Wakefield Introduces Virtual Eventing—With A Twist

Apr 22, 2020 - 2:59 PM

As she perused social media in the early days of the novel coronavirus outbreak, Rachel Wakefield saw a nurse’s plea for people to stop hoarding and to help one another. Inspired to raise money for nurses, and after watching riders posting on social media, she floated the idea on Facebook of holding a virtual five-star event benefiting nursing charities.

After receiving positive responses, Wakefield, who runs Uptown Eventing in Ottershaw, England, began the planning process with her husband, Michael Wynne. Soon she had a framework, and the 2020 NAF International 5* Event was born.

Participating riders filmed themselves riding a dressage test at home. For the jumping phases, there will be a series of unmounted challenges, which have been distributed to the riders already.

“We’ve got a series of eight fun challenges [for cross-country], which we will reveal in due course, and then they will be show jumping, and there’s obviously a twist to that as well,” Wakefield said.

“They’ve all been working to a floor plan of what they have to do,” she continued. “It was all done in a 20 x 60 arena because obviously different people have different size arenas at home. They were given a bit of a free rein to dress up as they like, and some people have really gone to town, and it looks amazing.”

VirtualEventing_WilliamFoxPitt
William Fox-Pitt did his dressage test on Cool Mountain, with whom he won the 2010 Rolex Kentucky CCI5*-L and the team gold and individual silver at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (Ky.). Photo Courtesy Of Virtual Eventing/Fox-Pitt Eventing

There will be horse inspections with their own twist—expect some out-of-the-box outfits—and a virtual trade fair. The five-day event will be livestreamed May 6-10 on virtualeventing.com with BBC broadcaster Lizzie Greenwood-Hughes and equestrian presenter Spencer Sturmey providing color commentary.

“Everybody who has come on board has totally embraced what we’re doing,” said Wakefield. “It’s brought a little bit of happiness at a time when there is an awful lot of sadness in the world. I don’t want to say too much because I don’t want to spoil it, but basically, we’re recreating every aspect of an international three-day event. Well, not quite everything, but we’re giving it a good go.”

Though there was some concern over whether the event could continue after Fédération Equestre Internationale official Hans-Christian Matthiesen stated FEI judges are not permitted to judge online competitions in a memo, Wakefield spoke with FEI representatives, who said the organization supported fundraising events.

“We are happy that people are coming up with private fundraising initiatives during this terrible pandemic and, provided there is no classification based on the performance of a horse and athlete, it is not a competition under the terms of the FEI General Regulations and/or the specific Discipline Rules, so these initiatives therefore do not come under the jurisdiction of the FEI,” an FEI spokesperson said in an email.

VirtualEventingHallieCoon
Hallie Coon did her dressage test with Celien sporting #americares and #Hero4Health on her haunches. Photo Courtesy Of Virtual Eventing/Hallie Coon

Riders from 11 countries have signed up, with Hannah Sue Burnett, Katherine Coleman, Hallie Coon, Meg Kepferle and Boyd Martin representing the United States. Each country was assigned a charity—either specific to their country or a global organization—for which they’ll raise money. The U.S. riders are raising funds for Americares.

Wakefield said the main goal is to fundraise for healthcare charities. “The winner here is all the charities,” she said. “There’s only one winner really, and that is giving as much money back to the charities as possible. I really hope we can raise a lot of money.”

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