Sporting events have been postponed or cancelled all around the world, no doubt a huge disappointment for enthusiastic riders who have been training their horses all winter. However, at the Worldwide Virtual Winner in June, riders of the Icelandic horse of all ages and from any country are invited to show off their skills and compete against the best without crossing any borders.
“It’s an experiment,” says Johan Häggberg, who is organising the event with Anne Fornstedt. The passionate FEIF judges, instructors, trainers and riders share a stable in Sweden, where they’re based. “It’s was Anne’s idea,” says Johan. “We were chatting in the stable one day and she said that she wanted to do a high-level online competition, so we started to throw ideas at each other.” The pair is usually quite busy giving clinics and judging at competitions but is currently unable to travel. “We were going to judge a lot – and I had planned to work abroad in Denmark for ten days but now the borders are closed – so we had to find other things to do.”
The Worldwide Virtual Winner will be held on 10 and 11 June for senior riders and a week later, 17 and 18 June, for junior and young riders. The seniors have until 25 May to sign up and submit a video of themselves riding the horse(s) of their choice, and the juniors until 1 June. The disciplines are T1, T2, V1, F1 and T8, a special “Corona challenge”. To compete, adult riders must have scored 7.0 at a WR event with any horse, junior and young riders 6.0. The limit is slightly lower for five gait (F1); adult riders need a score of 6.5, young riders 6.0 and junior riders 5.5. Provided that the videos are of a good enough quality, the trusted team of experienced judges: Jens Füchtenschnieder, Hulda Geirsdóttir, Peter Häggberg, Rune Svendsen, Steindór Guðmundsson and Sophie Kovac, will give all contestants the fairest possible evaluation.
Even though the competition is unofficial, it will be of FEIF standard, and winners of all disciplines will get a prize. Sponsors include Agria, the largest insurance company in Europe, and UHIP. “The more riders who sign up, the higher the prize money,” promises Johan. He is hoping for a good turnout. “I will be happy with 100 videos,” he says. Among confirmed contestants are Steffi Svendsen, Julie Christiansen, Jakob Svavar Sigurðsson, Christina Lund and Frauke Schenzel. “They are riders of the absolute highest level and many more have said that they want to join,” says Johan, adding, “We also have very good riders in our youth competition.” Franziska Müser, Matthías Sigurðsson and Jack Eriksson have confirmed their participation. Johan notes that for the junior and young rider class the age limit has been extended by one year, so riders who turn 17 this year will be able to compete in the junior class and riders who turn 22 in the young rider class.
Jakob Svavar Sigurðsson.
Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland will be represented at the Worldwide Virtual Winner but Johan wishes for riders from more countries and from countries outside of Europe to join the competition as well. “I hope that riders from all over the Icelandic horse community will join us; hopefully we will get someone from the US, too.” While the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly upset the equestrian world, it has also brought on some unforeseen opportunities.
“What’s interesting about this competition is that there are no borders. Contestants from all over the globe can compete without having to travel anywhere,” says Johan. “In Sweden we have the Corona Cup which is very popular. People who don’t normally compete go to virtual competitions. I think they will go on.” With modern technology, new markets can be targeted and the Icelandic horse community made accessible to more people.
Riders who wish to participate in the Worldwide Virtual Winner can sign up on icesale.se (instructions can be found on the event’s Facebook page). As mentioned earlier, the deadline for submitting a video is 25 May for adult riders and 1 June for junior and young riders. On 10 and 11 June everybody can watch on icesale.se when the videos are played one by one and the judges give their score (and one week later for the junior and young riders). The 20 highest-scoring riders in each discipline in the senior class and the 12 highest-scoring riders among the junior and young riders must submit a second video for the finals, which will broadcast as a live event on Facebook. The Worldwide Virtual Winner will reach viewers all around the world so this is an excellent opportunity for riders to promote themselves and their horses – and for the Icelandic horse community to promote their amazing breed.
All videos that are sent in will be visible on icesale.se until the competition is over.
Text: Eygló Svala Arnarsdóttir. Photos: Worldwided Virtual Winner and Gunnar Freyr Gunnarsson