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William Whitaker backs ‘fantastic’ multi-discipline Virtual Windsor event

Top showjumper William Whitaker is among those backing next month’s Virtual Windsor, which is to feature cross-discipline online competition.

After the success of May’s virtual event, organised after the real show was lost to the coronavirus pandemic, organisers of Royal Windsor announced the autumn series show, which will run from 25 to 27 September.

As well as showing, it will feature Riding for the Disabled Association classes, a Pony Club home international dressage competition and equitation showjumping, for which riders will submit video of themselves jumping three fences a stride apart and be judged on style.

Wiggy Bamforth, marketing manager at organisers HPower, told H&H that show director Simon Brooks-Ward’s approach to the situation has been “adapt and overcome”, and looking at ways in which riders will compete against each other in future. She added that the idea is to create something different, which works online, rather than try to recreate Royal Windsor itself.

Live-stream of the event will run on all three days, with submitted video, shopping, and short masterclasses from William.

“The big thing as well is that it’s not for the top, top riders,” Wiggy said. “Competition is starting again for them; this is particularly aimed at the grassroots people, who may not be able to get out; it’s about making it accessible.”

William told H&H he thinks the virtual shows are a “fantastic idea”. The spring event attracted some 4,500 entries from 83 countries, and William hopes this international interest will raise the profile of the event, and the sport in general.

“I always like to help out if I can with this sort of thing, and Windsor’s always been a favourite show,” he said. “I think it’ll be really good to help motivate people in this time when not everyone can get out.

“We’re lucky enough to have started going to a few shows but not everyone’s in that position, so if it helps give people a goal, that can only be beneficial.”

William advised anyone thinking of entering the equitation jumping to practise well beforehand, possibly working up to the full combination over a few sessions, so the horse knows what to expect by the time the camera is rolling.

“Even some of my experienced horses; they’re so used to home being home and knowing where everything is, then when we had a camera in the ring [to film the masterclasses] some of them were a bit ‘what’s that?!’” he said. “Build up steadily so your horse knows exactly what’s being asked.”

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One of William’s masterclasses features walking different lines riders might encounter in the ring, and then riding them.

“I didn’t get them right every time, but then explained where I’d gone wrong and did it right,” he said. “I think that’s good for people to see as you only see the end product, the 80 seconds in the ring, and think that’s how it is all the time but it’s not at all.”

The other masterclasses cover progressive flatwork and polework, building up a horse who had a break over lockdown, gridwork with a seven-year-old who can rush his fences, and some exercises ridden by William’s eight-year-old daughter Bella.

“It’s not going to compare with the show in The Queen’s back garden, in that fantastic ring, with all the trade stands, but I think it’ll help people get the feeling, feel involved, and bring back memories of the real show,” he said.

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