Thrills, spills and champions at Royal Bath & West Show

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A mecca for horsemanship, the Royal Bath & West Show is set to welcome the finest of judges and competitors from across the UK for three days of competition and Jubilee celebration.

A large variety of horses can be seen at the show, says chairman of horses, Jane Cooper. “It’s a major event in the equestrian calendar and it’s wonderful for the show to be returning with schedules that truly celebrate the horse.”

Competition will be strong, with the show hosting 21 qualifiers for the prestigious Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) with winners competing in the Grand Finals at Birmingham NEC in October 2022.

And to the delight of showing enthusiasts, the most coveted in-hand accolade returns under its new name; The Price Family Supreme In-hand Championship. “Formerly the Cuddy, it celebrates the supreme light horse or pony shown in-hand, irrespective of breed or type – including the Queen’s beloved native Highland and Fell breeds,” says Miss Cooper. “It’s widely considered to be the hardest HOYS championship to qualify for in the UK.”

Heading up the judging for the heavy horse classes and the HOYS Shire qualifier is registered judge Morley Roberts, a Devon-based breeder and decorated show champion. “It’s a constant delight seeing working breeds turned out and demonstrating their respective qualities and purpose, in-hand and in-harness,” he enthuses.

“I’ll be looking for strong colour, conformation, and movement – every breed has its own way about it and I’ll want to see that with style and presence.” Mr Roberts also has an eye for cleanliness. “I’m very particular about the cleanliness of the legs and harness.”

Golden tickets to the Longines Royal International Horse Show (RIHS) will also be sought-after with qualifiers including Senior Showing & Dressage Ridden and In-hand, as well as Ridden Cobs, Ridden Hunters, and Riding Horses.

The list of class competition is extensive. “Once again we have a wealth of qualifiers, nationals, and championships taking place at this year’s show,” says Miss Cooper. “These include the supremes of the National Welsh, the North of England and the British Arabian Championships, to the heights of the British Showjumping National Championships and the RIHS Queen Elizabeth II Cup qualifier.”

Excitement is guaranteed in the main ring: Showjumping across three days will no doubt serve thrills and spills, but the cream of the crop will go head-to-head on Saturday in the Platinum Jubilee Grand Prix. “The Grand Prix is a crowd pleaser whether the spectator is an enthusiast or not – it can make anyone hold their breath as horse and rider navigate the show’s biggest fences.”

For those with a penchant for speed, there is the fast-paced agility of the scurry driving on both the Friday and Saturday. “It will be wonderful to see the ponies in harness as we celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.”

And Thursday will be no less sedate, with six different West Country hunt clubs competing against each other in the Inter-hunt relay. “It’s hugely entertaining to watch as teams go head-to-head – but even the most skilled rider can be flummoxed by having to open a gate under the pressure of a main ring audience,” says Miss Cooper.

Representing the young and fearless in the main ring is the Pony Club games. “The games produce some of the loudest cheers at the show – the children taking part are team spirited and a credit to their clubs.”

This year the show’s equine section is all in one focussed area of the showground, says deputy head of shows, Jess Chiplen. “We wanted the layout to enhance this aspect of the show and accommodate its popularity and place as a cornerstone of the event.

“It feels incredibly special to be one of the first big shows of the year and we truly are looking forward to opening our gates in just shy of 10 days’ time.”