Last year was the first time I attended the Royal Windsor Horse Show and it was surprisingly difficult to find information about it so I decided to write a post that will hopefully be helpful if you are thinking of attending!
What even is the Royal Windsor Horse Show?
The Royal Windsor Horse Show, or RWHS for short, is one of the biggest horse shows in the UK or even worldwide. It takes place every year (well, unless there is a pandemic) for four or five days in the private grounds of Windsor castle.
RWHS offers pretty much any horse related activity you can think of – show jumping, horse shows, carriage driving, etc. – as well as ample opportunities to do some horse-related shopping.
When does the Royal Windsor Horse Show take place?
The Royal Windsor Horse Show is generally in May. The dates for 2024 are Wednesday 1th to Sunday 5th of May.
Is the Royal Windsor Horse Show worth a visit?
Yes – beautiful horses, exciting competitions, the chance to visit the private grounds of Windsor Castle, and a prime opportunity to do some people spotting – all for a quite reasonable price. What is not to like? If you have any interest in horses it is definitely worth a visit!
How many days should I attend?
This will of course depend heavily on why you want to go/how interested you are in horse sports.
I would say one day would be a really enjoyable day out for anyone who has the slightest interest in horses, wants to try to see some member of the Royal family, get a different impression of English culture, and just have a fun time out.
If you want to improve your chances of seeing someone famous or if you are truly interested in horses two or three days are probably perfect.
Four days are only needed if you are really, really into horses and horse sports (in which case you probably don’t even have to ask). And yes, four days was maybe a bit much for me – two or three days would have been perfect.
On which days should I go to RWHS?
So if you are just going one or two days – which ones should you choose? The event generally runs from Thursday to Sunday so it can be difficult to decide.
The first and most important consideration is of course when it fits into your schedule. While there were definite differences both in the atmosphere and the competitions between the days, I don’t think they were so noticeable that it makes sense to rearrange your entire schedule. Go on the day that works best for you.
The second and maybe even more important consideration is of course (this is England after all) the weather. If you don’t have to pre-book the tickets, go on the day with the best weather.
The Sunday I went was grey and rainy, the ground muddy, and it was pretty cold. Let’s just say this was not my favorite day at the Royal Windsor Horse Show. So if you can decide closer to the event, go for the weather.
What are the days like?
But assuming your schedule is open and the weather is the same – which day is best? Well, it depends – here are my impressions:
Thursday seemed the quietest day. Not that many people and everything a bit slower/more subdued. A good day to get a feel for what is going on.
Friday seemed a bit busier but otherwise fairly similar to Thursday.
Saturday had quite a different atmosphere. It was MUCH busier, there were a lot of families, many with small children. In general there seemed to be more people just wanting a fun day out than true horse people. If you want a buzzier, more energetic feel (and don’t mind more whining kids) this is the day to go.
Sunday was busier than the weekdays but quieter than Saturday. However, I am not sure how much of that was due to the weather – Saturday had perfect summer weather while Sunday was grey, cold, and rainy. Still, I think Saturday would generally be the busiest day.
One extra point: If one (or the main) reason for your visit is to see a member of the Royal family (or other celebrities) this could have an impact.
Check the court circular a couple of weeks ahead of time to see who is supposed to attend. You can also look at the official show program to see at which events the Royal family is directly involved.
When I went in 2022 I noticed that the Queen had several ponies in the pony showing competition so made sure to hang out at that arena during that time. I did indeed get lucky – she came in her Range Rover and stayed for the better part of an hour, talking to various people she knew. A very cool experience!
Will I see celebrities?
Difficult to say. In prior years, the Queen was almost certain to attend as she was a big fan.
I would expect some member of the Royal family to be there every day. It is very likely that Princess Anne, Prince Edward, his wife the Countess of Wessex and their daughter Lady Louise will attend at least sometimes as they are keen horse people.
Princess Charlotte also seems interested in horses (what seven year old girl isn’t?) so you may well see her with her family.
Last year there were also some international celebrities but I think that was mostly due to the Jubilee celebrations. Still, your chances of seeing a famous person are probably higher than in Hollywood.
Where do I get tickets?
You can pre-book tickets on their website. Tickets for 2024 will go on sale in the fall of 2023.
2022 tickets did not sell out so you could still buy them on the day. However, if you are certain about which day you want to go I would buy ahead of time just to be sure.
If tickets are still available you can buy them right at the showgrounds.
On the other hand, if you are flexible or unsure I would chance it and buy it closer to the actual date. Weather is important on how fun it will be so going on a sunny day is recommended.
