Honestly this last weekend in July was so action packed, as well as the RIHS it was also The International Day at Royal Berkshire Polo Club. Featuring some high goal Polo as well as a master class by the Queen of Dressage, Charlotte Dujardin.
The International Day at Royal Berkshire Polo Club: Where did the sun go?
Typically, the heatwave decided to break right as my friend from up north and I met up. Always happens, Bolesworth 2017 was also rained off! Never mind a quick dash to purchase a cardi from Sainsburys and we were good to go. We arrived at Royal Berks Polo Club and lots of fond memories came back. I love that neck of the woods and hopefully one day will end up back there or close enough.
The International Day at Royal Berkshire Polo Club: Bun Fights
We parked and first up had to cue for a while to get scanned in and then we excitedly headed to what we thought was the polo. Except the master class wasn’t where the polo was, rather round the back in the arena for arena polo. This involved trudging through the canter track too. Which meant we got quite dirty, black feet. This would have been fine if you were just going to the Dressage but we were dressed for a day at the polo. So already we felt like the Dressage was a bit of an afterthought……
Then there was a bun fight for wristbands. Because we had to queue again, and not just a little queue, a really long queue. One that delayed the start of the masterclass. In the interest of making this blog an honest account of the day and to uphold my integrity I’m going to say at this point one was not amused. One coffee cart, again with a ridiculous queue that meant we wouldn’t have had time to get a drink without being the muppets that walk in front of everyone. Plus, a general feeling of chaos was around.
We paid extra for ‘Undercover Grandstand Seating’ which was basically a green house on stilts, that was still being cleaned when we arrived. It wasn’t great and we went and found somewhere else to sit. So, our first impressions weren’t brilliant, and I was a bit sad as I’d organised it all for my friend.
The International Day at Royal Berkshire Polo Club: The babies
One of Charlotte’s young horses was being ridden by someone else, Cookie is a stunning British bred Gelding. From the MSJ Stud he is all class. Charlotte started talking us through why she doesn’t ride all her babies and what she would like to see them doing under saddle. She discussed what she looked for in a young horse and explain about the walk and canter.
These are the two gaits she looks at. Cookie has the most phenomenal canter and lovely expressive walk. He is an absolute dream and at just 4 years old took in the atmosphere and the wind like a pro. Over and over Charlotte explained how she wants her horses to be going forward, off the leg and how sometimes you just have to go for a yee-hah.
Hastily adding that we should only do it if we feel safe and please don’t all go home and fall off!
The International Day at Royal Berkshire Polo Club: Pumpkin
Then it was time for Charlotte to ride the adorable Gio, also known as Pumpkin. A super cute ginger pocket rocket with the most amazing ability to Piaffe. This was the horse she purchased from a demo she was teaching at! On arrival Carl exclaimed she had bought a pony and I think Charlotte has made Carl regret saying that ever since.
Pumpkin and Charlotte did an excellent demo of why Charlotte doesn’t worry about the trot. On a long rein and just doing a working trot Pumpkin looked kinda ordinary, nice but nothing wow. Then Charlotte picked up her reins and oh my word! The trot that horse can produce is incredible.
He is so collected and nimble. Pings from hoof to hoof like he is dancing on fire. Now you may think Charlotte achieves this by cranking up her reins and using her incredible core, but that is just not true! She was able to give her reins away and Pumpkin still was collected in pinging. Absolutely breath-taking. I could have watched her all day.
The International Day at Royal Berkshire Polo Club: Grand Prix
Then she gave a lesson to one of the riders training with her and went through the Grand Prix movements. Explaining where to get the marks from and how to ensure you ride each movement to its maximum. It was really interesting to watch, and boy has Charlotte got a super sharp eye. Pointing out every little flaw and helping Sonny ride the movement to its very best.
The improvements and tweaks were visible. Riding a zig-zag of flying changes and finishing with a pirouette it was gorgeous to watch. The finale was of course Valegro. Charlotte explained how he is enjoying the easier life at the moment. Helping students learn (lucky them!) and being hacked out. He was sporting a bit of a tummy and is clearly loving taking it easy. However, his little face when he saw the crowds was a picture. He strode around like we were all here for him, admittedly most of us were. Remaining poised even when the Brooke Tent flew into the arena!
You could tell Charlotte was enjoying herself and just had fun on him. Showing us his amazing canter, his flying changes and the spectacular trot we all know and love. It was a real treat to see her enjoying him so much. At the end she pulled up over by the stands and invited us to have a cuddle and a picture. Blueberry was swarmed but he just stood there lapping it up. Ears forward and looking for the camera. He is such an incredible character. Well worth traipsing through the canter track for and I would 100% recommend watching a masterclass if you get the chance.
The International Day at Royal Berkshire Polo Club: Polo
Now to the Polo. I’m not going to lie I was very disappointed with the Polo. The set up was a bit odd. Far too much hospitality and not enough focus on the general public. It wasn’t well sign posted and we were left wondering around a fair bit. I guess I was expecting more but it was their first time hosting the International day and maybe if we’ve had hospitality tickets we would have enjoyed it more? Still the Polo was fun to watch, I had an amazing Waffle Ice Cream Creation and the shopping was ok. I had a good look at HiHo and have my eye on a treat for the new year.
There were only 4 food outlets too which for the number of guests didn’t really work. Still the waffle I had was yummy and the prosecco went down well too. We couldn’t see much of the match from where we were and there wasn’t any undercover grandstand, that we could find anyways. I’m not sure I’d go back to the International Day, but I would recommend the masterclass should they run it again. I hate writing negative things on the blog but I do believe honestly is one of my core values and so I can’t lie. The lack of sun and high winds would not have helped either.
The International Day at Royal Berkshire Polo Club: Hospitality and shoes
There you have my frank and honest tale about the polo and Dressage at Royal Berks. Worth a day out but if you are going to The International Day you may want to pay for a hospitality ticket to fully enjoy it. Otherwise pop along to the master class and wear proper shoes!