Happy Birthday to HRH Prince Philip, Former FEI President and Driving Pioneer!

Today, June 10, is HRH Prince Philip’s 99th birthday.  Amazingly, Prince Philip was born on the same year (1921) that the FEI itself was founded! It is no secret that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth is an avid equestrian — but her husband, Prince Philip, also has deep equestrian roots and has been instrumental in pioneering international equestrian sport, particularly in-hand driving.

Prince Philip and his team competing. Photo by FEI/Vickusin.

Prince Philip played polo until the age of 50, when he gave up the sport and turned to driving as a sport that would be best for his physical abilities.  He played a critical role in establishing driving as a sport, gathering a committee of experts to devise international rules.  By introducing the idea of governing non-Olympic sports, he opened the door for additional international disciplines, such as endurance, vaulting, and reining.

Prince Philip competing at the Royal Windsor Horse Show in 2000. Photo by PA/Daily Mail UK.

In-hand driving today is similar to 3-day eventing, in that it consists of three phases: Dressage, marathon and obstacle/cones, intended to showcase the versatility and training of the horse(s) and driver.  Prince Philip competed on the British team at multiple World and European Championships.  He mentioned in an interview at the Royal Windsor Horse Show that sometimes “in the rough and tumble of the sport, [his carriages] were regularly smashed up.” The sport was great fun!

Prince Philip at 96, taking the reins for a drive. Photo by WB Media/Splash News.

Prince Philip served as the FEI President from 1964 – 1986 and instigated the FEI Jumping Nations Cup series.  He also actively encouraged the launch of the FEI Jumping World Cup in the 1970s, and played a major role in the creation of the World Equestrian Games.  (The World Equestrian Games had its inaugural staging in 1990).

In the video below, Prince Philip reflects on his time driving in a rare interview:

Happy birthday, Prince Philip, and we at Jumper Nation wish you all the best!

Sources: FEI, American Driving Society, Lisa’s History Room