The past 10 days have been slightly bonkers. On the Sunday we baked in the sunshine watching the show jumping at Badminton. Just three days later, Royal Windsor had to cancel all Wednesday classes because the lorry park was under water. Both were nail-biting times for us, for different reasons.
Badminton was so exciting, with so many horses in the top 20 having less than one fence between them. We watched both Star Witness and Tina Cook, and the diminutive 15.1hh Portersize Just a Jiff with Camilla Speirs, sail up the rankings as a result of jumping clear. And afterwards, the parade of the Beaufort hounds. Four lucky Pony Club members on their very endearing ponies had the privilege of riding around that iconic arena with the hunt. What a thrill for them.
The Wednesday cancellation at Royal Windsor gave us a scary moment because my daughter’s school team had been lucky enough to qualify for the NSEA showjumping on Saturday.
We were all extremely excited about the opportunity to ride at such a prestigious event, and faced with the prospect of not being able to go, I felt like a small child whose favourite toys were about to be taken away.
But due to the herculean efforts of the show organisers, it did go ahead. And we had a wonderful time, in bright sunshine.
It was my second visit to RWHS, and it is even more firmly established as one of my favourite shows. Apart from the spectacular setting, what makes it special is the great atmosphere. Every single steward and helper has a broad smile and a helpful attitude. They really seem to want you to have a good time.
When we arrived on Saturday morning, the lorry park was already heaving. While most of the mud had been hammered and rolled into submission there were still sticky patches but an incredibly efficient tractor driver was there to pull us out of trouble. Despite the shortage of space, the stewards walkie-talkied their way to making sure that the team could park together, which made our stay so much easier and so much more fun. All of this was even more remarkable given that it’s never easy to be a steward at a muddy show, and the previous few days must have been very challenging for them. Their good humour was entirely undimmed.
On top of that everything ran like clockwork. The ring and the course looked beautiful. The photographer produced wonderful shots of the children jumping with the castle in the background which I know they will treasure. So, hats off to everyone involved in making it such a great experience for the school teams.
As the children made much of their ponies after their class (pictured top), I was reminded of a lovely moment at Badminton when Gemma Tattersall, jumping clear to secure her third place, flung her arms around Arctic Soul’s neck in the sheer joy of the moment, much as I imagine she did as a little girl on her first fluffy pony.
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Which goes to prove, despite the world of difference between a school jumping competition and an international event, nobody is ever too grown up or too grand to give their horse a hug.