Following the cancellation of Royal Windsor Horse Show due to COVID-19, the organisers of the show have put an innovative solution in place; Virtual Windsor 2020, an online platform that merges virtual competition with ecommerce and social media. Virtual Windsor has already generated an astounding number of entries to its online Showing classes, which are taking place at the same time as the usual competitions at the Show.
Across all classes, there have already been 3,122 entries from all corners of the globe, demonstrating the willingness of the worldwide equestrian family to pull together and celebrate their passion virtually (a ‘normal’ Royal Windsor would receive around 2,300 entries to its Showing classes). The classes will be judged by Chief Showing Steward, Nigel Hollings, with expertise also provided by John Peacock and Linda Lawrance.
Alan Titchmarsh, Royal Windsor Horse Show Member, celebrated gardener and television presenter has joined in with the spirit of the event and is set to judge the fancy dress competition, which has already had some very creative entries. He joins a line-up of judges who have been selected for their expert knowledge, and who have previous experience at top Showing events.
There are exceptional stories from some of the other entries, such as a driving entry from the US whose competitor hand-built the wicker cart used for the photograph. Elsewhere, Frances Hampson-Jones has entered her trusted partner, Holliday, in the Ridden Senior Horse or Pony. Their combined horse and rider age is 90-years-old – quite a feat! Other heartwarming stories include the 27-year-old horse Sweet William, who has – despite health issues – competed at Royal Windsor every year since he was 16 in the Senior Horse or Pony classes, which he continues to contest virtually this year.
Emma Tovey, owner of Sweet William, said: “Royal Windsor is a very special show to us, and we will miss it enormously this year, but I’m pleased to be able to enter the virtual version. Bring on 2021 and thank you for coming up with a way to keep our spirits up!”
Elsewhere, the line-up includes racehorse Saint Are – five-time runner in the Grand National, including a second placing in 2015 – who is entered in the Retraining of Racehorses class, with his owners hoping to win one of the prestigious Royal Windsor rosettes.
Simon Brooks-Ward, Show Director, said: “It’s a great shame that Royal Windsor Horse Show couldn’t go ahead as planned; however, Virtual Windsor 2020 has been phenomenally popular, showing that everyone can come together during these tough times. The amount of entries we have received has been astonishing, with the variety and level of competition extremely high. We want to thank everyone who has supported Virtual Windsor 2020 so far and look forward to what is set to be an exciting Championships taking place on 17 May 2020.”
Virtual Windsor 2020 was also created to support the shops that the show houses each year, many of whom are independent traders. The online show has now welcomed more than 190 brands, with some of them displaying their wares at “Royal Windsor” for the first time this year. Many have selflessly contributed to the NHS however they can, with Hayfield England producing a beautiful hat pin in blue and white feathers to raise money for the NHS; Thermatex colleagues making scrubs bags for NHS employees; and the owner of Bella Singleton – a luxury clothing designer specialising in silk products – creating face masks available to the general public.
The Royal Windsor Horse Show community has shown an admirable ability to seamlessly transfer into the “Virtual World”, with more than 50,000 page views on the Virtual Windsor 2020 platform, coupled with all Royal Windsor related social media pages growing exponentially. As well as this, Virtual Windsor 2020 continues to grow the content platform. Interviews with a golden list of equestrian stars, including Ros Canter, Martin Fuchs and Daniel Naprous, videos of unforgettable Royal Windsor Horse Show moments of the past, top tips on horse care and nutrition, as well as a new series including Royal Windsor judges will all be uploaded in the coming days and weeks!
Entries for Virtual Windsor 2020 will remain open until Friday 1 May 2020 with shortlists of each class to be announced on Friday 8 May 2020. Classes will be judged during Show week with final winners progressing to the Championships being judged on Sunday 17 May 2020.