2021’s edition of the Royal Windsor Horse Show closed in spectacular style, with champions crowned across the disciplines of Show Jumping, Driving, and Showing. Once again, the enthusiastic and informed spectators were treated to the very best displays of world-class equestrian talent by both horse and rider.
Opening the final day of the Show was the Under 25 Jumping, featuring Britain’s up-and-coming Show Jumping stars. The title went to Lily Freeman-Attwood riding Cor-Leon VD Vlierbleek Z, who jumped a double clear, posting an impressive time of 32.64 in the jump-off. Flo Norris, with her striking grey Gin Chin Van Het Lindenhof, formerly ridden at 5* level by the likes of Bertram Allen and Geir Gulliksen, was a close second with Oliver Fletcher coming home in third.
It went to the wire on the final day of the DAKS Pony Club Mounted Games. With only a few points separating two of the five teams, England was just ahead on 88 points, and Wales closely followed on 83. With it all to play for, the Games began! It was fast and furious with seven disciplines to master, but it was the persistence and precision of the Welsh team that paid off. They took the glory and the win, with 141 points to England’s 138, and the Three Nations finishing third on 106 points. The Welsh team comprised Sam Hopkins, Megan Hopkins, Charlie Gallagher, Poppy Latham Hill, Sophie Locking, and Rose Connor Jones. Team Wales managed to keep their ponies’ heads cool, and they certainly look like ones to watch.
The ever-dominant Australian Boyd Exell claimed his 11th Royal Windsor title after a near flawless display in the Obstacle phase of the Driving competition. Scott Brash trounced the rest of the field in the CSI5* Manama Rose Show Stakes, while it was home favourite, Ben Maher and his exquisite chestnut gelding, Explosion W, who took the honours in the pinnacle Show Jumping class, the CSI5* Rolex Grand Prix – much to the delight of the iconic Castle Arena’s vocal crowd. The Show finished on a jubilant high for Her Majesty The Queen, whose home-bred, Fools Illusion, finished a very respectable second in the Small Riding Horse class.
Scott Brash, recently announced as part of the British team heading to the Tokyo Olympic Games, landed the spoils in the CSI5* Manama Rose Show Stakes with his 12-year-old bay gelding Hello Shelby. Both horse and rider looked calm and collected in what was an incredibly neat and nippy round. The 1.50m class was one round against the clock and had a total of 17 riders taking on the 12-jump test. The course looked tight, with sharp turns required between fences two – an oxer – into three – an upright – with a similar set-up between six and seven, requiring both precision and agility from horse and rider.
John Whitaker was first to go, going clear and setting a comfortable time of 61.54. Scott Brash, next to go, wiped six seconds off Whitaker’s time, making him the one to beat. Italy’s Lorenzo de Luca recorded a time of 58.98, with America’s Lillie Keenan – fresh from her win in Friday’s CSI5* Manama Speed Stakes – one hundredth of a second slower with 58.99. In the end, however, Brash and Hello Shelby’s scorching time was unbeatable.
Speaking after his victory, Brash was full of praise for his horse: “I just tried to keep it as neat and tidy as I could. Hello Shelby is naturally a very fast horse; he is very experienced and used his strength keeping it tight, and he jumped great.”
The pinnacle Show Jumping event of Royal Windsor Horse Show, the Rolex Grand Prix, took centre stage in the Castle Arena for the final session of the 2021 Show and did not disappoint the jubilant crowd. A top-class field of 29 contested the 1.60m course, designed by international course designer Bernardo Costa Cabral. The field included five of the top six ranked riders in the world. With 10 combinations going through to the jump-off, pressure was on from the start.
First to go, Britain’s Harry Charles – travelling reserve for the Tokyo Olympic Games next month – set the standard, jumping clear in 38.21 seconds. However, with some of the best riders in the world to follow, Charles had a nervous wait as the remaining nine riders took on the challenging shortened course. Reigning RWHS Rolex Grand Prix champion, Henrik von Eckermann, as fifth to go, put in an impressive effort aboard the aptly named King Edward to take over pole position, although his lead was short lived. He was followed into the Arena by the current European Champion and World No. 3, Martin Fuchs, riding the phenomenal grey gelding Clooney 51, who made up speed across the ground, jumping clear in 36.87 and topping the leaderboard.
Next up was Britain’s Ben Maher with his Tokyo Olympic mount Explosion W. The 12-year-old chestnut gelding put in an exceptional performance, demonstrating his scope and athleticism, and posting a remarkable time of 35.16 – over a second faster than Fuchs. Swiss World No. 2, Steve Guerdat, put in a worthy challenge but his effort aboard Venard de Cerisy was only good enough for second place.
Maher, the current World No. 4, said: “I’ve said it before, but Explosion is just incredible; he helped me out a bit today, but he jumps better faster and he was fantastic. Royal Windsor is such a special show; it hasn’t been my luckiest show in the past, so it’s nice to finally win here in front of my owners and in front of a British crowd, and in the Queen’s back garden. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Five-time world champion, Boyd Exell produced a near perfect Obstacle Driving masterclass on the final day of Royal Windsor Horse Show, finishing with 131.03 points. Accruing just one time penalty, the Australian beat the Dutch contingent of Koos De Ronde (136.74 points) and IJsbrand Chardon (138.58 points) into overall second and third places, respectively. After former Royal Windsor champion and Friday’s Dressage winner IJsbrand had an Obstacle Driving phase to forget – knocking down one ball and exceeding the time limit – De Ronde leapfrogged his compatriot into second place in the overall standings, where he stayed after a flawless double clear, the only one of the final phase, a test of the driver’s competence and the horses’ obedience.
On his 11th title victory at Royal Windsor Horse Show, Exell commented: “I lived in the UK for 25 years, so it’s like driving at home. But that also brings pressure, the same as when we drive at Olympia. We’ve got a really good team of people, and really good horses. We just keep our focus over the course of the weekend, through ups and downs, and do our best for the sport. It was so nice to see everybody yesterday on the cross-country, not quite as many as other years, but that’s understandable. The good thing is that the sport carries on, and we keep fighting on for our passion and our horses. My left leader, Zac did his first cones course competition at an international, and I’m delighted that he did a really good job for me in there. Taking a young horse around an international course isn’t ideal, but it was really worthwhile for his experience.”
This year’s Showing classes concluded in fine style, and among the last finales to the 2021 Show was the Riding Horse Championship sponsored by Mr & Mrs Phil Swallow, decided against a backdrop of an appreciative crowd.
Katie Jerram-Hunnable was able to give Her Majesty The Queen further cause for celebration when her home-bred Small Riding Horse, Fools Illusion, stood a close second in a very strong class, pipped only by the eventual champions, Jayne Ross and Casino 111.
Illusion, now five, is a son of Her Majesty’s former Riding Horse winner here, Stardust – who was also ridden by Katie during her Showing career – and in only a few outings this year, has already gained his ticket to Horse of the Year Show.
The ever-popular Working Hunter Pony section saw some memorable performances, none more so than the flying 143cm class winner Charleville Farah, beautifully ridden by a delighted Bea Wheeler.
Team Walker struck yet again in Show Hunter Pony ranks when Zara Brookes piloted the consistent 153cm campaigner Parkgate Royal Visit William to the very top spot.
For full results from Royal Windsor Horse Show, CLICK HERE.
To find out more, visit www.rwhs.co.uk.
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