Wonderful Windsor — well it must be wonderful if you can have the disappointments I had and still have a fabulous week.
Wednesday started with disappointment. At 3am I found that I would be unable to take my lovely grey four-year-old as he had a big leg, so off I set in the hours of darkness with one horse to show. A far cry from the two lorry loads of yesteryears. Thankfully he is a very nice one and I was delighted to end up reserve novice hunter champion.
Thursday was a truly special day. Judging at Royal Windsor is an honour and the day will be a highlight of my year. Judging with my father is special too and anyone lucky enough to do so would be overwhelmed by his knowledge. We were lucky to dodge the showers and stay dry for all our classes. To be invited to have lunch in the royal box and be seated by the very knowledgeable Terry Pendry was really super and added the icing on the cake to my day.
The amateur class was very nice and the first two were really super horses doing a great job for their owner riders. The novice winner was an exceptionally exciting horse with bags of quality. There were good horses in the line up, but I do think the four-year-old winner could go on to be a great horse.
The open classes were disappointing numerically, but the horses at the top end of the line have been consistent winners and could easily have won a bigger class. Both the small and the large winners gave a carefully produced professional account of themselves to win their classes where it felt like the emphasis was on not losing the class rather than going all out to win it.
So I looked forward to seeing all my winners together in the championship, with riders raising their game and rousing their horses to take the title of Royal Windsor champion 2013. We had no idea which horse would be champion beforehand, but it was the four-year-old novice winner that blew them away with his charisma and showmanship.
Due to numbers being low I had a lovely amount of time to ride each horse and thoroughly enjoyed the task of assessing them. We tried to fill the timetable’s allotted times so the ring was not empty for any stretch of time. This was not always the case through the week with other classes I watched or was involved with.
When a schedule has set times for each class — not just follow on times — a judge has a duty to do their best to adhere to these times but should it be at the expense of the class? I have always maintained you cannot judge a ring full of show horses or ponies on one walk, one trot and one canter, no change of rein and no gallop. If a rider has to circle in a corner to get a space they could quite possibly won’t be seen at that pace at all.
Sometimes you can be asked to trot first half way down the straight in front of the judge and you would expect to be able to trot down again to show your pace in the best possible way. We must retain showmanship at all costs. Results then become hard to follow as the go-round counts for absolutely nothing. Each competitor has paid to be seen properly by the judge, whether they like your horse or not is not the point here.
Royal Windsor is indeed a special show and I only make these comments as I search for perfection in every way. Standards are high and need to be kept high with turnout of horses, riders, judges and stewards alike. I was disappointed to be told when wishing to wipe the horse’s saddle patch in the ring that it wouldn’t make any difference. Well it did to me. Standards are standards and I don’t like the idea of showing my horse to the judge with a saddle mark.
The highlight of the show had to be late on Saturday afternoon, with the evening sun over the castle, having the privilege of watching The Queen along with the Duchess of Cambridge looking stunning while presenting prizes, and the wonderful military displays with rousing music. The show pony championship was wonderful to watch with both champion and reserve being stunning ponies trying to out perform each other. What lucky children they are to experience such excellence at such an early age.
So, as I drove home for another year, I felt sad it’s all over. The early mornings over five days have been a killer, and even the opportunity of a lie in this morning didn’t happen — so here I am writing this before going to wake Harry and Alice for school. Alice has her SATS exams and we haven’t even got her pencil case ready yet!