With less than a month to go until the Longines Global Champions Tour (GCT) of London, H&H headed to the venue, the Royal Hospital Chelsea, this week and found a real buzz ahead of the three-day show (4-6 August), which returns to the capital for the first time in two years.
One of the 300 Chelsea Pensioners who live on the grounds, 69-year-old Arthur Currie, is looking forward to experiencing top class showjumping for the first time, and even had a few words of advice for Olympic gold medallist Scott Brash as they were photographed together in the Royal Hospital grounds.
“Scott said if he gave me a pair of his boots, could I get them as shiny as mine — he said he hadn’t quite mastered that yet!” says Arthur. “But what a lovely young man. The Olympic team really brought showjumping to the public’s attention, so we’re looking forward to having them all here.”
This is the first time an equestrian event has been held at Royal Hospital Chelsea — perhaps best known for hosting the annual Chelsea Flower Show — and the Pensioners are looking forward to offering a new set of visitors a typically warm welcome in their distinctive scarlet coats.
“It’s always so nice to see and speak to so many people who probably don’t know much about the Royal Hospital Chelsea — as well as making marvellous use of the 66 acres we have here,” says Arthur. “This place is unique and it’s known throughout the world. And it’s events like [the GCT] let the public know that we’re here and we’re not some organisation that’s shut away – you can come and see us, we’re actually alive!”
Arthur welcomes — and rather enjoys — all the attention that the Chelsea Pensioners, all of whom are retired army veterans, receive when they’re out and about in their distinctive uniform.
“At Chelsea Flower Show, we were sitting down at one of the main stands and there was a double queue of people wanting to come and chat and do the selfies!” says Arthur with a chuckle. “And now we know that there are going to be so many famous riders coming here – meeting Scott Brash is the closest I’ve ever got to an Olympic gold medal winner — we’re looking forward to seeing all the horses too.”
Arthur, one of the youngest Chelsea residents (the oldest is 102 and the average age is 84) had a brief taste of riding as an army officer.
“It was scary — I’d far rather be on a tank than a horse!” he says. “But once you got to know the horses, it was great fun. And my grandmother used to plough her smallholding with horses too.
“I only know what to expect from the showjumping from what little I’ve seen on the television, but as this is the first time it’s ever been held here, I think it’s going to be fascinating.”
Scott Brash’s initial impressions of the new venue were that it “looks amazing”.
“The Tour goes to all these fabulous cities so it would be very disappointing if London wasn’t on there,” he says. “I’m looking forward to jumping in front of the home crowd. It does make a difference — the 2012 Olympics tells you everything about the feeling it gives you. Everyone lifts their game when you get a better reception from the crowds and there’s no better feeling, they are amazing.”
A spacious showground is high on Scott’s checklist for keeping his competition horses happy as he and his team travel round the globe.
“I’d much rather the horses had a big ring, a big practice arena, just plenty of space for them and it certainly looks like the venue here is going to be big and spacious, despite the fact it must be so difficult to get such a good sized arena in a big city,” he says.
Scott is hoping to ride his top mare Ursula at the London event, but an unfortunate clash of dates with his best friend’s wedding means that he will miss the first day of the show.
“I’ll be back for the grand prix and the second leg of the team [Global Champions League] though,” he says.
“I still think we’ve got one of the best teams in Miami Glory — we’re going well, we’ve just had a few unfortunate results, but hopefully we’ll finish strong and London will be on our cards to finish well at.”
For further information and to book your tickets to the London leg of the Longines Global Champions tour, head to globalchampionstour.com