Counting down to the start of the season

Our two flagship international fixtures are fast approaching, with the Equestrian.com Hickstead Derby Meeting (25-28 June) starting off the season, followed by the Longines Royal International Horse Show (28 July - 2 August).

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The June fixture culminates on the Sunday afternoon with one of the most iconic classes in showjumping, the Equestrian.com Derby. Very few horses are able to conquer the tricky course, which includes the 10ft 6in Derby Bank, the Devil's Dyke treble and the double of ditches. It is the second year that the Derby has been sponsored by Equestrian.com, and fans of this iconic class will once again have the chance to join the Hickstead Derby Community, don the official polo shirt and become part of this special day.

Sunday afternoon's feature class forms the finale to the Derby Meeting, but there's top class showjumping to enjoy throughout the four days of the show. The first international class is the Stoner Jewellers' Vase, held on Thursday morning, and that afternoon you can see some of the Derby hopefuls get their preparations underway in the Bunn Leisure Derby Tankard.

Those hoping to qualify for the Equestrian.com Derby have to qualify during Friday's Bunn Leisure Derby Trial - a great place to check out the current form of some of the contenders - while Saturday afternoon plays host to the British Speed Derby, where riders tackle some of our permanent fences at top speed.

The Equestrian.com Hickstead Derby Meeting is best known for its international showjumping classes, but there is plenty more on offer for equestrian fans. There are dozens of showing classes, including the prestigious final of the Tattersalls/RoR Thoroughbred Show Horse Championship, plus there's scurry driving and more. Saturday evening is party night, when everyone is invited to stay on at the showground for the entertaining Celebrity Polo Match.

Similarly, every day of the Longines Royal International Horse Show (the official show of The British Horse Society) boasts fantastic equestrian competition. The international classes get underway from Thursday onwards, with the highlight of this day being the new-look Amlin Plus Eventers' Challenge, back at Hickstead by popular demand after last year's absence.

Friday's feature class is the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup, where teams of four riders will be competing to qualify for the series final in Barcelona. It is the only chance British fans will have to see their team compete on home soil, and it's bound to provide a useful guide to Team GB's form ahead of the European Jumping Championships, held in Aachen in August.

Saturday's Templant Events Queen Elizabeth II Cup is one of the most coveted titles in the national showjumping circuit, while Sunday's finale is the Longines King George V Gold Cup, one of the oldest and most prestigious classes in the world.

In showing, only the country's best horses and ponies qualify for the Longines Royal International Horse Show, with the best of the best battling it out for the British Horse Society Supreme Horse and the Underwood Supreme Pony Championships. There's also carriage driving, scurry driving and lots more.

Hickstead's Ladies' day is held on the Saturday of the Longines Royal International Horse Show, held in aid of the Mark Davies Injured Riders' Fund. Show visitors are encouraged to dress to impress, with a host of prizes on offer to the most elegantly attired ladies.

The huge Charles Owen Shopping Village is an integral part of both Hickstead's international fixtures. With hundreds of tradestands selling tack, clothing, footwear, gifts and more, it is one of the largest shopping areas in the outdoor show season.

For those who want to make their visit to Hickstead extra special, a range of hospitality options are available, from the Ringside Restaurant to Private Boxes. Visitors can also make great savings by taking out annual membership, which gives you unlimited access to all our shows plus an extra 57 reciprocal days at selected polo clubs, racecourses and Sussex County Cricket Club.

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