From the moment you arrived at Royal Windsor, you could feel that there was a different atmosphere this year. There was huge warmth towards the royal family and, with the timetable changes, you couldn’t help be aware of The Queen’s birthday celebrations, even if you didn’t actually watch the gala itself.
The celebrations did lead to class clashes — but we lost the hunters and riding horses anyway, and those with hack and cob entries managed to work it out.
As disappointing as it was to lose the first day of competition, the organisers made the right call. The rain fell so heavily and so fast, the parking was a quagmire.
Tractors towing lorries were sinking five inches into the ground. Had there been an emergency, they would never have got an ambulance on site.
My team drove in at 5.55am and by the time we had got the lorry into position that day was cancelled. It was a strange scenario; riders already on site didn’t know what to do with themselves.
I had 11 competing on the Wednesday, and Thursday’s horses were prepared before we left home. So we got back, unloaded, unplaited and loaded tack for Thursday, then said: “What do we do now?”
Lorries were still being towed in on Thursday, but it was incredible how quickly the parking dried up. The Copper Horse arena rode as well as ever, with just the right amount of grass cover. You would think that the showground and the parking were two different venues.
I hope the new Adelaide grass ring for the in-hand classes stays for next year.
I had a coloured in there on the Thursday morning and it was a lovely quiet introduction to Windsor for a youngster. There was still plenty of riding-in space and its addition meant that the noisy funfair was moved further away, making the Copper Horse arena more user-friendly.
The horse walks are long, particularly from the stables, and it’s all the more difficult to navigate in mud, particularly on a coloured with four white legs. But it just meant going up 15 minutes earlier to ensure you had extra cleaning time before entering the ring.
Riders who missed classes because of the cancellations may find themselves reorganising where their horses go next. Windsor was due to be my first ladies’ hunter class on Hello Dolly.
I rode her in a side-saddle for the first time this year on the Saturday before Windsor, as I wanted to make sure that I was completely fit for a side-saddle after my fall in February (Jayne pictured top riding Aidensfield Rupert the champion in the coloured ridden championship during Thursday of the Royal Windsor Horse Show).
So Dolly still hasn’t got her Royal International qualification, but as riders we learn to accommodate the unexpected.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many spectators for the early showing classes, and spirits were high. When you go to a show of this calibre, you know it won’t be a quiet country ramble and you’ll see things out of the ordinary. That’s one of the reasons it’s so special.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 19 May 2016