How wonderful it was to have four-star showjumping at Royal Windsor — probably the best setting we have in England.
If you saw the whole picture that Simon Brooks-Ward and his team created, or watched The Queen’s birthday celebrations on TV, you couldn’t deny what a true extravaganza they put on.
To see Simon pull off an event like this cemented what we all knew he was capable of — putting on a world-class exhibition that was more than just a horse show.
We’re lucky to have him. He did one hell of a job. There was a lot that could have gone wrong, but so much of it went right.
Simon stepped up to this role through his father, Raymond, who was a showjumping man. It was great to see our sport remain a part of what was a massive spectacle.
In the main arena, Martin Collins topped up the footing, and the horses jumped amazingly well off it.
The jumping was some of the best we have seen at Royal Windsor. To be able to watch four international riders of the calibre of Kent Farrington, Beezie Madden, Rodrigo Pessoa and Jeroen Dubbeldam was unbelievable.
There were two other four-star shows and a five-star the same weekend globally, so to have them choose to come to Windsor was a fantastic boost for the show.
Praise for the surface
With the wet weather at the start of the week, it was a relief that there was an all-weather arena. Without that facility, there probably wouldn’t have been a show at all.
As it was, they made the decision to cancel on Wednesday and saved the car parks from turning into a quagmire for the rest of the week. Somebody made a tough but good call there.
At Royal Windsor, it is all about the main arena, and the showjumping works so well in there. The outside rings feel like a bit of an afterthought in comparison — they are OK, but not quite big enough and the horses don’t jump particularly well in them.
I had planned to compete, but withdrew at the last minute. Stapleton Mist has been going well since losing his eye, but I felt that he wasn’t quite going well enough at this stage.
He still needs a bit of time to adjust before being competitive at four-star and I didn’t want to be there just to take part.
My two daughters — Sienna, 13, and Scarlett, 15 — gained some great experience in the one-star grand prix, however.
Class is ageless
Over the same weekend our Nations Cup team was jumping in La Baule. Interestingly enough, our best performer was Nick Skelton, back jumping with Big Star at the age of 58.
At Windsor, our best performer was John Whitaker, who was second to Kent in the grand prix at the age of 60.
Age is no barrier to these two guys — they demonstrate that class is forever.
I find it a shame though that at these two major shows, our younger riders can’t quite give them a run for their money — we need to encourage younger riders to succeed.
You have to set your targets through the year because you don’t get remembered for how many classes you win, but for which big classes you win.
We need more youth to push Scott Brash and Ben Maher, and to start snapping at the heels of the older riders.
Looking at last weekend’s results — putting together a strong Olympic team will need some clever thinking.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 19 May 2016