Seat reservations do sell out. If they are sold out I would wait and check again later as they sometimes release additional batches of tickets/reservations as time goes by.
How much does it cost?
The regular ticket prices for 2023 varied from GBP 27 on Thursday to GBP 40 on Saturday. Seat reservations cost an additional GBP 10 to GBP 12 per day.
Basically, you will get entrance to all events with the regular ticket. The seat reservation gets you a reserved seat for the Castle Arena (the other arenas have only limited seating and there are no reservations for those).
2023 they are also offering more expensive Castle Stand tickets (GBP45 to 65). I do not believe these were offered last year so I have no experience with this but it looks like the only difference is that you get a reserved premium seat close to the Royal Box.
As you will be paying about GBP8 to 12 more than for a regular seat (plus seat reservation). Hard to say whether it would be worth it – especially as you may have a worse view of the Royal Box from next to it as compared to across the arena.
There is also the Royal Windsor Horse Show Club – members get free access to the show plus certain other benefits. At GBP450 this may well be worth it for true fans of the show (i.e. if you go to all the days regularly) but probably not for anyone just wanting to go one day. I would definitely recommend first visiting as a regular visitor to see if it is worth it for you.
Do I need to reserve a seat?
I couldn’t quite figure this out before I went and was rather stressed as seat reservations were sold out on several days. It was fine but here is what I think:
– Seat reservations only apply to the main arena. However, most of the important events take place there so you will likely spend a good part of the time there.
– There are unreserved seats at the Castle Arena so you will likely get a seat even without a reservations.
– However, on busy days (Saturday/Sunday) it may be difficult to get one, especially in bad weather. Most of the showgrounds is of course out in the open so in rain/wind more people will congregate in the covered grandstands instead of shopping/eating etc.
– Personally, I would buy a seat reservation for peace of mind but if there are no more available I wouldn’t stress about it. You will likely be able to find a seat.
What seat should I choose?
I sat in most sections during my visit (including the area reserved for Club members as this was available during the evening Jubilee performance). Honestly, I didn’t really have a clear favorite.
You probably have the best view of the Royal Box from clear across but the sides may also have benefits as tricky obstacles may be placed there.
So unfortunately no clear recommendation from me. Choose whichever you think best.
How do I get to the Royal Windsor Horse Show?
The Royal Windsor Horse Show takes place in the private grounds of Windsor Castle (a great chance to take a photo of the „back“ of the castle).
It is pretty centrally located at the Eastern side of town. There was parking right across the street but I used public transportation.
Basically, you have two options to get there by train if coming from London, either you use Windsor Cental or Windsor Riverside.
Riverside is quite a bit closer to the show grounds (like 5 instead of 15 minutes) and doesn’t require you to change trains but the ride is longer and less frequent. You can get to Windsor Central from London Paddington but you have to change trains in Slough.
And this is how you get there from the station (or of course just check on Google Maps):
Should I stay overnight?
If you are only coming for one day, I would just stay in London and take the train to visit. But if you are planning to attend on several days (and to maybe tour Windsor Castle as well) it might be worth staying closer by.
I was spending four days at the RWHS and also attended the Jubilee event which didn’t end until after 10 pm. A I didn’t fancy travelling so late to London, I stayed at the Premier Inn in Slough.
This worked out quite well – I either walked to the station in Slough or walked directly to the RWHS (about 45 minutes) which went through Eton and gives you some nice views.
This worked perfect for me but probably isn’t necessary if you are not going multiple days or stay late at night.
However, if you are planning to also tour Windsor Castle and Eton it may be worthwhile to stay in the area.
What should I wear at the Royal Windsor Horse Show?
The only dress code applies to patrons of the Royal Windsor Horse Show Club (i.e.if you are a member or the guest of a member).
In that case you need to be dressed smartly at all times. No blue jeans/denim, leggings or sports trainers. Men have to wear a tailored jacket and tie, women skirts, dresses or well-cut trousers.
For everyone else I would recommend either smart summer clothes (like a flowery dress) or country-style clothing. This is not like Ascot where basically everyone has to dress up. I would place an emphasis on practical shoes and clothes.
You will be walking through grassy areas and it can get quite muddy so I would avoid high heels etc. Also, this being England, the weather can be changeable. So bring some layers (I had to run back to the hotel to get a jacket on one day).
What happens when I arrive at the show?
Once at the entrance, you will see ticket booths for buying tickets on the day (if still available) or to pick up pre-ordered tickets.
