Monday 20th of March 2023

Olympia: the fantastic finale to 2015


The London International Horse Show (15 – 21 December) is one of the most atmospheric and enjoyable shows of the year, writes Kitty Trice.

Held in the centre of London, Olympia is perhaps the biggest equestrian Christmas party for spectators and competitors alike.


The “Christmassy” theme of the show, from the Christmas Pudding Stakes to the Christmas Finale on the final evening, is something that everyone can enjoy.

Despite the relaxed atmosphere of the show, competition is incredibly fierce, from the dog agility classes to the show jumping and dressage World Cup qualifiers.

Top-class competition is the order of the day at Olympia, notably in the Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Freestyle to Music on the Wednesday evening. In recent years, the crowd at Olympia has been privileged to witness two of the greatest dressage horses ever seen in the sport – Totilas and Valegro.

Ⓒ Kit Houghton

Ⓒ Kit Houghton

Edward Gal and the recently retired Totilas first started the trend for record-breaking scores at Olympia when they scored 92.3 per cent in 2009 over team member Adelinde Cornelissen. After winning triple gold at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky the following year, Totilas was sold to Germany’s Matthias Rath. Edward, who finished second on Glock’s Undercover last year, will not be riding this year.

Charlotte Dujardin is set to make an appearance at Olympia again but not with renowned partner Valegro, who set the freestyle world record last year. The pair, who retained their European title in Aachen in August, are set to spearhead the British challenge at the Rio Olympics next year. Charlotte will instead partner Carl Hester’s 2012 Olympic ride Uthopia, who has not competed since Windsor last year.

The other confirmed entries include European bronze medallist Hans Peter Minderhoud and Glock’s Flirt, Lara Griffith and Rubin Al Asad and European team silver medallist Fiona Bigwood and her Gribaldi mare Atterupgaards Orthilia.

The show jumping classes at Olympia also attract the world’s leading riders. From Britain’s Olympic gold medallists Ben Maher and Scott Brash to Germany’s leading rider Marcus Ehning, show jumping fans will be able to see many of their heroes and heroines up close.

The Longines FEI World Cup qualifier on the penultimate day is of great significance for the leading show jumpers – being placed or winning at this leg means gaining valuable points towards qualifying for the final in Gothenburg next March – and the course is always up to height!

Drama-filled action and terrifying heights are always expected in the Alltech Christmas Puissance class. Held on the Thursday evening, the notorious red brick wall, which starts at a daunting height of five foot eleven, usually produces heart-stopping moments and can reach heights of over seven foot.

Ⓒ Kit Houghton

Ⓒ Kit Houghton

Displays at Olympia are always extremely popular with the spectators and it looks like this year will be no exception. The horse whisperer Jean-Francois Pignon returns and witnessing his remarkable bond with his horses is indeed very special.

At the other end of the equine size spectrum, the Shetland Pony Grand National is fun, frenetic and action-packed. Held every day at Olympia, the combinations will have attended qualifying races in order to reach this finale. Over the years, this class has produced several professional jockeys, including Paul Nicholls’ retained jockey Sam Twiston-Davies.

The Household Cavalry is another regular display at the show and their daring manoeuvres usually keeps the audience on the edge of their seats!

The Native BSPS Ridden Mountain and Moorland Championship class is the pinnacle of the showing season for native enthusiasts. Over the past year, a huge number of qualifiers have taken place, with the best of each breed being represented at the final this year.

To receive the “best of breed” or a placing at Olympia has particular prestige and many of those present on the Monday morning will have been in the rosettes at Horse of the Year Show in October.

Combinations to watch out for include: the Welsh Section B Cadlanvalley Sandpiper, ridden and produced by Katy Marriott Payne, who won at HOYS this year and the Highland Benbreac of Croila, ridden by Matthew Cooper, who won the Heritage Supreme at the BSPS Summer Championships.

And then of course there is all the shopping…

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