Having celebrated its centenary in 2007, this week’s Longines Royal International Horse Show (26-30 July) is 110 years old this summer, making it one of the oldest horse shows in the world.
The Longines Royal International Horse Show has been held at Hickstead in West Sussex every year since 1992. But the history of its most famous trophies dates back long before.
On Sunday July 30, the best showjumpers in the world will compete for honours in the Longines King George V Gold Cup. The winner will lift the King George V Trophy, a stunning solid gold depiction of the George and the Dragon fable – which is replicated on the official logo for the All England Jumping Course. The trophy is so valuable that it is kept under lock and key in London and has its own security guard, so the riders don’t get to take it home and put it on their mantelpiece – which is probably a relief, due to the high costs of including it in their home insurance policy.
It was commissioned in 1911 by King George V, the patron of the show, and was won that year by Russia’s Dimitri d’Exe on Piccolo. In 1939, the last year the show was held before the outbreak of the Second World War, it was won by Italian rider Conte Alessandro Bettoni-Cazzago. The trophy remained on Italian soil throughout the war – the Conte was said to be so concerned about the welfare of the trophy that he had it buried in the grounds of his villa. It was retrieved after the war and returned to Britain, and has never left these shores since.
King George V’s granddaughter first presented another of Hickstead’s famous trophies back in 1949 when she was still known as Princess Elizabeth. The Queen Elizabeth II Cup was initially open to females only, and for more than half a century it was won by many of the world’s top lady riders.
In 2008 the rules were changed so that both sexes could compete for the King George and the Queen’s Cup. Since then the Queen Elizabeth II Cup has been open to the leading riders on the national rankings – a change fully approved by Her Majesty The Queen and the British Horse Society, who own the trophy. The competition will take place this year on the Saturday of the Longines Royal International Horse Show, of which Queen Elizabeth II is the official patron.
Keeping up with the Royal theme, the teams in Friday afternoon’s FEI Nations Cup™ of Great Britain will compete for The Edward, Prince of Wales Cup. This team competition began in 1929 when Great Britain won on home turf. The Brits have won a further 30 times in the years since, but have not been victorious at Hickstead since 2010.
While Hickstead is best known for showjumping, showing is also a huge part of its events, with thousands of the best show horses and ponies competing at Hickstead each year. Those that win their respective classes go through to their division championships, and the winners of these qualify for Sunday afternoon’s British Horse Society Supreme Ridden Horse Championship and the De La Hey Family Supreme Pony Championship.
The winner of the Supreme Horse final will lift the Winston Churchill Cup, a trophy honouring the British Prime Minister, while the Supreme Pony winner is presented with the Dorian Williams Trophy, given in memory of the presenter and commentator whose voice was synonymous with equestrian sport.
Last year’s supreme winners were Jayne Ross on the hunter mare Time 2 Reflect, and Lulu Farmbrough on the pony Tambrook My Destiny. In the showjumping, Germany were the victors in the FEI Nations Cup; Ireland’s David Simpson won the Queen Elizabeth II Cup while his compatriot Billy Twomey won the Longines King George V Gold Cup. Next week, we’ll discover who will have won Hickstead’s most famous classes for this year, and which riders will be lucky enough to lift some of the most historic trophies in equestrian sport.
Tickets are available online at www.hickstead.co.uk.