Equestrianism: Elite to grace Golden Jubilee

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The Independent Online
THE HORSE of the Year Show celebrates its Golden Jubilee this week with substantially more cash in the till than the pounds 69 that had been collected before the inaugural fixture of 1949. Then staged in Harringay Arena, the initial show enjoyed a stirring finale to its three days when a 20-year-old woman won the Leading Show Jumper of the Year title. Her name was Pat Smythe.

Now held at Wembley Arena the show begins its five-day run this morning with a line-up that includes the five riders on the Great Britain show jumping squad for next month's World Equestrian Games in Rome: Nick Skelton, John Whitaker, Geoff Billington, Di Lampard and James Fisher. Most of their horses, however, will be taking a well-earned rest.

Fisher's Renville is a notable exception. Having earned his ticket to Rome by winning the first three international team trials this year, Renville has had time off while recovering from an abscess on his foot. Fisher will use the show as a warm-up for Rome. "Not all horses benefit by doing nothing, though the rest will have done him no harm," Fisher said. "You know that the ground will be consistent at an indoor show like Wembley, so it should be a good place to get him going again."

Whitaker (who is resting Virtual Village Heyman) is bringing an old friend, his Olympic mount Welham, back to Wembley - together with a newcomer, Amber du Montois. Welham has jumped only a couple of times since injuring himself at Olympia last December and he will take part in the smaller contests, with Amber du Montois likely to go for the bigger prizes.

The three-day eventer, Katie Parker, daughter of the Olympic gold medallist Bridget Parker, was in hospital yesterday with head injuries after a fall at Gatcombe on Sunday. Doctors said she was "stable" and were hoping that she could leave intensive care today.