As part of my night at the Olympia Horse Show in London, I purchased a ticket to go visit the warmup ring backstage. This was essentially a spectator area filled with tables and seating and its own personal bar (which you know I took advantage of on my way out!).
So before the final class of the day, the 1.55m Martin Collins Christmas Tree Stakes (not to be confused with the Mince Pie Stakes – not kidding), I scuttled down (or rather, up, over, down- very confusing to someone who’d already had a glass of wine
or two) to the warmup arena to watch the big names go.
I think one of the most interesting things about showjumpers is the variety of tack that they employ. I saw every combination of hackamores, drop nosebands, figure 8’s and double bridle variations, and that was before even looking at the bits. The most popular bitting option appeared to be a gag bit, but I did see a few standard snaffles here and there.
Other trends included leaving a patch of hair on the sides of the horse (like above), something I hadn’t noticed before in other disciplines but surely to avoid any spur marks that might eliminate an otherwise clear pair.
Besides the horses themselves, it was fascinating to watch the riders warmup so differently from one another. Many would take a medium sized oxer (say 3’3″ to my eyes) and then go over a small vertical like below. I would have loved to pick someone’s brain to know the reason for the small vertical, but alas, I never found the opportunity.
Others, like the horse below, would repeatedly stop their horse in front of the fence. My guess would be to get their horse listening and on his haunches, but again, I really can only speculate.
As you can see, I took the opportunity to document as much as I could without being absolutely obnoxious, and enjoyed chatting with the other Olympia-goers about their horses and their favorite riders and horses. It was awe-inspiring (because let’s be serious, I am never going to have to prepare for a 1.55m track) and educational to see all the differing approaches in the warmup ring, and amazing to get to see some of the world’s top riders up close!
Lots more photos to come!