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The Duchess of Cornwall attends the London International Horse Show

19th December 2013

The Duchess of Cornwall presents the trophy to Italy's Luca Maria Moneta riding Quova de Vains

The Duchess of Cornwall presents the trophy to Italy's Luca Maria Moneta riding Quova de Vains.

The Duchess of Cornwall came face to face with a remarkably cheerful Ebeneezer Scrooge when she paid her annual visit to Olympia, The London International Horse Show.

Each performance during the week at the equestrian world’s much-loved Christmas party ends with a festive finale of music and acting, and this year’s theme was Dickensian, with a group of young performers from the Art Educational School, London, the initiative of Andrew Lloyd Webber.

“The Duchess said that Olympia must be a great experience for her and it is ”“ we’re having a lot of fun,” said Ian Matley, who was clad in the famous old miser’s nightshirt and nightcap.

Another great Olympia tradition is the Shetland Grand National, sponsored by Osborne Refridgerators. Her Royal Highness met a group of small jockeys, two of whom had travelled all the way from the Shetland Isles, original home of their diminutive mounts.

Wikke, 13, and Rebecca, 12, had travelled by boat and lorry ”“ a nine hour journey. “It’s been an amazing experience ”“ especially as I won the first race of the week!” said Rebecca.

Her Royal Highness was also introduced to an important member of the team ”“ the Shetland HRE Dollar, owned by Elinor Bosanquet. “He was second today,” said Elinor proudly. “I was able to tell the Duchess that he is a proper Shetland from Shetland ”“ he was bred by Helen Thomson who was involved in the very first Shetland Grand National in 1981.”

The main class of the evening was the Alltech Puissance, in which a single, imposing wall is jumped, with its height being raised in each round. Riders are eliminated if their horses dislodge any of the bricks.

The Duchess of Cornwall saw for herself the enormity of the obstacle as she stood underneath it, chatting to British rider Ben Maher, a former winner of this competition and the current World Number 2 showjumper.

Her Royal Highness, an accomplished horsewoman herself and clearly at home amid such an equestrian atmosphere, also met Paul Thompson, a member of the course-building team, and said to him: “That really is a whopping fence!”

Pointing to the lower part of the fence, which is about 2ft high, the Duchess laughted: “I think I could just about manage that section of the fence!”

In the event, however, Ben Maher went out in the first round, and Her Royal Highness eventually presented the first prize to the ebullient Italian Luca Moneta, who is having a terrific show ”“ he is currently leading rider.

Riding Quova de Vains, he was the only competitor to clear 2.18m (7ft 2in) in the fifth and final round to win his first ever puissance. “I’m really emotional,” he said breathlessly afterwards. My mare wasn’t just jumping with her body but with her heart.”

Earlier, Her Royal Highness presented the Raymond Brooks-Ward Trophy to the up-and-coming show jumper Louise Saywell. The prestigious award is presented by the late commentator and show director’s three sons, Simon, James and Nick, to the young rider who has shown most promise that year.

Louise, 23, the daughter of former international rider Mike Saywell, is a member of the Lottery-funded Development squad. She competed in her first senior Nations Cup team this year and was a last-minute call-up to the British team at the Nations Cup finale in Barcelona in September on the appropriately named Hello Winner, owned by Lords Kirkham and Harris.

“The Duchess asked me if I ever get any quiet time,” smiled Louise. “I told her that it’s been a really full-on year, but I’m hoping to go on holiday in January. I think I got the award for my consistency this year. It’s been very exciting ”“ I only got the call-up for the team in Barcelona at four hours’ notice.”