Yesterday was another beautiful day at the horse show. Beautiful in terms of what we watched – the weather was, shall we say, variable. Fortunately for a couple of us, when it did briefly pour down with rain, we had just sat down under a tent to eat lunch. Then it started to sprinkle, then rain, then pour, and a multitude of people crowded into the tent. Luckily, the rain didn’t last very long and, of course, the horse show continued throughout. Unluckily for everyone involved with the coaching marathon, all the coaches had started to assemble for their drive into the main arena when the downpour commenced.

Undaunted, the nearly twenty coaches trotted smartly into the main arena at their appointed time, where they lined up for the judges’ inspection. There were three regimental coaches, four road coaches, and a large number of private coaches / park drags. Once the two judges (Jack Pemberton and John Parker) had a good look at them all, they left for their drive through the park.

One of the members of our group, Dr. Gibelli (president of the Coaching Club in Argentina), had been asked to judge the coach horn competition, and I was lucky enough to be able to ride along with him. Dr. Gibelli, Jill, Bob (who was our navigator and who held the Union Jack at our stops, which was the horn blowers’ signal to play), and I piled into our official Land Rover with our driver, and off we went. Because anyone who’s important at this show is driven around in an official Land Rover, it was kind of funny to see horse-show spectators peering in as we drove by, to see who might be in the car.

The judges were in their own Land Rover, and we all went to a variety of stops. We stopped along the “Long Walk” and along a road in the interior of the park, where, of course, we heard all the coach horns being played. Mr. Pemberton and Mr. Parker, on the other hand, stopped at more places, to watch how the horses were going, to see how the drivers and horses handled a variety of turns, etc.

At the end of the several-miles drive, the coaches all lined up again and came into the main arena in a group for their final judging and awards.

three of the many coaches, heading down the Long Walk, with a portion of Windsor Castle in the background

four of the many coaches, heading down the Long Walk, with a portion of Windsor Castle in the background

Bill Ginns, here driving his park drag with the castle in the background, won the private coach division

Danny Kindle, driving the Household Cavalry's coach, won the regimental coach division; he also won the award for the best turnout

Danny Kindle, driving the Household Cavalry’s coach, won the regimental coach division; he also won the award for the best turnout and was declared reserve champion overall

Bob Alexander won the road coach division and was declared overall coaching champion

Bob Alexander won the road coach division and was declared overall coaching champion

Bob Elliot won the coach horn award; he was the guard on Ian Smith's original road coach, driven by Ken Ruthven

Bob Elliot won the coach horn award; he was the guard on Ian Smith’s original road coach, driven by Ken Ruthven

Later that afternoon, several members of our group met with Karen Bassett, one of the British four-in-hand drivers, who very kindly took us on a course walk of most of the marathon obstacles. She explained all the ins and outs of driving marathon obstacles and answered everyone’s questions. She also told us that, unfortunately, one of her best horses, a wheeler, had come up lame the day before and might not be able to compete in the marathon. Which would mean that she would have to move a horse that normally goes in the lead into the vacant wheeler position. This particular horse has never been at the wheel, so she’s not sure what to expect on the marathon today. The “problem” with this scenario, as Karen explained it, is that you normally don’t want the leaders to actually do any real pulling. The wheelers are the powerhouse workers, and the leaders, if they’re not really pulling, allow better articulation of the turns in the obstacles. So putting a leader in a wheel spot is a challenge because that horse is now being asked to work harder and pull the carriage around: something it’s not used to having to do. We’ll see what happens today on the marathon!

Additional scenes from the show:

the judge riding one of the entries in a cob class

the judge riding one of the entries in a cob class

competitors lined up and awaiting their turn in the tent-pegging competition; in this class, they gallop across the arena, two at a time, and attempt to spear (and pick up) what appears to be a chunk of styrofoam on the ground

competitors lined up and awaiting their turn in the tent-pegging competition; in this class, they gallop across the arena, two at a time, and attempt to spear (and pick up) what appears to be a chunk of styrofoam on the ground

one of the tent-pegging competitors; unfortunately, she's just missed the mark (you can see the styrofoam by her horses' front hooves)

one of the tent-pegging competitors; unfortunately, she’s just missed the mark (you can see the styrofoam by her horses’ front hooves)

Windsor Castle at night, from the Eton side of the river

Windsor Castle at night, from the Eton side of the river