The Royal Windsor Horse Show 2019 & Grand Prix Freestyle to Music class

It's not often that I manage to organise an actual day off from our horses, but Friday was one of those rare occasions where I had the chance to drag my mother along to day 3 of the Royal Windsor Horse Show for the Al Shira'aa Grand Prix Freestyle to Music class. We arrived several hours early so that we could grab some lunch as well as check out all the stands (wow, there were loads!!) My absolute favourite stands were the Honest Riders, La Flex Equestrian, Carr & Day & Martin, Theraplate UK and the HorseHealth stand. Really really lovely people to chat to and everyone was so helpful and friendly that I had the best time wandering around! πŸ›
The Grand Prix Freestyle to Music class started off with Nina Nilosaari with her horse KOM Ragdoll. I think this horse is wonderful, it has such a nice powerful trot but it did look a bit tired from yesterday's GP class. It also didn't help that as she was riding around the arena the horses did a massive spook at one corner and Nina fell on the neck... That can't have been easy to recover and get focused back on the test itself, so I can only commend her for the mental strength to do that! She was followed by Tommie Visser whose horse Chuppy Checker CL (what a name!) was one of my all time favourites in the class because it had a fabulous canter and Tommie rode a wonderful extended canter across the diagonal to a canter pirouette to one tempi flying changes, and just made it look so incredibly easy. Although the piaffes were quite slow, the trot half pass was the stuff of dreams 😍

Tommie Visser and his horse
The first British rider of the night was Vicky Thompson-Winfield with the PRE stallion Mango Jacaro, a lovely big horse who Vicky rode well and had the brilliant Freestyle music set to the theme tunes of the James Bond films. In her interview after the test she was asked about her music choice and she said that she wanted to stay away from Spanish style music but still have something dramatic that suits the horse and I so agree with her, it was brilliant! It just struggled with the piaffes a lot and unfortunately it wasn't able to perform one of the piaffe pirouettes and at certain points it didn't look quite right in front - even one of the judges went to talk to the main judge Stephen Clarke afterwards.... And after her the Danish rider Mai Tofte Olesen unfortunately decided to retire her gorgeous grey horse Rustique which was such a shame because the start of the test was lovely! πŸ¦„
Last to go before the break was Dane Rawlins, who rode the wonderful Espouse. The horse was a bit spooky but Dane was able to calm him down with a few pats. This horse is only 10 years old, so the floor plan of the test was quite simple but it needed to be for the horse. There was an unfortunate mistake in the one tempis and some other moments which showed the youth of the horse and the some loss of overall fluency, but the music was so hauntingly beautiful and this horse will be brilliant in a year or too.
The Danish Tofte Olesen and her unicorn!
Caroline Chew with Tribiani was my absolute favourite combination, and if I could buy one the GP horses in this class I would have picked Tribiani. He tried his heart out for his rider, he was light and airy and looked like he was enjoying his work. Also, if I had to pick out of everyone's music which one to use myself, then I'd have chosen this one! It was music from the Star Wars films and the dramatic block buster action movie type music suited this combination so well πŸ‘ŒπŸ»Although the passage looked a bit wonky, the horse has a beautiful canter and I really loved watching this test. I think they deserved more than the 70.645% that they got. Next in was Charlotte Dujardin with Sonnar Murray Brown's lovely Erlentanz who won the class with 81.9%, a huge score. This test just showed what a brilliant rider Charlotte is, not matter what horse she is riding. There was a miscommunication in the canter pirouette, but she stayed cool and at a later part of her test she added in another canter pirouette to recover some of the marks lost from the first one, but this unintentional addition to the test meant that she had to do a short diagonal of extended trot, followed by a half ten meter circle to the centre line and halt at X which I think is not the original floor plan. Despite this, she still stayed 100% in time with the music, it was unreal to watch! πŸ˜†
Louise-Anne Bell had the most fun music ever, a mix of pop & country with Sweet Home Alabama, music from The Greatest Showman and Justin Bieber 🎢🎸 It was BRILLIANT!!! I can only imagine how terrifying it must be to have to ride after Charlotte, so points to her for staying cool and her horse for ignoring the huge applause Charlotte got as she left the arena. Next up was Richard  Davison aka God. Oh my goodness, this horse is still one of my all time favourites. If you look at its breeding you can easily understand why this horse is such a powerhouse, he piaffes like a machine his the trot half pass to passage half pass was insane! His flying changes are SO big that you can't help but wonder how Richard sits to them. And on the topic of the rider, he's such a cool rider you can't help but admire him. His hands stay so still that I can only hope that one day my hands could even slightly look like that 😍 and I think they deserved more than the 78.31% they got!
Richard Davison and Bubblingh
Last to go was another unknown rider to me, the Irish Heike Holstein with her horse Sambuca who is only 10 years old but performed like a seasoned pro! A typical mare, there were some moments where she was just "like nope, you didnt ask nicely enough" but despite being quite long in the back, she was powerful AF from behind which is why she could do the GP work so well, despite maybe not having the perfect body type for it. Also, favourite music of the night of the class goes this pair as most of it was the amazing Disney movie Moana 🎢🌴 It was a brilliant end to the class, I can only hope that next year more riders would be allowed to join in these classes as only 10 starts felt quite short and Windsor is such an amazing place for a competition!

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