a very early start the next day.
My first class on the Friday at 7am was the novice cobs and as they came in I thought, wow what a class. They stretched the whole way around the sand arena, it was a fantastic sight.
On the go-round we picked out a handful that had really stood out and pulled around ten horses out of the 20 plus that came forward. Although I am quite small I have always loved riding the cobs and it was a complete privilege to ride such lovely animals and to have a perfect sand arena to do it in. I am not going to lie, it was a fairly tiring experience and you also have a tight schedule to keep to while you are judging, as the show needs to run the classes to time. Therefore I soon learnt to get on and off pretty quickly.
With my co judge we debated the final line up and pulled forward six horses. I wish we could have placed more as it was hard just choosing the six with so many lovely horses in font of us. I had a quick break before the amateur class entered the arena, but I couldn’t believe it, it was bigger than the novice class!
The cobs stretched from side to side of the arena but I think my grin did too! Again it was fairly tiring riding another class off over twenty cobs but what a privilege. I had some brilliant rides, a lot I would love to have taken home and again we had some very hard decisions to make.
I wish we could have pulled forward more than the six but we did try where possible to offer any feedback and mention to riders which other ones we would have liked to have placed. As I mentioned, the animals really were a credit to all their owners and riders; they all did a fantastic job.
I had a few hours break before the hacks so I got to watch the Mountain & Moorland championship in the main arena – a lovely sight to see.
A quick change back and I was onto my final class, the hacks. In typical hack style they were slightly more flighty than the cobs and I had a few more testing rides than I had experienced in the morning. However it was lovely to see some beautiful, elegant animals and it gave my mum her hack fix for the year.
My final honour was to get to judge alongside the two other cob judges in the main arena for the championship (winner, Fait Acobbli ridden by Simon Charlesworth for owner Mrs V. Smith pictured). Both the novice and amateur horses, who had given me cracking rides in the classes went beautifully, with the novice winner that I judged alongside my co judge claiming the reserve spot, finishing up a most wonderful experience.
My time at Windsor really reminded me how lucky we are to have a show like this to compete at and also the ability to be able to judge horses via ride judging. It really is a privilege, one I hope I get to do for many years to come, although I have a feeling it will be hard to ever match my first Windsor judging appointment!