Saturday was, of course, marathon day for the FEI drivers: 7 pony four-in-hand teams, 21 horse pairs, and 24 teams of horses (there are no single horses, single ponies, or pairs of ponies at the competition this year). The weather was good, with a few sprinkles but mostly just alternating clouds and sun, and quite a lot of wind. The several hills in and out of the water at the final obstacle, though, had turned to deep, slippery muck by the end of the afternoon. For most of the day, I stayed at the end of this obstacle where the drivers both enter and exit, as I’ve found over the years that I really like the photos I can get there. I did, though, stop at a few other obstacles on my way to the water. One new one is on a slight rise so that the posts and rails are about at eye level, making it a bit hard to see what the horses are doing inside the wooden maze. Another is actually set down into a depression, so this one is easier to watch. The “depression” at this obstacle is, as I understand it, known as the ice rink because it would be flooded with water in the winter and allowed to freeze, at which point Queen Victoria could watch from the castle windows as her grandchildren ice-skated. Of course, this was long before all the trees there now were either planted or allowed to grow.

George Bowman IV (known as “Young George” because he’s the son of the famous George Bowman) had one of the fastest times of the day through the water obstacle. 

George Bowman IV, on his way out of the water obstacle

George Bowman IV, on his way out of the water obstacle

Near the end of the day, both Pippa Bassett (GB) and Boyd Exell (Australia) had a horse slip and fall coming up the muddy bank out of the water, but both horses appeared to be fine as they left. By the end of the marathon phase, Boyd had overtaken the lead from Ysbrand Chardon (Netherlands), the current world champion, who had led after dressage. We’ll have to see what today brings in the cones. 

The current world champion, Ysbrand Chardon of the Netherlands, in the water obstacle

The current world champion, Ysbrand Chardon, in the water obstacle

After the first two phases, Randy Cadwell (USA) currently stands in seventh place overall.

Also on tap yesterday at the show were more show classes, more jumping, the “best turned out trooper” class for the mounted cavalry, service team show jumping (military, police, etc. making up the teams), the Shetland pony steeplechase, and more.

one of the competitors in the "best turned out trooper" class, waiting to go into the main arena

a competitor in the “best turned out trooper” class, waiting to go into the main arena

There were considerably more people attending the show, too, because of the fine, dry weather and because it was Saturday. I walked through the military section of the vendor area, where all the equipment is on display, and there was a tremendous amount of activity: people lined up to go on the various simulators, kids exploring the insides of helicopters and personnel carriers, army cooks making pancakes to give away, push-up contests, kids getting their faces painted with camouflage paint, target shooting, and more. And this in addition to all the booths promoting the various military branches and units. And the vendor area was, as you might imagine, teeming with people.

 Today is the grand finale: the cones phase of the FEI event, the BDS private drive, the final round of the Shetland Pony Grand National (steeplechase), the delightful meet of the hounds, the Alltech Royal Windsor Grand Prix (jumping), and more, including a daytime performance of the musical drive of the King’s Troop. And, for our group, a farewell dinner. So I’ll have one more report after all that, and then I’ll be heading home.