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Festive Fun at London International Horse Show

Festive Fun at London International Horse Show

The Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ provided the highlight of the sporting action, with World No. 2 Ben Maher taking the victory in a tightly fought contest between the best riders in the world.

The evening performance provided a spectacle of top-class sport and entertainment. The Santa Stakes was won by John Whitaker before the mood lighted as riders’ began their transformations into their fancy dress characters for the final class of the day, The Fancy Dress Relay.

There was an emotional moment to commemorate the retirement of Lord Firebrand, the Commanding Officer’s Charger, after 10 years of service to The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery. Known as Yogi, Lord Firebrand led the funeral procession for Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The New Horizon Plastics London Arena hosted the LeMieux Grassroots to Glory Masterclass with Laura Collett MBE, Megan Elphick and Richard Waygood MBE. Showing highlights came from The Worker Stakes Championships and The New Horizon Plastics BSPS Performance Coloured Championship.


The Santa Stakes continued the world-class action at ExCeL London following the afternoon’s FEI Jumping World Cup™. With four of the six riders through to the jump-off representing Great Britain, the expectant crowd was hopeful of a home win.

First into the arena to contest the shortened course was Scott Brash, who was looking to go one better than his second placed finish in the FEI Jumping World Cup™, however with four faults he left the door wide open to those who followed. On a high from his FEI Jumping World Cup™, Ben Maher followed Brash into the arena, but he too picked up faults in the attempt to set an unbeatable time.

Crowd favourite, John Whitaker – who during the course of his career has competed in 39 major championships, winning 24 medals – showed his experience to jump the first clear and set the time to beat of 35.98 seconds riding Sharid. Matt Sampson followed, with a fast round proving that the time could be beaten, but picking up four faults along the way.

The first of the international contenders, Kendra Claricia Brinkop riding Ma Belle, looked like she had done enough to take the lead from Whitaker, however knocked the final fence. It was left to Lorenzo de Luca to dampen British spirits, however the famously quick Italian was another to accrue faults in his efforts to beat the winning time, giving 68-year-old Whitaker a popular victory.

Speaking after the class, Whitaker said “It’s fantastic, the crowd were unbelievable and it feels good to beat these young speed merchants. My horse jumped amazingly and I’m glad I’m still able to beat them on my day. I played it a bit safe and it paid off – I managed to put the pressure on and it worked out.”

The Voltaire Design Mini Stakes (148cms) showcased some of the most promising junior riders, with half-a-dozen advancing to the six-fence jump-off. Only two managed to secure a double clear, including Ruby Bars and the experienced 18-year-old Casper, who took a cautious approach to jump clear. Bars’ lead was short-lived, as Masie Allsop from Derbyshire, riding Vaughan De Vuzit, surpassed her time by over four seconds despite the combination having only competed together since October.

Speaking on her win, Allsop said “I just tried to have a go and have some fun. It was my first time riding at the London International Horse Show and it felt unreal, I couldn’t believe the atmosphere. I never thought I would win, I have only had him (Vaughan De Vuzit) since October and we’ve only done three shows together. He is the most kind pony and to come and win here today was just amazing.”

Earlier in the day, The Littleton Manor Equestrian 128cm Championships saw 12 of the Show’s smallest Jumping competitors battle it out in a thrilling contest of speed. Eight riders made it through to the jump-off, which was a tightly fought affair. Jamie Lim-Goulder was the first to post a double clear, setting a time to beat of 31.79 seconds. Ella Kay stepped up the pace to take the lead at the half-way point, posting a time of 26.53 seconds with Red Alert III. As last to go, eight-year-old Annabel Widdowson – the youngest rider in the class – was out to spoil the party, but her fantastic effort left her in second place.

An emotional Kay said: “My pony is incredible, she really helped me out. In the jump-off, I just went for it and thought to myself if I have a pole, then I have a pole. It was my last competition with her today as I’m 12-years-old, so to win here was amazing. In the yard she knows that she is better than everyone else – she is so special.”

The Fancy Dress Relay was a brilliant climax to the festive evening performance at the London International Horse Show, with seven pairs competing against both the clock and the panel of judges – Pippa Funnell, Father Christmas and Rory Bremner – for the best dressed prize as well. First in was the pairing of Jodie Hall McAteer as Prince Charming, accompanied by Joe Stockdale’s Cinderella. Their lead was soon overtaken by the Ugly Sisters, John and Robert Whitaker, who went clear and darted around the International Arena in the most unflattering of pink concoctions. 5* Eventers, Laura Collett and Tom McEwen (dressed as Snow White and The Queen), took the tightest of lines to put them into the lead just over the halfway mark. However the last combination to go, Harry Charles and Matt Sampson – much to the enthusiastic crowd’s delight – soared around as Dick Whittington & The Cat to claim the win.

Written by Nicola Jane Swinney
A true amateur triumphed in the Coloured sections at the London International Horse Show, where skewbalds and piebalds of all shapes and sizes filled The New Horizon Plastics London Arena. Dawn Birdsey, riding her own Splashdown Lenny, headed the first class for The New Horizon Plastics BSPS Performance Coloured Native/Cob/Traditional Horse/Pony (unplaited). The Judge, James van Praagh, took his time scrutinising the 21 entries before selecting Splashdown Lenny as the winner.

“I can’t believe that he’s done it, it’s amazing!” said Birdsey. “It’s the first time we’ve been to London. Everything is easy to find and to get to, it’s just awesome.” Birdsey has had Lenny, now 12, for four years and he is an all-rounder. Dawn produces him from home and describes herself as a true amateur. But you wouldn’t know it, as they raised the bar in the BSPS Performance Coloured Championship, taking the title ahead of Eleanor Lancaster’s Atkins Silver Storm.

There were 19 entrants in The New Horizon Plastics BSPS Performance Coloured Non-Native (plaited) Horse/Pony class, headed by Charlotte Merrigan Martin and Solaris Dwenqua, a 15-year-old who “came out of retirement” this year to do some Showing after a break. The mare last competed in 2019 and had a foal in 2021. Their Showing campaign this year has included Royal Windsor Horse Show, where Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s stud groom Terry Pendry placed them to win. Merrigan Martin’s mother is Clare Martin, owner of the multi-garlanded coloured Merrigan, who really put coloured show horses on the map.

The Worker Stakes Championship was won by Libby James riding Glebedale Sugarbabe, who qualified by winning the Open Cradle Stakes. James, who has owned the home-produced Glebedale Sugarbabe for three years, describes ‘Sugar’ as an all-rounder and the pair compete in multiple disciplines. “I’ve enjoyed myself so much coming here and Sugar did too,” said James. Elsie Lynch with Noble Peppermint, the winners of the Open Nursery Stakes, were awarded Reserve in this section.

Merchandise at the London International Horse Show





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