Wow! How have three weeks passed since The Al Shira'aa Hickstead Derby Meeting?! It literally seems like yesterday and I am definitely beginning to feel the Hickstead blues.
This event is always action filled and thoroughly enjoyable but this year was something else! The weather was incredible and made it even more fun!
Whether you're there to support friends or family, there to watch the immensely talented show jumpers or for the shopping, there really is something for everyone at Hickstead.
I had the absolute pleasure and privilege of being invited along to this year's event as part of the press team to document the Meeting and show you all how brilliant it is! Judging by your all of your messages in response to Insta Stories, I think I did okay in doing!
I have put together a little video/picture montage for you all so you can get a taste of what the atmosphere is like at this super event, which you can watch here.
In addition to attending the Al Shira'aa Derby Meeting, I was lucky enough to meet one of the Speed Derby horse and rider combinations. Getting a behind the scenes insight into what it takes to prepare a horse for the famous Speed Derby class and also what it is like to be part of the support network behind the horse and rider.
Local show jumper, Chris Franks and horse Flight were an absolute dream team in this year's Speed Derby amongst some other talented combinations.
The talent of these horses is just outstanding and Flight was no different. It felt so special, being able to be a part of their day and their success. He is such a sweet natured soppy horse with massive of talented that just radiates off of him as soon as Chris is in the saddle. Chief groom, Gary has a real affinity with horses and it really shows when he is with Flight.
Getting in to the International Stables was a little tricky due to the strict rules and very very tight security but once in, it was a real treat. Getting a chance to spend time with these four-legged athletes in person was unforgettable and it totally MADE my Derby experience.
Chris and Flight may not have made it through to the finale on the Sunday but it was without a doubt an incredible effort and a brilliant round by both. I believe I am right in saying that it was both Chris and Flight's first ever Speed Derby and what a fantastic experience. I have no doubt that they will be back next year, ready and raring to go once again!
Above: Chris and Flight warming up for their maiden Speed Derby appearance. Looking pretty calm and collected here.
Above: Chris & Flight literally flying over the final fence in their first Speed Derby after a fabulous round and tremendous effort. They literally made it look effortless...
The winning combination of this class was an absolute thriller. The final combination entered the ring and no one really stirred from their seats or where they stood. Matthew Sampson and horse Topflight True Carlo put in a flawless and unbeatable round, climbing straight to the top of the leader board. I was stood just inches away from Matt's father who literally exploded with pride and the cheer from the crowd was incredible as he neared the final fence.
Jumping aside, I LOVE watching the Show Hunters. This is arguably my favourite aspect of the event, besides the chocolate strawberries!
There is just something about these guys that resonates with me a little more than the show jumpers.
Perhaps it is the power of the horses or how traditional and smart the turnout is? I am not sure... whatever the reason, I just LOVE watching them.
Another thing that makes Hickstead different, which I mentioned in my blog post before the event is the classes for amateur riders and younger horses. Many of my friends have competed here over the years and I have even ridden here myself (albeit not in a ring lol).
It is so great to see an event offering such versatile classes and catering to a range of abilities. You don't HAVE to be the next top rider to compete here and the smaller classes have just as much credibility and class as the International ones.
I even managed to restrain myself from buying any goodies this year, normally the outcome isn't so positive for my bank balance...
The Al Shira'aa team bring something else, something different to the event. They bring prestige and a touch of luxe and elegance to the Meeting. Just look at that saddlecloth if you don't believe me!
Whilst the Al Shira'aa Hickstead Derby Meeting might be over for another year, there is only a few weeks left until the All England Jumping Championships get underway. This is another excellent action packed few days of jumping, shopping, food and horses! If you have a copy of our Summer issue, you will find 10% off your event tickets which Hickstead have kindly offered to all ITC readers. Be sure to make the most of it because Hickstead really is a fab place and with the Summer we are having, the All England Jumping Championships are set to be scorching too.
Until next time and a massive thank you to the team at Hickstead for having me...
Lots of love,