Royal Windsor Horse Show (8-12 May) will offer a new thrill this year with the introduction of a main arena extreme driving event, thought to be the first of its kind.
The competition — modelled on the winter FEI driving world cup series — will feature the world’s top four-in-hand drivers racing around a course of timed obstacles for a share of a generous £10,000 prize pot.
While the winter series has established itself as a big attraction at world cup shows, this is the first time the format has been trialled at an outdoor venue.
“Audiences at indoor horse shows have enjoyed the thrilling spectacle of extreme driving for some years now. True to Royal Windsor’s reputation as an innovator, it will be the first outdoor equestrian event to host carriage driving in this format,” Simon Brooks-Ward, director of show organiser HPower, told H&H.
“And we are very grateful to Karen and Hugh Scott-Barrett for their generous support of this new addition to the programme.
“The field includes the world’s top drivers, and with a larger arena than they are used to at indoor events, we are expecting to witness something rather special in the Castle Arena.”
Carriage driving — a favoured hobby of Prince Phillip — has long had a central place at Royal Windsor.
The show hosts British Driving Society (BDS) classes, the BDS drive and a popular coaching marathon alongside Britain’s most prestigious driving trial, the CAIO 4* Land Rover international driving grand prix.
Six competitors from this year’s driving grand prix line-up have been invited to take part in the new extreme driving challenge, including reigning world champion Boyd Exell, reigning World Cup champion Bram Chardon and British representative Dan Naprous. Joining them will be Bram’s father Ijsbrand Chardon, fellow Dutchman Koos De Ronde and Belgium’s rising star Glenn Geerts.
Drivers will face some interesting logistical challenges tackling the two competitions, with the main arena event taking place on Sunday afternoon, shortly after the conclusion of the four-day driving trial.
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Competitors are likely to bring their specialist indoor (World Cup) teams, usually comprising smaller, more agile horses, to give them the best shot at the extreme driving event, which has been sponsored by Hugh and Karen Scott-Barrett.
With a £12,300 prize fund also on offer for the four-in-hand section of the Land Rover international driving grand prix, Royal Windsor now becomes one of the richest events in the driving calendar.
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday. In the current edition (28 MArch) you will find a coupon for a free ticket to Royal Windsor.