The Horse Circus: 6.27.14

The Horse Circus

We pretend to go to the horse show but everyone really knows it’s a circus!

Bring on the clowns! And the horses too!

Every Friday Counter-Canter Culture features the important US and International Horse Shows currently under way.

Hickstead Derby Banner

Hickstead Derby Meeting

This Wednesday marked the start of the 54th annual Derby Meeting at the famous All England Jumping Course at Hickstead. This five-day competition hosts a full range of senior national showjumping classes, but is undoubtedly most famous for the Derby that will take place on Sunday, June 29th this year.

The Derby, otherwise know as the British Derby, dates back to the start of the Derby Meeting in 1960, and the event remains unchanged right to down the very last jump. Some of the obstacles have even received proper names like The Cornishman, a 4’8 solid stone wall, and The Devil’s Dyke, a triple combination with a water-filled ditch under the second element. But the most famous by far is the Derby Bank.

At the Derby Bank element, riders are required to charge to the top of a 10’6 mound, jump a 3’5 fence at the top, and immediately plunge down the mound at a steep angle to a 5’3 fence two strides from the bottom of the Bank. Can’t imagine what that would look like? Let famed British show jumper, Nick Skelton, and his 1988 and 1989 Derby winning mount, Apollo, show you the way.

Nick Skelton and Apollo also went clear in 1990, but lost in the jump off to Jozsef Turi and Vital. Producing a clear round in the British Derby is no small feat to be sure. In the past 54 years, it’s only occurred 56 times!

Although the Derby course is a constant feature of the meeting, Hickstead founder, Douglas Bunn, is known for being an eccentric innovator in the equestrian world. He is renowned for his love of awkward fences such as triple bars and technical gates. And as a barrister, he was known to appear in court with his breeches under his gown.

While under his care, Hickstead grew to become the host of The Royal International Horse Show, the official horse show of the British Horse Society, which is also home to the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup of Great Britain. In 1993, a dressage program known as Dressage at Hickstead was established, and in 2006 the All England Polo Club was created on Hickstead grounds.

Now Saturday evenings at Hickstead have become host to special exhibition polo match. And preceding the match, celebrity riders put on a new and different spectacle each year. In the past, show jumpers have tried their hand at arena polo, donkey cart racing, and even bronco riding!

Okay, about that last one – the bronco riding – it wasn’t exactly the real deal. Hit Air brought a mechanical bull to Hickstead and helped to answer a question I often receive: “Do advanced horseback riding skills help you beat a human controlled mechanical bull?” The answer seems to be largely, alas, no. Prepare yourself to see a number of distinguish riders hit air in this video from a similar even held at the The Royal International Horse Show

If you are looking to get a feel for what it would be like to attend The Hickstead Derby Meeting, but you’re too many miles away to make it happen, then have some fun with the new Webcam feature on the Hickstead website available here: Hickstead Webcam.

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