Back by popular demand! Fancy dress relay returns to London International Horse Show

  • For many years, the highlight of Olympia Horse Show used to be the fancy dress pairs relay. Top showjumping names including Harvey Smith, David Broome, Geoff Billington, Nick Skelton and John and Michael Whitaker would dress up in elaborate costumes and entertain the crowds with their antics on, and off, horseback – as well as being fiercely competitive.

    The crowd-pleasing class eventually met its demise after the turn of the century but, in a move that will delight many showjumping fans, it is coming back by popular demand! The fancy dress competition will be making its return to this year’s London International Horse Show at its new home at ExCeL London (15-19 December), but with a “modern makeover”.

    On Sunday 18 December, the show will finish with a fancy dress relay for eight pairs of riders from all areas of the equestrian world. They will compete against each other while wearing the most outrageous fancy dress costumes, and prizes will be awarded to the most entertaining and theatrical creations.

    A celebrity compere will host the evening and a panel of judges will mark the pairs on their riding skills as well as their costume designs. Spectators will also be invited to participate in the judging in what is being billed as “the horse world’s Christmas party of the year”.

    left to right: Geoff Billington, Michael Whitaker, Nick Skelton, John Whitaker in 1991

    Guests attending the London International Horse Show on Sunday 18 December are encouraged to come in fancy dress, with “spotters” looking out for the best-dressed spectators to come in the ring and help present the prizes for the fancy dress pairs relay.

    “The fancy dress at Olympia was always great fun, there were some really hilarious moments, and it was always a crowd pleaser,” said Geoff Billington, one of the most popular and successful competitors in Olympia’s fancy dress classes. “I’m really looking forward to seeing it return this year!”

    Olympia fancy dress competition: Harvey Smith and David Broome

    Continuing the theme of festive fun, an after party will take place in the Champagne Taittinger Champagne Bar, where anyone wearing fancy dress will receive free entry.

    “The fancy dress classes we had in the 90s were hugely popular so we thought we would bring them back, but with a twist,” said event director Simon Brooks-Ward. “This time we’re making the whole performance a fancy dress night out in London, we’re getting the audience involved, we’re bringing in celebrities and we’re going to round it off with a great party. I’m really looking forward to what I know will be really great fun.”

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