That’s what it’s called and that’s just what ‘the girls’ did – dressed up for Ladies Day at Hickstead.  The F&I Association’s yearly trip to the Royal International Horse Show means we have use of the BHS box which is fabulously placed for viewing the Main Arena and equally well placed for visits to the other arenas and more importantly the shops!  We can bring along friends, spouses and partners for an extremely reasonable cost as BHS heavily subsidise this day for F&I. 

We are treated to coffee and biscuits on arrival and there are complimentary catalogues available for all, as we start the day with the Supreme Miniature Horse Championship.  WOW! If they were any bigger some of them would be very difficult to handle they are bad enough as miniatures!!  Lunch is sumptuous and beautifully served whether you wish to sit inside the box at the lovely big round tables or outside on the balcony watching the Supreme Hack Championship and then the Double Harness Scurry Championship.  WARNING arrive early if you wish to ‘book’ a balcony table and then make very clear that it’s “yours”.

The important part of the day comes next – The Course Walk.  Each year the intrepid Karen Irving organises for a group of us to walk the course with an expert, so again early booking is very advisable as only twenty of us may walk with this VIP.  This year we were guided round the course by Matt Sampson, who later rode Ebolensky in the Speed Classic.  Matt was a font of all knowledge as he guided us from fence to fence answering questions, pointing out distances and difficulties and allowing for photo calls along the way.  Karen then organises a Sweepstake, for the princely sum of £1 you can draw a competitor from the hat and then settle back to watch and cheer your own rider in their attempt to win the Queen Elizabeth 11 Cup.  Cheering does at times get rowdy after all we are for the most part fairly competitive people!!  However, watching these riders tackling the fences seeing them make the distances we walked takes on a different perspective for each of us and I think that also depends on one’s own preferred discipline.

Following the Queen’s Cup there’s time for a breather before the last jumping class of the day The British Speed Classic, the winner of the sweepstake can count their coins whilst the Small Hunter Championship is judged.  The Best Dressed F&I Lady was a new innovation this year and once again the BHS came up trumps with a bottle of fizz.  The well-deserved winner was Annette Christie who looked a delight in cream with a smart little navy hat.

It’s been a long day for my guests as I ‘made’ them arrive in the box by 9.15am, there’s just not enough time when you’ve flown in from Dublin the evening before and you’ve just got the one day so we made our weary way back to Gatwick and arrived home about 2am.  But it’s just so worth it, catching up with friends and BHS staff, Karen, Alex, Michele, Jo, Natasha, Alison to name but a few and our CEO Lynn who makes us all so welcome. “ Mr BHS” David Sheerin was with us for the first time this year and had a whale of a time, he was tasked with the job of escorting one of our party, Joan O’Connor from Dublin, to the Finals of the Show’s Best Dressed Lady.  Joan was runner up and donated the beautiful bouquet of flowers to Matt Sampson for his girlfriend.

Then there’s the networking which is on-going throughout the day, some F&I members went across the watch the dressage whilst others trawled the showing rings where Simon Somers was to be found busy working.  This is the F&I Association at its best, enjoying ourselves whilst learning in the presence of the “Mother ship” the British Horse Society.