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The Royal Windsor Horse Show

A Short History
including All The Queen's Horses 2002

Show Jumping

The Royal Windsor Horse Show has been a major attraction at Windsor since its inception in 1943 as part of the national campaign, 'Wings for Victory'. This was aimed at raising funds for RAF aircraft and Windsor contributed almost £400,000 equivalent to 78 Typhoon aircraft, through a variety of events around the town. The show was founded by Count Robert Orssich and Mr Geoffrey Cross and was known at that time as The Windsor Horse and Dog Show. The show immediately enjoyed the patronage of George VI and Queen Elizabeth and the two princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret, being keen horse riders themselves, were competitors in the show.
The Royal Windsor Horse Show takes place in the middle of May and has grown substantially in size and importance since the Second World War, not least because of its wonderful setting beneath the walls of Windsor Castle.

Castle Floodlit

Windsor Castle is floodlit at night for the duration of the Horse Show.
It is a very fine sight indeed.

Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret driving

Princess Elizabeth and her sister Margaret, taking part in a driving competition in 1945 during the third Windsor Horse Show.

The Horse Show also enjoys the support of the royal family and of course world class competitors can be expected each year. HM The Queen is not only a regular visitor and enthusiastic supporter, but also competed when Princess Elizabeth. Princess Anne (Show Jumping) and the Duke of Edinburgh (Carriage Driving) also competed very regularly.

Carriages in Long Walk

Carriages in The Long Walk

Windsor residents have fond memories of the horse show, including the instigation of the floodlit sessions and the magnificent fireworks displays in more recent years that mark the end of the show for that year.
  There is a wide variety of competitions for junior and senior competitors covering all possible aspects of horsemanship and country life generally. Show jumping is by far the most popular, being a great spectator sport but carriage driving and displays by a variety of working dogs are also enjoyed, especially by the children who also delight in watching Shetland Pony races, and their junior riders. The carriage driving competitions take place primarily in the nearby Windsor Great Park although the precise skills of Obstacle Course Driving take place in the Home Park arena.
  Perhaps the most exciting display is that by The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery featuring six teams of horses, each pulling heavy artillery pieces and limbers, with no brakes!
  Young soldiers, in their distinctive uniforms, take their positions around the ring to act as markers for the riders. It is not unknown for them to take a smart step or two backwards as the teams of horses, limber and cannon career past them within inches.

Kings Troop Fire 2

The finale of The King's Troop display, where all six guns are fired, first individually and then in unison, can be heard all over Windsor. After their performance the six teams of The King's Troop exit the arena at the charge, galloping at full speed to great cheers from the audience. Heaven help any one who gets in their way! In our view this display must rank as one of the most exciting of any to be seen anywhere.
  The Royal Horse Artillery originally dates from 1793 but was mechanised in the 1930s. After the WWII, a mounted battery was reformed for ceremonial purposes. In October 1947 it was renamed The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery by George VI, Queen Elizabeth retaining this name in memory of her father. In 2002 the coffin of HM The Queen Mother was carried on the gun carriage from The King's Troop that had been used to bear the coffin of King George VI in 1952.The gun carriage was also used for Princess Diana's funeral cortege in 1997.

Horse Show moved to private Home Park in 2005

In October 29th 2004 it was announced that the Royal Windsor Horse Show would move from its home since its inception in 1943 to a new location in the private area of the Home Park which was enclosed in the late 1840s. In recent years heavy rain has curtailed the show, and even caused its cancellation when the show ground became too waterlogged to stage events. On other occasions considerable damage was done to the pitches in the Home Park where rugby is normally played necessitating several months of careful renovation to the grass. In 2002, for All the Queen's Horses, it was decided that a special arena would be created which would allow the show to go on regardless of the weather. As it turned out the weather was kind but it was decided that a permanent all-weather arena would be a great benefit and keep the Windsor show in the forefront of equestrian events. The permanent arena was completed within the grounds of Windsor Castle in April 2005.
  Although the Horse Show is now held in a private area of Windsor Castle's grounds, it remains open to the general public with access by a specially built walkway and bridge from the Home Park into the show ground.

All The Queen's Horses, May 2002

The King's Troop featured prominently in May 2002 during the superb presentation All The Queen's Horses celebrating Queen Elizabeth's Golden Jubilee on four evenings during The Royal Windsor Horse Show. A video of this very special event is now available. [DETAILS]
The concept of the show was similar to the ill-fated Royal Pageant of the Horse which was to have taken place in early July 1997 in celebration of the Golden Wedding Anniversary of HM The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh. Unfortunately the weather intervened and the occasion had to be cancelled as the site was just too waterlogged.
 All The Queen's Horses was a spectacular night-time theatrical extravaganza of dramatic proportions, set against the magnificent backdrop of the floodlit Windsor Castle. All The Queen's Horses featured 1,000 horses, 2,000 participants, a 150 voice choir provided by St George's Chapel Choir and Windsor & Eton Choral Society, a 75 piece orchestra, dancers and actors.

