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The Duchess of Cornwall visits the Olympia Horse Show

19th December 2012

The Duchess visits Olympia

The Duchess of Cornwall visits Olympia

The Duchess of Cornwall laughed as she came face to face with a mask of herself and other members of the Royal Family tonight as she was shown a Diamond Jubilee-themed horse box.

During a private tour of the stables at Olympia, The London International Horse Show, Her Royal Highness was introduced to 12-year-old jockey Alfie Marshall who had been given special permission to wear The Queen's colours to race in.

During a night which also celebrated the success of the Great Britain Olympics and Paralympics equestrian teams, who paraded around the show's arena, The Duchess smiled widely as she was shown the special box with 37in Shetland pony, Ulverscroft Drambuie, inside.

Her Royal Highness laughed as she saw the masks of herself, The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, which were set up to look as though they were standing on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. The rest of the box was draped in red, white and blue regalia and other Jubilee decorations. "Do I recognise that face?", she joked as she saw her mask.

The Duchess, who was armed with a packet of Polo mints, made friends with all the horses and ponies she met, spent a few moments chatting to Alfie and congratulated the schoolboy on earlier coming fourth in the Shetland Pony Grand National on his tiny steed.

Afterwards Alfie, from Hastings, East Sussex, said: "She said that the stables were really good and she liked the idea of the decorations.

She said she really liked her necklace (which her mask was wearing). "I was really excited, it's just amazing."

The Claremont School pupil added that it was an "honour" to be given permission to race in The Queen's colours of purple and scarlet with gold braid.

The pony's owner, Vera Akehurst, said it was especially poignant as the 20-year-old Shetland retires on Sunday. Mrs Akehurst, 65, from Newmarket, Suffolk, said they were given special permission from The Queen after appealing to Andrew Balding, one of her racehorse trainers and TV presenter Clare Balding's brother.

The Duchess was not the only royal at the event - Zara Phillips was also there alongside her eventing teammates, Tina Cook, William Fox-Pitt, Mary King and Nicola Wilson. All five proudly wore the silver medals they won during the London Games around their necks as they paraded around the arena.

Zara's brother, Peter Phillips, was among the audience with The Duke of Edinburgh who was a private guest.

The Duchess warmly greeted Zara with a kiss as she lined up with the other equestrian medallists. Looking elegant in a black cashmere beaded jacket and black puffball skirt by Anna Valentine, The Duchess presented Natasha Baker, who won two gold medals in dressage at the Paralympics, with the Raymond Brooks-Ward Memorial Trophy.

Tributes were also paid to the London 2012 games makers - a group in the showground encouraged the audience to cheer as the athletes lined up alongside medallists from other equestrian events that have taken place this year. Earlier The Duchess, who is patron of The British Equestrian Federation, was greeted by the show's president Lord Vestey and the event's director Simon Brooks-Ward, before entering the president's box where she took the royal salute. She then watched various displays of horsemanship from the box including performances by horse whisperer Jean-Francois Pignon and the Barcelona Mounted Police.

During her tour of the stables backstage, she added a black cape to her outfit to keep warm as she met horses and their riders taking part in the show. Her Royal Highness was also greeted by a group of students at Arts Educational Schools London, who were dressed as clowns and showgirls.

Musical theatre student Megan McCarthy, 19, who was dressed in a purple leotard and an elaborate feathered headdress, said: "The duchess said we must be really cold and she said she liked our eyelashes."

This is the seventh year that The Duchess has officially attended the annual show. It opened on Monday and runs until Sunday, with 83,000 visitors expected to pass through its doors.