F & I Ladies Day at RIHS Hickstead

Temperate weather with a gentle breeze was a welcome relief to all who attended the Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) at Hickstead today. Generously sponsored by the BHS, members of our wonderful F&I Association were given the opportunity to enjoy a day of full entertainment with fantastic viewing over the main Longines International Arena. Hosted by the Director of Education, Tracy Casstles and organised by the highly efficient Jeanette Poile, we were exceptionally well looked after from the start. Many thanks to both and all the team ‘behind the scenes’ that enable this day to happen each year.

Take up of available places from members of the F&I was a little lower than in previous years, which is a shame, but this did then offer opportunity for extending the invitation to friends and family which was welcomed by all who attended.

The day got off to a competitive start with the Royal International Salver class, followed by a variety of classes for all tastes, from the BMHS Supreme Miniature Horse, the Osborne Refrigerator Double Harness Scurry, of course not forgetting the awarding of the Ladies Day presentation to the ‘best dressed Lady’ on the day! – undoubtedly, this would have been won by a member of the F&I, had we all not been busy at the time enjoying an exceptionally informative course walk kindly provided by the successful show jumper, Lucy Townley! Lucy kindly shared her experience and expertise with the entire group, offering superb insight into the importance of accurate lines, adjustability to the stride and the impact of not making the finest of adjustments in a timely enough manner throughout the course.

The Queen Elizabeth II Cup certainly entertained us all. At a height of 1m50 in a first round comprising 12 fences and with 15 jumping efforts, from a field of 28 starters only 3 made it clear through to the jump off. With prize money for the class totalling £12,000 quite correctly the course presented calculated challenges for all involved. Much use was made of related distances that were impacted upon the success of the previous fence or line of approach to secure their successful completion. Time allowance was 82 seconds which proved doable by those who had planned their routes well, with the few that were over the time tending to be those that having gained faults had opted to secure a positive experience for their horses thus saving them for another day. With 3 eliminations, including a rider fall there were clearly questions for many. Clever positioning of fences presented challenges, as evidenced by the riders whose horses struggled with the concept of an ’open water’ followed directly by a slightly curved line to a double comprising oxer to an upright in the direction of ‘home’. The skill, expertise and hard work of the three finalists shone through as all completed clear again in the jump off, ultimately being won by none other than the Hickstead-based Irish rider Shane Breen.

Championship classes for the Small Hunter and Hack classes followed prior to the Speed Classic, which then offered opportunity for us to see a wide range of riders and horses make some fair sized fences seem like those found at the local show!
Yet again it has been a superb day, enjoyed by us all – many of whom had not seen each other in person since pre-covid. Thank you to the BHS and the F&I Association for allowing us such a wonderful opportunity.

Report by Oonagh Meyer BHSI