Phew! After watching three days of high-octane jumping at the Longines Global Champions Tour of London, we could do with a lie down. But first, we wanted to revisit some of the incredible sights we saw along the way — many of which made us do a double take. Ronan Keating at a horse show? A man clearing an Olympic-sized jump on his own two feet? And just how awesome is Bertram Allen’s acrobatic grey Hector? Here are just a few of our stand-out moments…
1. Hector does handstands
Just look at that back end! But how does Bertram Allen remain so perfectly poised? The one and only Hector Van d’Abdijhoeve thrilled us every day with his enthusiasm for the job.
2. Scott Brash is all smiles
The normally ice cool Scotsman had a grin as wide as the Forth Bridge as he enjoyed his lap of honour after winning back-to-back grands prix in the London leg of the Tour — this time on the up-and-coming nine-year-old Hello Mr President.
3. Ludger Beerbaum is back!
The German maestro has had a tough time of it this year, recovering from a fall in which he broke his arm in 15 places. But the master horseman made a welcome return to British soil — where we haven’t seen him in action for two years — finishing third in Saturday’s grand prix on Casello.
4. VIP arrivals
Outside of the competition ring, often seen mingling with his fans, one of the stars of the show was pint-sized superhero Teddy The Shetland — and even superheroes have to get to the show somehow. Taxiiiiii!
5. That breathtaking backdrop
We just can’t get enough of these stunning images with the Royal Hospital Chelsea in the background. Who knew showjumping could feel so right at home in the centre of London, at a venue most famous for hosting the world famous Chelsea Flower Show? Here, the world number one Harrie Smolders and Zinius cruise to one of their two victories at the show.
6. GB’s 19-year-old superstar giving his heroes a run for their money
Barely a month ago, Harry Charles was crowned double European young rider champion — a phenomenal achievement in itself. But since winning gold, the 19-year-old has ridden in five-star shows at Aachen, Hickstead, and in London he made it through to the grand prix jump-off riding the seriously talented ABC Quantum Cruise, where he more than held his own against six Olympians. This guy is going places.
7. Wait… how many Whitakers?
We’re not quite sure what the collective noun for a group of Whitakers is but there were four in action in the CSI5* classes alone — (l-r) John, Michael, William and Robert — with Michael’s son Jack also competing in the CSI2*. Plus plenty of the next generation milling around the stands and kids’ entertainment village.
8. Oh Alan, we’ve missed you
We have a massive soft spot for Peder Fredricson’s European championship winning ride, the stunning bay H&M All In — AKA Alan. But the LGCT grand prix in London was the pair’s first return to the podium this year.
9. In a bit of a pickle
Jack Whitaker’s face says it all when he and the nine-year-old Elucar VE suffer a miss at the striking London fence — but the acrobatic nine-year-old turns almost sideways in a gallant attempt to jump it. We’re pleased to report they returned the next day for a faultless jumping round.
10. Best of British
The LGCT shows are usually formatted as pure showjumping events but they broke with tradition in London to feature the absolutely wonderful Household Cavalry Musical Ride — it brought a tear to the eye every evening, enchanted our foreign guests and made us very proud to be British.
11. Anything Big Star can do…
No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you — that’s a man, clearing a 1.70m vertical, without a horse. Get him on the Nations Cup team!
12. London calling, and other eye-catching fences
The London-themed fences were stunning — we had wings and poles adorned with the London Underground, Big Ben and these distinctive phone boxes, at which The Sinner (Denis Lynch) didn’t bat an eyelid.
13. And finally… the least likely spectator at a horse show
We’ve never put Boyzone heartthrob Ronan Keating down as the horsey type but he looked to be enjoying his day watching top class showjumping. And the final word must go to these wonderfully friendly Chelsea Pensioners, who had so kindly lent us their back garden for the weekend. It was an outstanding spectacle and we can’t wait to do it all again next year!
Don’t miss the full report from the Longines Global Champions Tour of London, with expert comment from John Whitaker, in this week’s copy of Horse & Hound, out Thursday 9 August.