What's the connection between Sussex and the London Olympics? Well, if you're an equestrian enthusiast, the All-England Jumping Course at Hickstead, which we in Sussex call our 'local international', wanted to stage Olympic events and could easily have done so but the powers that be decided to put them in the thick of things, up there close to the Olympic Park. Actually the riders quite like that idea in some ways, because they felt pretty cut off competing in Hong Kong for the Beijing Games; someone commented that it was like being at a World Championships but lacked the atmosphere of a real Olympics.
Anyway, I digress: it's exciting when the Hickstead opens for the year's competitions, it’s a sign that summer is finally here!. They branched out into arena polo recently, with an international fixture that created quite a buzz around here so I hope it'll be repeated. You can now buy your tickets for both the Derby meeting – that's the one where they have to tackle the formidable Derby bank – and the Longines Royal International in July, which hosts the famous King George V Gold Cup and the Queen Elizabeth II Cup and is a top 'showing' show as well.
A favourite Royal International day is always the Thursday, when the ever-popular, always-exciting Eventing Grand Prix takes place – anyone remember the very first one, back in 1998, when local rider Pippa Funnell won a bright yellow sports car? (And no, she didn't get to keep it – the prize always has to be split with the horse's owner and you can't really cut a car in half.)
Yes, if you've been to Hickstead before you'll know you can usually get in on the gate so advance booking isn't essential, but the queues can be long so if you're booking a holiday cottage and want to make sure of your day out, then see Hickstead’s website for details. It's right in the heart of Sussex and is easy to get to by car, just off the A23 about half way between Gatwick and Brighton.
Photo copywright Samantha Lamb