I had received mine via email and brought a print out along. At the entrance the tickets get scanned – there may be a line or not. Some days I could basically just walk in, Saturday I was a bit later and it was much busier so it took a while.
Then there is a queue for the bag check. After that you are free to walk around the grounds.
What is the layout at RWHS?
You can see a detailed map of the showgrounds on the RWHS website. However, I found the map a bit confusing as it shows so much stuff.
So I made a very rudimentary map that shows all the things I thought important. It is based on last year’s event and not necessarily to scale. But hopefully it will give you a general idea where to find what:
What facilities are available at RWHS?
I noticed two places with public toilets – right at the entrance and at the back of the showgrounds.
There was a fair number of portaloos and they seemed to work quite well. Sometimes the queue was quite long but it generally didn’t take too long.
One thing to note – these were eco-friendly toilets which meant they did not flush with water. Now I don’t care how they flush (it seemed to work) but it meant there also wasn’t any way to wash your hands (there was sanitizer).
Personally, I thought that was kind of icky so if you think it would bother you maybe bring a bottle with water to „wash“ your hands with if it would make you uncomfortable not being able to do so.
There were numerous stands selling food and drinks. One big surprise for me was that this was completely cash free. I almost didn’t bring a credit card the first day and wouldn’t have been able to even get a drink of water without it. So make sure to take yours!
Unfortunately, I was not impressed by the quality of the food. Not only was it quite expensive (not unexpected), but both the Nachos and the Chinese Noodles I bought were pretty awful (I ended up trashing most of the noodles that were overcooked and tasteless).
Maybe I just had back luck when making my choice but after that I brought in some crackers/ate outside.
Can you re-enter if you want to leave the grounds?
Yes, you can leave the RWHS and come back later. Just make sure to get a stamp on your way out (you will of course have to go through bag search again on your return).
I would recommend you go out and get something to eat in Windsor or Eton.
What kind of shopping is there at RWHS?
There is a large number of stalls. Most of them sell horse related items (from clothing to horse equipment), general clothing/fashion, and country lifestyle items. There is also a section of the Royal Warrant Holders Association.
There is a shopping dropoff point near the entrance where you can deposit your purchases so you don’t have to drag them around all day.
What even are all these different events?
When I was trying to decide on which day(s) to attend, I struggled a bit as I wasn’t sure what the events actually were.
Here is a short explanation if you – like me – enjoy horses but aren’t that familiar with the differenct diciplines.
You are probably familiar with this – basically riders ride around a certain parcours and have to jump over different fences/obstacles.
A version of show jumping. Basically a very short parcours (just 2 or 3 obstacles) with very high fences. Shows which horse can jump the highest.
A bunch of smaller kids (like 8 to 12 years old) on their cute Shetland ponies race around the arena like crazy, jumping over small obstacles on the way.
Highly recommended – exciting and fun but only takes a couple of minutes. I can’t believe they let those kids do that though.
This is part of a larger competition with several different venues/dates. I got to see more of the Shetland National at the Royal Cornwall Show (and again it was one of my favorite parts).
Probably my favorite – and very British. A competition of five teams (England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and Northern Ireland) with older kids and their ponies.
Each day there are six games for which points are awarded – these range from slalom and regular races to events that include a sack race or dressing up in a cow costume and racing to the finish line.
Various carriages drive around. If you (like me) don’t know much about it the finer details are probably lost.
However, the carriages are really fun to see and they have lots of people in costumes on it. Also best chance to see Lady Louise as well as her family.
Basically ballet on horseback
This is dony by different horse kinds – e.g. hunters, cobs etc. Basically owners/trainers lead their horses into the arena and judges judge/rank them according to how perfect they are/how well they conform to the ideal for the specific kind of horse. So which is the best Shetland pony or whatever.
May include riding them or just leading them.
Not the most exciting if you don’t know that much about horses but a good place to people-spot as owners are likely to show up and watch (I saw the Queen there!)
Musical Ride of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment
Pomp and circumstance on horses. Highly recommended.
My Top Tips for the Royal Windsor Horse Show
- If possible go on a day with good weather
- Bring a credit card – you won’t be able to buy anything with cash
- Bring binoculars if you want to spot royalty – the arena is huge and you won’t be able to see the people in the royal box good without ones
- Leave the grounds and eat in town as food was mediocre and expensive
- Bring a bottle with water to wash your hands after visiting the bathroom if you will mind having only sanitizer
- Wear practical shoes – grounds can be muddy
- Best dress in layers – it can go from fairly warm to basically freezing in a short time
- Buy a program so you know what is going on