Our childhood memories of Olympia: ‘the smell gets me every time’

  • Tube nightmares, embroidered kit, Pony Club coaches and starring roles — the Horse & Hound team digs out their Olympia memories, ahead of this year's show (15-21 December 2015)

    I always went to Olympia on the Saturday afternoon as a kid. It was mine and my Mum’s Christmas present from my Gran, so the three of us would go together. We used to take our own smoked salmon sandwiches. It was in the days when the shops were round the edge of the arena and they used to get really crowded, so we would nip out during the first round of the big class to look round while they were quieter, then come back for the jump-off. The smell of Olympia still means the start of Christmas for me.
    Pippa Roome, H&H acting print director

    In 2006 aged 16, I qualified Annette Frazier’s 27-year-old Anglo-Arab Tobermory II, for the Olympia veteran final. At 27 going on 12, Toby was the perfect schoolmaster — still full of life and notoriously tricky. Having competed successfully at advanced dressage and intermediate eventing, he was the one who taught me to ride — properly. Qualifying for Olympia was a total surprise, and riding into that iconic arena on a horse who meant so much to me was really special. Toby was a huge show-off — he loved being in the spotlight, and definitely thought every person at Olympia was there just for him. His party-piece was his impressive extended trot, and I’ll never forget the feeling of pinging across that arena. We finished fourth and I’m pretty sure I cried at some point — my mum certainly did! Toby was semi-retired a couple of years later, against his will, and thrived on life right up until the moment he died, aged 33.
    Polly Bryan, print sub editor and acting dressage edditor

    Continued below…

    I’ve gone to Olympia every Christmas for as long as I can remember, and although it’s not an especially horsey memory, what does make me laugh is the year that I was absolutely obsessed with having everything embroidered . I can remember queuing for the whole interval to place an order for an awful jacket with mine and my pony’s name embroidered on the back. His show name was ‘Double Trouble’ too – cringey. I then got a matching saddle pad and thought I looked so pro going back to my seat in my new “showjumper” jacket.
    Cathy Comerford, editorial and marketing assistant

    Olympia was the one time of the year that we ventured to London (from Somerset) — navigating the tube was a big deal. The Shetland Grand National, endless unnecessary bits of grooming kit to spend our pocket money on and debating how many poles you’d have to take off the showjumps until our ponies could jump them, stand out as the hightlights.
    Madeleine Pitt, features editor

    It sounds odd, but the smell of Olympia gets me every time — the odour of horses, hoof oil and arena surface in the middle of London is pretty novel. It’s a magical place. I also remember the post-Olympia dash to get the final train home out of Kings Cross. We once didn’t make it and had to wait until the first train the next morning, which on reflection probably wasn’t that much fun for my mother.
    Gemma Redrup, online journalist

    Going on the coach organised by my Pony Club (the Vale of Aylesbury) to watch our Pony Club team mate Bonnie Bradley competing in the Shetland Grand National!
    Polly Portwin, hunting editor

    I remember being dazzled by the amount of sparkly things there were to buy in one place (that, and getting hopelessly confused and lost at Earls Court.)
    Lucy Elder, news writer

    Olympia features highly, and fondly, in my childhood memories because from about the age of four up until 10, my sister and I would take part in the closing finale — dressing up in often very funny costumes and prancing around the arena. The costumes over the years varied from a duck, a butterfly and Tiny Tim from A Christmas Carol (yes, I did have to dress up as a boy!).  I remember being too young to take part in the evening finale and being furious that my sister was old enough and having to watch her in it. I was always envious of the girls who got to ride the ponies in the finale — I never got that call up much to my disappointment. The best bit about the finale was singing ‘Auld Lang Syne‘ before running out after Father Christmas covered in fake snow. It seems to have developed into a proper production now with professional dancers etc — 20 years ago it was very different.
    Hannah Lemieux, acting showjumping editor

    Don’t miss our Olympia preview in the current issue of Horse & Hound magazine (10 December 2015)

    For ticket information vist: www.olympiahorseshow.com

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