Changing times for Royal Windsor

  • Royal Windsor is to lose its traditional opening Wednesday as well as its Eton Ring as part of an ambitious five-year plan to revive fortunes and attract 20,000 extra visitors a year. Considerations such as cost, wear and tear on the greenfield site and evolving audience expectations are behind the move.

    Last year, the showground turned into a quagmire after a two-day downpour mid-show, and most of Sunday’s action was cancelled. The show shares its site — overlooked by the castle — with the town’s rugby and cricket clubs, and is put together from scratch every year: a process which takes six weeks.

    Simon Brooks-Ward, director of organiser Horsepower International — which is also behind Olympia — explains: “Over the past six months we’ve tried to analyse what Royal Windsor means to people and what it should mean in future. Pretty much every type of horse is represented here, and that’s what puts it in the hearts of the horse fraternity. It’s celebration through diversity.

    “But five days creates a huge amount of wear and tear, whether or not it rains. You want to keep the going as good as possible, and taking it down a day has allowed that. It’s also allowed us to focus on the four days to try to make them special.”

    Ringing the changes

    • The 2004 show is to take place over four days instead of five (Thursday 13 to Sunday 16 May)
    • There will be no Eton ring, and all carriage driving (including a World Cup qualifier for horse teams this year) except the championship parade is in Home
      Park private
    • Classes lost: in-hand hunter, British Isles showing championship, some jumping and Arab classes, Andalusians, Appaloosas, donkeys, miniature horses
    • There will be extensive pedestrian tracking surrounding the Castle Arena and among tradestands
    • The Castle Arena will have free ringside spectator seating for the first time in Royal Windsor’s history, available to all on a first-come first-served basis
    • Extensive free spectator seating in the food and drink area between the Datchet and Thames rings
    • New ticket prices: every day costs the same: £10 in advance, £15 on the gate, under-12s free (box office opens in a fortnight). Last year tickets cost from £10 in advance and from £12 at the gate, but visitors then paid up to £7 extra for seating at the Castle Arena
    • Parking costs £8 — up £1 on last year
    • Land Rover has increased its long-term association with the show to become primary sponsor, along with Jaguar and Aston Martin
    • A permanent all-weather surface is planned in the long-term, to allow for quality show jumping and dressage competitions

    Read the full story in today’s Horse & Hound (12 February)

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