Prince Philip: A life in equestrianism

  • Prince Philip’s first recollection of riding is from 1928, when he would ride along the Black Sea beaches with his cousin, King Michael of Romania. They were both seven years old.

    The polo field beckoned the young Prince, and he had begun to practise with a stick and ball on a pony in a polo pit before war broke out. It would be 12 years before he began again, under the instruction of his uncle Lord Louis (Dickie) Mountbatten.

    He started to play in earnest between 1949 and 1951, when he and The Queen were based in Malta. He developed his polo skills at Cowdray and played at Windsor for 20 years. He achieved a handicap of five, and was one of the top eight British players of his time.

    The Prince Philip Cup was Prince Philip’s invention, the product of a conversation with Sir Mike Ansell. It started in 1957 as an experiment — the following year 164 branches entered. Now thousands of children take part each year.

    In 1964 the Prince was elected President of the FEI. He held the post for 22 years and was succeeded by his daughter, the Princess Royal. Among his many achievements in the post were the creation of equine passports for international competitors, contributing to a hugely expanded international calendar and welcoming endurance, vaulting, tent pegging (no longer an FEI sport) and driving under the FEI umbrella.

    Five years after becoming FEI president he formed a committee with a view to making driving an FEI sport. He co-wrote the first FEI rules for driving, based on those for three-day eventing. They were first used in Lucerne in 1970. He was presented with the FEI award for dedicated and distinguished services to equestrian sport in 2001.

    The Prince retired from polo in 1970 and began his competitive driving career in 1973 at the European Driving Championships. He has represented Britain at three European and six World Championships. He has also designed vehicles for the marathon phase, consulting, among others, aircraft designers in the process.

    The Prince’s first book, Competition Carriage Driving was published in 1982. His second, Driving and Judging Dressage, was published in 1996. His third book on driving, 30 Years On and Off the Box Seat, published by JA Allen (ISBN 0851318983), was published on 30 November 2004.


    • Horse & Hound’s interview with Prince Philip was published in the 25 November, ’04 issue. To purchase a back copy (tel: 020 8532 3628).

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