Celebrating Hickstead

26 July 2020

Over the weekend we should be enjoying this year's Longines Royal International Horse Show at Hickstead, we take a closer look at this storied venue...

Hickstead is one of the highlights of the equestrian summer with fans coming from far and wide to enjoy the British leg of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ series.


Each July, the Longines Royal International Horse Show is enjoyed by around 20,000 visitors at the home of British equestrian in West Sussex, England. The five-star fixture has been held at Hickstead since 1992, and includes championship showing, Driving and national Jumping alongside international Jumping classes.


2020 should have been an opportunity for real celebrations with this year marking 60 years since the All England Jumping Course at Hickstead was opened by Douglas Bunn, the pioneering British equestrian enthusiast and international showjumper.



Bunn was a real character having been a successful barrister as well as an elite Jumping athlete – indeed it was not unusual for him to go into court with his white riding breeches beneath striped trousers and gown, and later go off to compete at a show, or head home to exercise horses until dark.


Bunn, who died aged 81 in 2009, became extremely wealthy through his founding of Bunn Leisure, one of Britain’s leading holiday village enterprises. Having observed that his country was lagging behind many other nations in terms of the standard of equestrian facilities, he decided to divert some of his resources into creating a new hub for the sport in Britain.


Hickstead was thus opened in 1960 and soon became one of Europe’s most celebrated venues. Its famous Derby Bank was added in 1961, and it has since staged the European Championships on several occasions as well as the 1965 Ladies World Championships and 1974 World Championships.


It is also home to several of British Jumping's most famous annual classes, including the Longines King George V Gold Cup, Al Shira'aa Derby and the Queen Elizabeth II Cup.

has its own

The Longines King George V Gold Cup was held for the first time in 1911, but in recent years has found a new home at Hickstead.

The winner lifts the King George V Trophy, a stunning solid gold depiction of the George and the Dragon fable.


The trophy is so valuable that it is kept under lock and key in London and has its own security guard, so the riders don’t get to take it home and put it on their mantelpiece – which is probably a relief, due to the high costs of including it in their home insurance policy!



Its early years saw victories for riders from Russia, Belgium and France before a maiden British win in 1921. John Whitaker won the event with the legendary Milton in 1990, while the likes of Beezie Madden, Ludger Beerbaum and Kent Farrington have triumphed in more recent times. Germany’s David Will won with Never Walk Alone a year ago.


The British Jumping Derby was first staged in 1961 with the testing 1,195m course barely changing in the last six decades.


Ireland’s Seamus Hayes was the first winner, coming out on top on Goodbye III. Pat Smythe was the first home winner the following year, with the international flavour highlighted by Brazilian Nelson Pessoa’s win in 1963.


Big names such as David Broome and Harvey Smith triumphed in the following decade, while Irishman Eddie Macken dominated in the 1970s with four wins in a row from 1976-79. Nick Skelton, Michael Whitaker and Peter Charles have each completed hat-tricks in the years since.



Ireland’s Michael Pender won last year’s event on Hearton Du Bois Halleux.


The Queen Elizabeth II Cup also pre-dates Hickstead having first been staged in 1949, when the then Princess Elizabeth presented it to inaugural winner Iris Kellett of Ireland. It is only open to the highest-ranked national riders and was open only to women until 2008. Liz Edgar, Caroline Bradley, Jessica Kürten and Laura Kraut are among the past winners, while last year David Simpson became the fifth man to triumph with Gentleman VH Veldof.


Hickstead also hosts the British Speed Derby, which was first staged in 1987 and was last year won by Harriet Nuttall on Silver Lift. Past winners include Michael Whitaker, Ben Maher and Chloe Bunn – daughter of Hickstead founder, Douglas.



2013 winner Robbie Power is perhaps the most decorated of all Speed Derby winners. He famously rode Silver Birch to victory in the 2007 Grand National and won the Cheltenham Gold Cup with Sizing John in 2017. His Hickstead success came with Doonaveeragh O One.


The highlight of the Longines Royal International Horse Show each July is, of course, the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™. It attracts the biggest names in European Jumping as they compete for national glory and vital points in a bid to qualify for the season’s Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final.


Here's the highlights from last year...

The first FEI Nations Cup of Great Britain was held in 1929, with Great Britain securing victory.

The hosts dominated for many decades, winning it 12 times in 17 years from the early 1960s to 1980.


Great Britain’s wins have been less frequent in recent years, and they have not stood atop the podium since 2010. Different teams have triumphed in each of the last six years, with Sweden winning in 2019, following victories by Ireland, Brazil, Germany, Belgium and USA.



After helping his team to just beat off Ireland and Italy last year, Swedish star Peder Fredricson summarised what Hickstead means to athletes from around the world.


He said:

"It’s great to come to a show like this - Hickstead has its own personality and asks it own unique questions that give an extra dimension to our sport, and that makes it very special."


While the crowds and the big names may not be visiting Hickstead this year, let’s hope it’s not too long before we can again feel the buzz of a summer afternoon at this famous ground.


Tune into FEI TV to relive the 2019 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Great Britain...


Words by Richard Mulligan

Images FEI/ Hickstead


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