The ultimate guide to the Royal Windsor Horse Show
By Emily Taylor, Becky Parker and Carly Baker
For most of the grooms out there, you may have a chosen discipline or two that sets your heart racing and is your main point of interest. (I’m fairly sure more than a few of you are currently following the Badminton Horse Trials scores from your place of work right now, or possibly even be lucky enough to be soaking up the atmosphere and available shopping there!) However, what about a show where you can see the great and good of the horse world, from a huge array of equine disciplines, all in one place? Of course, we can only mean one thing, the imminent Royal Windsor Horse Show!
What is the Royal Windsor Horse Show?
Wednesday 8th May sees Winsdor Castle, Berkshire, open its private grounds to host the UK’s largest outdoor premier equine event, the Royal Windsor Horse Show. Now in it’s 76th year, the show hosts 5* International Show Jumping (which is the highest level possible) 4* International dressage and 4* International Carriage Driving as well as exciting and impressive displays such as The Musical Ride of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment, The Musical Drive of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, DAKS Pony Club Mounted Games and, a favourite of The Grooms List team…….. the Shetland Pony Grand National!
The site itself includes an extensive shopping village which hosts over 250 stands (for those of us with any money left after Badminton Horse Trials!) and plenty of food stands to keep us fueled for the day. As an added bonus the event is the only time of the year members of the public are allowed access to this private part of the Castle for a sneak peak at life behind, well, ‘walls.’
Speaking of which, competitors, owners and spectators alike at Royal Windsor Horse Show will be in good company. HRH The Queen is a regular at this event as she often has several horses of her own entered in the showing classes. Some say she can even be spotted sauntering round the showground and having a little spectate!
What to see at the Royal Windsor Horse Show
This is the third year Windsor hosts 5* show jumping. It has a large prize fund which should attract top riders. There are four days of 5* Jumping including the Rolex Grand Prix on Sunday. Such is the prestige of this event that it was here Olympic champions Nick Skelton and Big Star made their retirement in 2017.
On Thursday evening all competitors will ride set dressage tests. The top competitors go through to Friday’s freestyle where they ride their own test to their choice of music. This is a CDI4* FEI competition (Grand Prix).
Windsor is one of the UK’s premier events for Showing and there are many different ridden and in-hand championships which take place across the week and it has become the event that starts the season of Showing, with potential champions out for the first time of the year. A high point of the week is the Supreme Ridden Show Champion. Other highlights include the Mountain and Moorland Supreme Championship and the Hunter, Cob and Hack championships.
The Land Rover International Grand Prix takes place over 4 days and teams of horses and rivers compete in different areas. On Thursday and Friday driven dressage takes place, Saturday is the marathon (a real highlight where obstacles around the park are tackled), and finishes on Sunday with the obstacle driving (through pairs of cones against the clock). This is a great opportunity for those of us involved in the mainstream equine disciplines to discover, learn and appreciate the skill and excitement of these more ‘fringe’ sports.
The Musical Ride of The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment
A display which is renowned worldwide. Most people would recognise them from Horse Guards Parade in London where horse and rider stand in ceremonial dress. The Musical Ride consists of high speed, precise moves set to beautiful music.
The Musical Drive of The King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery
An adrenaline filled, fast-paced display where teams of horses fly around the arena pulling traditional wheeled guns at full tilt. For extra laughs just picture trying this with your own or employers horses – now feel even more impressed at level headed these horses really are!
Few displays can match the drama and thrill of The King’s Troop. Watch their powerful horses pull their field guns in high speed cross overs and prepare yourself for their deafening gun salute. It is a display not to be missed.
DAKS Pony Club Mounted Games
Thrilling top level “gymkhana” racing on ponies! Five teams representing England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland take place in qualifiers throughout the week with the final taking place in the afternoon of Sun.
The Shetland Pony Grand National
In the unlikely event that you’ve never seen or heard of this before, it is exactly what it sounds like it is – Shetland Ponies racing over miniature Grand National style fences! Always great fun to see!
CEI2* Endurance is taking place on the Friday of the Show. Competitors ride a set course around 120km of beautiful countryside taking in parts of Windsor Great Park and Ascot. It is a test of skill and stamina for both horse and rider. A CEI1* 80k and a National 40k endurance ride also takes place on the Friday 10th.
