Last night, the Princess Royal received the Longines Ladies Award at an event at the Natural History Museum, which I was lucky enough to attend.
The Princess was in attendance, being honoured for being “a formidably talented horsewoman” who “deserves huge praise for her achievements and contributions in the equestrian world as both a competitor and administrator”, as Longines’ Juan-Carlos Capelli put it.
The night got off to a bad start — I left the office in a squall of rain and wind, dashing to the shuttle bus stop in a long dress and heels. I was pretty wet and feeling that I was displaying less than the required Longines elegance.
But it certainly improved from there with good food, drink and company. Here are my favourite eight things about the night.
1. The Princess Royal opened her speech by saying, “I owe horses a lot.” Who wouldn’t love that?
2. The fact we were dining with the dinosaurs. Honestly — that diplodocus was just a few metres away.
3. There were Longines branded chocolates.
4. The Princess Royal mentioned the Injured Jockeys Fund, H&H charity of the year.
5. The pudding was an “edible garden”. It was amazing — everything on the plate, from pebbles to flowers, could be eaten.
6. They played some wonderful archive eventing footage in the video tribute to the winner — wow, the sport and the fences were different in the 1970s.
7. The Princess Royal told the story of Lis Hartel, who couldn’t walk unaided after suffering polio, but won two Olympic silver medals in dressage. Yes, at the Olympics, not the Paralympics. “Horses give us that ability to level the playing field,” she said. “Through my work with the RDA [Riding for the Disabled Association] I’ve seen how, astonishingly, horses you couldn’t ride yourself adapt to people less able.”
8. She also mentioned the fact men and women compete on equal terms in horse sport — “Women have been respected for a long time for their ability on horses” — and said this should be a major selling point for our sport remaining in the Olympics.