FOR me, the London International Horse Show will always mark the true start of Christmas. I was first exposed to the show’s magic in my early adolescence, when my aunt took me and my younger sister to the Saturday extravaganza, a day that soon became a treasured annual tradition.

After the show, we would all clutch each other’s Puffer coats and bundle on to the London Overground like sardines. No doubt I would also be clutching onto a new pink diamanté headcollar that I treated myself to as an early Christmas pressie. The show’s designated Christmas Carol of The First Noel would be rolling off our tongues, much to the delight of everyone else on the train, and the Christmas spirit would be infectious.

This year’s show

This year’s rendition of the show will take place from the December 15th to 19th and, for the second year running, will take place at the London Docklands ExCeL Centre. Acts of spectacular horsemanship will be on display as well as equestrian sport showdowns of the highest calibre.

The event is renowned for its charitable association and this year will partner with the Brixton-based Ebony Horse Club, providing significant financial support and material benefits. The Ebony Horse Club uses horses as a mechanism for providing disadvantaged young people in the Lambeth area with education, life skills and enhanced well-being. FEI TV will be providing extensive coverage of this year’s event and, if you have access to the BBC, you can catch all of the main classes such as the Puissance, the dressage and jumping World Cup and the Grand Prix finale.

Markel’s Jockey Jumping

Opening the final night is a personal favourite, the Markel’s Jockey Jumping, and this year’s competition marks its return for the first time since 2019. The event sees some of the most prolific jockeys from Britain and Ireland go head-to-head around a show jumping course. The results are usually very entertaining! The class is all held in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund and the teams this year see the boys go up against the girls, with the latter being the defending champions. However, if anyone can turn over the form it’s National Hunt hero and 20-times champion jockey, Sir A.P. McCoy, who heads the boys’ team.

Champion flat jockey Jim Crowley will also take to the stage and he is surprisingly no stranger to a fence having worked a stint in his early years for legendary British show jumper Harvey Smith. Harry Skelton, National Hunt jockey and son of Olympic gold medal-winning show jumper Nick Skelton, and flat Group 1-winning jockey Tom Marquand complete the line-up for the boys.

Both Marquand and Harry Skelton will be competing against their wives, Hollie Doyle and Bridget Andrews respectively, so there is definitely a lot to play for. Bridget Andrews and Harry Skelton are currently one a-piece in this contest, based on previous efforts. Hollie Doyle has just recorded another record-breaking season, winning her first classic and recording the highest number of winners by any female during the British flat season. Game on.

Devil’s Horsemen

The London International Horse Show wouldn’t be complete without a stunt act providing unique equine entertainment and breathtaking tricks. Taking on the role this year is the top Hollywood stunt team, The Devil’s Horsemen. They are renowned in the film industry for producing top-class stunt horses which have featured most recently in productions such as Wonder Woman and Disney’s Nutcracker and The Four Realms.

The fast-paced act will see nine stunt riders and 10 stunt horses re-enact some of their best work as seen in the acclaimed TV series Game Of Thrones. The part-owner of The Devil’s Horsemen, Daniel Naprous, is also set to compete at the London International Horse Show in the FEI World Driving Cup, one of the highlights of the Friday afternoon performance. Some might say that Daniel Naprous could put on an out-of-this-world performance, especially if his role as Darth Vader in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is anything to go by!

Daniel Naprous owns The Devil’s Horsemen with his sister Camilla and together they recently hosted 10 children from the Ebony Horse Club, the show’s chosen charity for 2022. They invited them into their training grounds, provided them with a glimpse of their training routines, and even taught them some tricks to make the experience truly unforgettable.

Shetland Pony Grand National

The youngest and smallest of jockeys will get the leg up on their tiny Shetland mounts for this year’s rendition of everyone’s favourite event. A series of small hurdles aligned along the Grand National course makes it a test of both speed and scope.

Its popularity means it features every day of the London International Horse Show. If you’re heading to the show, make sure to pick up a programme and check out the runners and riders so you can cheer your favourite on!