The Programme

Following the arrival of the royal guests in the Ascot Landaus, the evening commenced with The Beginnings of The Horse Show, recalling World War II, with the Pony Club, horse drawn vehicles, pit ponies, riding schools, maypole dancers, WWII vehicles and land army girls.
  1947 was represented with the wonderful Ride of The King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery.

Kings Troop

Kings Troop

The Kings Troop at All The Queen's Horses, May 2002

The Kings Troop was followed by representations of Foreign & Commonwealth Tours made by the Queen with The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (The Mounties), North African Arabs, Australian Jackeroos, Indian Cavalry, a mounted unit from Pakistan, an American coach & team, The French Garde Republicaine and Kenyan mounted police.
  Next came the Racing Shetland Pony Grand National, plus representations of The Hunt complete with hounds. The Queen's love of horse racing was represented by point to pointers, race horses, Ascot Landaus complete with equestrian celebrity passengers, and Ascot gavotte dancers and singers.
  Polo, a great love of the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and more recently The Princes William and Harry, was also on display with Mongolian hordes, polocrosse and horse ball, disturbingly displaying its origins where a human head was used instead of a ball.
  Carriage Driving was represented with single, pair, team and scurry, plus a variety of carriages, coaches and teams.
  Scotland was recalled with Balmoral and Scottish Scene Pipes and Drums, highland dancers, horse rangers, a side saddle display, highland ponies, gamekeepers, dressage plus a contingent from the Riding for the Disabled Association who were warmly received.
  As the climax to the evening approached, a Dream Sequence was presented with circus horses, vaulting, high school riders, a coloured horse carousel and the Duke of Edinburgh Pony Club Games.
  The arena now filled once more with carriages and celebrity passengers and other with famous riders, followed by the Massed Musical Rides by the Household Cavalry and Mounted Police.
  The Finale was of course The Gold State Coach with all participants massing in the arena around the image of a Single Perfect White Horse.

 Gold Coach

The Coronation Coach starred in 'All The Queen's Horses' May 2002

The Gold State Coach

The Gold State Coach left London for the first time since 1952 to take part in the Windsor show. The ceremonial carriage, 24 feet (7.2m) long, was built by Samuel Butler in 1762 for George III. The coach was last used in 1977 during the Silver Jubilee celebrations. It is reputed to have been insured for £50m and is totally covered in gold leaf. It weighs in the region of 4 tons.
  The carriage cost £1,670 when it was built but it afforded an uncomfortable ride! The original narrow wheels and minimal suspension led William IV to claim it made him seasick, and Queen Victoria refused to ride in it for most of her reign. After World War II the coach was fitted with better suspension and a more comfortable interior plus interior lighting so that all the spectators could have a good view of the occupants.
  The carriage is pulled by eight Windsor Greys. In 2002 there are currently eleven Windsor Greys in the Royal Stables. Their names are St. Patrick, King's Troop, Auckland, Jubilee, Britannia, Iceland, Dresden, Alderney, Hillsborough, Windhoek and Twilight.

The Gold State Coach

The Coronation Coach on display at The Royal Windsor Horse Show, May 2002.
The Coronation Coach concluded 'All The Queen's Horses' each evening.

Gold coach - side panels

The Fireworks

On the last evening, in recent years on a Sunday, there is a magnificent Fireworks Display provided by the sponsors. In recent years these have been Jaeger le Coultre and Aspreys. The display is a splendid experience against the backdrop of the floodlit Windsor Castle.
  The audience are invited onto the arena itself to ensure the very best view and once Heathrow Airport has given the all clear (for many flights arrive and take off over Windsor Castle these days), the display commences. In 2002 there was a further delay as apparently one of The King's Troop horses had gone lame on its way back to Combermere Barracks and so the fireworks were held up while the Horse Ambulance collected the 'patient'.


Sunday night's magnificent fireworks display beneath the castle walls

And finally...

The Royal Windsor Horse Show is always a VERY special event judging by the number of champagne bottles!

A note from the past

In 2001 the Horse Show had to be cancelled due to an outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in the UK.

For more information, visit The Royal Windsor Horse Show Website

Click here for more about the Gold State Coach.

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