Meet of the Hounds
Sunday sees the Meet of Hounds – a chance to see these historic dogs at their finest. Dating back as far as 2500 years ago, the modern bloodlines can be traced as far back as 1830. Here we get the chance to see a parade of some of the finest examples in Britain today.
The highlights of the Royal Windsor Horse Show
- With such a variety of equestrian activities, there’s something for every horse lover to enjoy at the Royal Windsor Horse Show.
- Around 250 shopping stands, both equestrian and non-equestrian, so plenty to see and do for non-horsey friends and family!
- The Food Festival! Need we say more?!
- The Royal Warrant Holders shopping marquee.
- A chance to enjoy the private grounds of Royal Windsor Castle.
- Rubbing shoulders with Royalty/big names of the sport and trying to pretend like you’re ultra cool about it – probably failing. Before you ask – no you cannot ask the Queen for a selfie! 😉
The lows of the Royal Windsor Horse Show
- Prepare yourselves…Dogs are not allowed at the Royal Windsor Horse Show – what? An equine event with no dog? Not even hounds? Sorry folks, but Fido MUST stay at home!
- The parking is fairly limited and you need to pay £8-£10 to park your car (Parking for blue badge holders is £4). If the car park is full you need to find your own local parking via this link. All the car parks are at least a 5-10 minute walk from the showground.
- The showground gets incredibly busy, particularly on the weekend days, prepare to feel somewhat like a sardine in a tin at times
- Expect to spend some time parked on local roads as you creep your way into the showground plan for it to take AGES to get in and find somewhere to park.
NB: A good sneaky alternative (but don’t tell everyone!) is using the incredibly close train stations – many a visitor to the Royal Windsor Horse Show has been known to park up a few stops away, leave the car there an hop on a train the last few stops, which will leave you less than a 5 minute walk from the showground!
What is the best day to go to the Royal Windsor Horse Show?
There really is so much to see and do at the Royal Windsor Horse Show – too much to detail here, so the best thing to do is to head over to the Royal Windsor Horse Show website and take a look at their calendar here.
How much are tickets to the Royal Windsor Horse Show and where can I buy them?
Ticket prices alter depending on which day you wish to go, with Wednesday daytime or Thursday evening being the cheapest options with tickets from £9/£8 + admin fees. There are options to book seating, access to hospitality enclosures, or even to just visit for the evening show events (from 4pm). To give you a general idea:
Wednesday – £7-£25 plus admin fees (no evening only option)
Thursday – £14-£48 plus admin fees
Friday – £17-£48 plus admin fees
Saturday – £17-£59 plus admin fees
Sunday – £24.50-£56 plus admin fees (no evening only option)
General admission includes:
- Access to Royal Windsor Showground which includes all five arenas as well as the Windsor Shopping which hosts more than 200 shops.
- Limited unreserved grandstand or bench seating at all five arenas.
- Access to the Showground from half an hour before the start of the first class to the end of the final class.
General Admission with reserved seating includes:
- A reserved seat in the Castle Arena grandstand in a central location
- Access to the Showground and all five arenas
- Access to Windsor Shopping
- General Entry Ticket includes access for the daytime and evening performances.
- Reserved seating available for the daytime and / or evening performances.
Windsor Enclosure Daytime Entry
- Reserved seat in The Queen’s Stand at the Castle Arena until 5pm
- Access to the Windsor Enclosure
- Lawn with views onto the arena
- Bar and deli
- Access to the Showground, all five arenas and Windsor Shopping
Are you grooming or competing at the Royal Windsor Horse Show?!
This show certainly deserves a place in the “day trip” calendar. The one time a year that we avid horse folk are welcomed into the Queen’s back garden with open arms to enjoy an array of equine disciplines rarely seen in one place. (Also, where else will you be watching a showing class, turn to your left and notice the person stood just a few yards up, equally enraptured, is the Queen herself?! She is well known to go out and about, taking in the atmosphere and watching some top class horses, all with very little fuss or ceremony!)
Whatever your interest, you are sure to find it here, and will also probably go home full of enthusiasm to teach that horse of yours some skill at arms, or possibly turn the yard Shetland into a Grand National contender! With multiple rings showcasing the best the horse world has to offer, more shopping than you can shake a worried looking Visa card at and so many wonderful food options that a Slimming World membership may look like a good birthday present, it really is one to enjoy every moment of! After all, you’re certainly going to burn some calories when you get home & start practising your mounted games! 😉
Get a taste of the Royal Windsor Horse Show! #RWHS