AS the highlight of her sporting year, the Queen has attended the Royal Windsor Horse Show annually since it first began in 1943.
But next year she will miss out on watching the world’s best jumpers after an administrative error by the British Equestrian Federation (BEF) has meant that the 2020 show will not be included in the elite international jumping calendar.
Royal Windsor, which traditionally takes place in the second week of May, will not be able to display the top tier five star show jumpers after the BEF missed an International Equestrian Federation deadline in September 2018 to apply for the prestigious status.
Instead, the best performers will skip the Queen’s favourite equestrian event for two five star shows in Madrid and La Baule in France, both of which were given the May slot in Royal Windsor’s absence.
The error is likely to hugely disappoint the Queen, who “absolutely loves” the Royal Windsor show, a royal source said.
"The BEF have completely cocked up here,” the source added. “It means the show has missed out on the highest level of status you could have which is an extraordinary development for a show that is extremely well attended.
“It's a huge event and very much a Royal Family event - members of her family attend every year and the Queen loves mingling with the crowd down there. It is undoubtedly one of the most important events in her calendar - right on her doorstep.
“It is not just a show featuring show jumping and other forms of equestrianism - it's actually a chance for her own horses to compete in various disciplines. Prince Philip has competed there as has Lady Louise Windsor more recently.”
The show, based in the grounds at Windsor Castle, has invested heavily in its show jumping calendar in order to promote it to the top tier five star level. In May this year it staged the UK’s richest jumping Grand Prix, sponsored by Rolex with £125,000 to the winner.
The BEF is still negotiating with the International Equestrian Federation about the possibility of Windsor 2020 being able to stage jumping classes at the lower three or four star levels on its preferred dates.
Other equestrian disciplines in the show’s supporting programme, such as showing and carriage driving, are not affected.
“The show will still go on, but it has lost quite a lot of diamonds from its crown,” one insider said.
Founded in 1943 as a “Wings for Victory” event to help raise funds for the war effort, Royal Windsor was attended by the then Princesses Elizabeth, who won the Pony and Dogcart class.
It is one of the few occasions annual that the private grounds of Windsor Castle are open to the public.
A spokesman said the BEF “is well aware will have a significant impact on both Royal Windsor Horse Show and the sport as a whole.”
“The BEF is deeply sorry for its error and has put new processes in place to ensure it will not happen again,” the spokesman added. “The BEF has been in discussions with show director, Simon Brooks-Ward, since the issue came to light, and the entire BEF board offers its extreme regret and apologies for its error.”
The Windsor Show disaster comes just a few months after the Gatcombe Horse Trials, held in Princess Anne’s Gloucestershire estate for the past 29 years, announced that it was going to end.
“I told the Princess that I wanted to retire, the organiser, Pattie Biden, said. “I don’t want to talk about it too much, but organising the events is very hard. I don’t always feel that the riders appreciate how much work goes into it. It will be very sad, but there it is.”