ETN’s diarist and show trader Guy Roper reports from the London International Horse Show. 

If I had a £1 for everyone who said they were going to ‘Olympia’ instead of ‘London’ in the past month, I’d be rich… 

However, times are changing – and as the 2023 London International Horse Show rolled out for the third year at its new ExCel Arena venue, people were increasingly proud to call it ‘London’.

Shopping for all

The shopping village had something for everyone, across a range of budgets, with Christmas gift ideas galore for the equestrian and non-equestrian partner who inevitably gets dragged along….

You could even buy a tiny two-storey house at a reduced ‘show special’ price, a full-size 4x4 to park outside, complete with arena and stable block. 

Then there was everything to fill the stable, maintain the paddocks, clothe horse and rider, art and homeware to furnish and decorate. 

Fluent footfall

The addition to the shopping village of an arena hosting showing classes, demos and dog agility was most welcome and kept footfall fluent and constant. 

It was certainly an improvement on previous years when the retail area became a ghost town during main arena performances.

The shopping village itself was spacious, and exuded a more luxurious feel this year, as noticed by several trader pals who’ve been coming to London horse shows for years. 

Logistically, the east London venue is easier than its predecessor for parking, unloading and loading, has cheaper hotels, more storage space and a customer-friendly layout. No-one could find anything negative to say about the show’s ExCel venue.

Food outlets also got the thumbs up, not least for their variety and sufficient seating - even when busy just before a performance.  

Visitors happy, but one disappointment 

The decision not to open the shopping village on the Wednesday may have influenced the first day’s ticket sales; Christmas shopping being a primary motivation for attending. Indeed, some visitors had not realised the shopping would be closed and were disappointed. 

Otherwise, once they’d battled across London to get to the venue, visitors were happy. The vitality in the shopping village was palpable.

Wide aisles ensured ease of moving around, with no bottlenecks or queues. All the favourite big equestrian brands were there, with signings by sponsored riders adding a sprinkling of glamour.

Special mention to Britain’s world dressage champion Lottie Fry who I spotted delighting 13-year-old keen dressage rider Brook Henson from South Wales with a photo, an autograph and gift of a keyring. That’s what this show is all about…

Optimism for 2024

So, with all that great feedback, what could be done to improve this already magnificent show for next year? Well, the old adage of not pleasing all the people all the time could not be truer… 

The lack of shopping on day one was the most common complaint. But, overall, the organisers have appeared to listen and improve on previous areas of dissatisfaction. That and a tremendous atmosphere gave optimism in the shopping village for 2024 and beyond. 

There’s no doubt this venue is growing in popularity, and will go from strength to strength. Bravo, ExCel!