To ride at Badminton, then, three days later, to jump at one of our most iconic shows, Royal Windsor, before heading to Chatsworth — three spectacular locations — was such a privilege.
We have much to be proud of with our five-star equestrian venues. Badminton, Burghley, Royal Windsor, Hickstead and Olympia are all expertly run, with great teams behind them.
It is these shows that inspire future generations and where we can all learn from riders at the top of their game. No less than 20 of the world’s top 30 showjumpers were competing at Windsor.
Early on Thursday morning, William and I had the pleasure of watching Carl Hester working Delicato. It was magical, a real exhibition of how, with correct training, it all looks so effortless, and the horse was responding to the lightest of aids.
As he finished, another Olympic champion, Laura Kraut, came into the collecting ring — a completely different discipline, but again we were fascinated to watch her work a young horse in a very different way but with the same fundamental basics.
Both riders’ independent seats meant they were in complete balance, enabling their horses to work forward in self carriage. So many people complicate training rather than perfecting the basics and their own positions.
We enjoyed foot-perfect ground at Badminton then heavy deluges at Windsor, and in the old days it would have been near-impossible to carry on jumping. But that is where the sport has progressed so much. With the world’s best riding such valuable horses, they expect to compete on the best surface regardless of the weather and it couldn’t be faulted this week.
However, perhaps young showjumpers are missing out as a result of these immaculate arenas — event riders learn how to cope on all different grounds, with riders facing tricky conditions at Chatsworth. It teaches you another element of horsemanship and to react to how your horse is feeling.
Full credit to our grooms who still manage to have the horses looking immaculate, despite the mud backstage.
The key to success
The national classes at Windsor give the Billy Stud a chance to educate our six-year-olds and it’s a great opportunity for them to experience the buzz of the main ring without any pressure. As William says, “It’s not about the colour of the rosette, it’s more about correct production for the future.”
This is perfect for me as I’m slow in my old age!
If a prize comes our way, it’s an added bonus, so it was great to have three placed in the Walwyn novice jumping championship.
William and I are passionate about finding the balance between letting our young horses slowly strengthen from working and jumping, while also giving them time in the field to grow and mature.
It was also great to see Joe Stockdale win the under-25 championship in a ring where his father Tim had so many great victories.
On the final day, I rang William to inform him of my ungracious spill at Chatsworth, to hear of his major thrill with Billy Diamo coming third in one of the richest grands prix in the world. With the €75,000 (£64,800) prize, I think he should buy his wife a treat!
Ref Horse & Hound; 16 May 2019