One of the undisputed highlights to the Equestrian year is the London International Horse Show at Olympia which this year runs from 13 to 19 December 2011.
Over 7 days of competition and display, hundreds of horses and riders will ply their art in the arena whilst adjacent, in the National Hall, over 200 shops make up the biggest ever International Horse Show Shopping Village with a wonderful array of equestrian-themed goods - from horse blankets to earrings (for you - not your horse!).
Here are 5 highlights that are guaranteed to knock your socks off.
Extreme Carriage Driving - everything seems to be extreme this year, but few extreme events will live up to the spectacle of Indoor Carriage Driving. On Thursday evening and Friday afternoon the world’s top four in-hand drivers (including Boyd Exell, Ijsbrand Chardon and Koos de Ronde) will compete with their teams of four horses in a speed carriage driving competition. Flying the flag for Great Britain is plucky Pippa Bassett with her team of Lipizzaners.
Dressage Highlight: The Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Qualifier on Tuesday 13 and Wednesday 14 December is the fourth of nine qualifiers leading up to the finals in Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands next April. Horse riding does not get more technical that dressage and dressage doesn't get tougher than this. Cheer the Brit: Richard Davison currently lies in 5th.
Jumping Highlight: The Rolex FEI World Cup™ Qualifier presented by H&M on Sunday 18 December. This is my top moment each year: incredible riders on incredible horses jumping incredible fences. Brit Michael Whitaker won last year and is back to defend his crown, but Nick Skelton and Scott Brash are having a storming season this year too. I can't wait!
The Lusitano Ride from Portugal - This promises to be the picture postcard moment from this year’s show. The Lusitano Ride from Portugal includes some of Portugal’s finest horses and riders. Actually managing to look cool in traditional dress, ten riders on ten Lusitano stallions will take part in this captivating display, reflecting the traditional horsemanship that still exists in Portugal today.
Lorenzo The Flying Frenchman - this is Lorenzo's third visit to Olympia. What a display of horsemanship, trust and courage - including flying over jumps whilst standing on the back of his horses. The bond with his horses (a team of beautiful grey Lusitanos) is incredible. Although the Horse Show site actually boasts that in 2000 Lorenzo fell off! Yes you too can see a grown man cry!
Of course there is the Shetland Pony Grand National and the Dog Agility Competition and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Father Christmas makes an appearance - as if he wasn't busy enough! All in all a cracking event when the horse world goes mainstream!
London International Horse Show at Olympia, London 13 - 19 December 2011. Tickets available from theatre breaks.
This guest post has been written by Nick Pratt.