A week after wonderful Royal Windsor, I’m still buzzing. Whatever else happens in my showing career, winning the Tattersalls Retraining of Racehorses championship on Barbers Shop (pictured), the last horse bred by the Queen Mother and owned by Her Majesty The Queen, will be hard to top.
Standing supreme at the Royal International or Horse of the Year Show is unforgettable, but Windsor gave me the most moving experience of my career. There was enormous pressure on me and my team, but think how ride judge Vicki Fahey must have felt.
Riding The Queen’s home-bred horse for the first time, under her watchful eye, as part of the celebrations for her 90th birthday, must have been a real test of nerve. Vicki, who alternated rides with Sam de Caprio, drew Barbers Shop and I think she enjoyed it as much as he did.
We have some fantastic younger ride judges on the panels and shows must make the most of them by allowing them to partner experienced conformation judges. There are many older judges who still do a superb job, but no one goes on forever.
I hope that when I get to that stage, I’ll recognise it — or that a fellow competitor will politely suggest that I hang up my ride judge boots and stick to conformation.
At the start of the season, someone told me she’d decided to step down from the ride panels. That takes courage, but if you find you’re no longer enjoying the opportunity to ride different and sometimes unknown horses, it’s the only course of action.
The pageant was a triumph and those of us who took part will treasure the experience.
I always knew that Barbers Shop was special, but was amazed at his behaviour and that of all the others who rose to the occasion.
We started rehearsals on the Monday, and for an ex-racehorse to stand like a rock amid the cheering and the flares, then compete as normal on the Thursday, was something even I couldn’t have hoped for.
The planning behind it all was phenomenal and I hope those who couldn’t be there enjoyed the televised performance. Everyone will have a favourite and I know many admired 13-year-old Kinvara Garner’s representation of the young Princess Elizabeth — both she and Becki Penny’s Fell stallion, Townend Schubert, wowed the crowds.
Another who caught the eye was Zara Phillips’ retired event horse, Toytown. He was in fantastic condition and belied his 23 years.
I’m so sorry for those who missed out on Wednesday’s classes and performance because of the first day’s cancellation. Windsor’s novice classes are much prized and it was such a shame we lost the novice hunter and riding horse classes, as well as those for amateurs.
There aren’t enough novice classes on the circuit, and there are very few between now and the end of the year. They always draw the spectators at Windsor, because you can guarantee seeing some future stars, and to win a novice class there is extra special.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 26 May 2016