Like everything this year, being done differently
By Kim Hughes
It’s impossible to overstate the towering cultural and commercial significance of the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, which was inaugurated nearly 100 years ago in 1922 and is the largest combined indoor agricultural fair and international equestrian competition in the world.
For generations, school children and families from far and wide have made the pilgrimage to (ironically) downtown Toronto — where the Royal, as it is known, is staged each November — to see cows, goats, sheep, chickens and other livestock, learning the symbiotic connection between farm and table.
They also marvelled at the beautiful horses of countless breeds competing at the highest levels of show jumping and dressage. The food stands weren’t too shabby, either.
For those working in agriculture or the equestrian industry, the Royal is a must-attend event on the calendar; an essential way of connecting with others working in the field and with members of the public as commercial exhibitors, marketplace vendors and, of course, riders competing in the Horse Show
Photo : Danny Ingratta from Millar Brooke Farm shopping some Matt Harnacke Products at the Royal 2019
The Royal is the trade show to end all trade shows. For equestrians, according to superstar show jumper Amy Millar, being at the Royal represents the very pinnacle of competitive riding.
“It’s absolutely one of the top three competitions in Canada. The Royal is our chance as Canadian athletes to play with the big kids,” says Millar, whose dossier includes (but is not limited to) 25 grand prix career wins to date and being a member of Canada’s Olympic team in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
She continues: “We are competing with best in our sport, and if you look at the list of international riders at the Royal last year, the quality was unbelievable. BoTh the Europeans and Americans fight like crazy because there’s only eight spots each for Canadians, Americans, and Europeans. It’s a privilege to compete at the Royal.”
Yet as with so much of 2020, the Royal will be different this year — online only (register here) from November 10 to 14 due to COVID-19. This is only the second time in the Royal’s history that organizers have been unable to “bring the best of country life to the city,” as a video on the official website puts it. The other postponement happened during World War II.
One can only imagine what W.A. Dryden, the shorthorn cattleman who led a collective of notable farmers and horsemen in founding the Royal as a way of showcasing Canada’s best agricultural products and livestock — earning the blessing and the “royal” moniker from King George V of England — would make of the Fair’s enduring legacy and importance.
For retailers like Back on Track, the Royal has long been a vital way of connecting with BoTh professional and amateur equestrians while showcasing leading-edge products that can be game-changers to the sport and especially, those participating in it.
And almost nothing is as much of a game-changer as our helmets with Multi Directional Impact Protection System (MIPS) technology, which represent a breakthrough in brain safety based on protection against the rotational motion transmitted during angled impacts to the head.
It’s worth noting that Back on Track, though not a dedicated helmet company, was the first in North America to bring the Swedish-developed MIPS technology to market, recognizing as we did a worrying vacuum in the horseback-riding world (while building on our company’s Swedish roots).
“I think every kid coming into riding, and every parent supporting them, should be given the opportunity to have a look at the research and the science behind these helmets,” says Ottawa-based Steven Brougham, whose 19-year-old daughter Isabella Brougham has been a passionate rider for years, has ridden at the Royal, and is coached by BoT-sponsored rider Alex Grayton.
Photo: Alexander Grayton wearing his Back on Track EQ3 w/MIPS helmet
Brougham continues: “You only need one episode to set your child back, and it’s a costly sport to begin with. For the most part, your kid is only riding for a short time, so you hate to lose a season to concussion.”
He would know; Isabella suffered two (possibly three) concussions over the years, including one in competition. “Alex and I both agreed that every kid should have one of these helmets. Plus, they look good. People need to get beyond what looks fancy and think about safety. These helmets look great and the cost is very reasonable.”
Those sentiments are echoed by Ian Hayne, whose work as a pilot for STARS air ambulance in Saskatoon makes him keenly aware of the potentially debilitating results of concussion. “I probably respond to two or three horse-riding accidents a year,” he says.
That, coupled with the fact that Hayne’s daughter Abby suffered a concussion following a fall during one of her riding lessons when she was nine (she is now 13) put him on the hunt for best-in-class head protection.
“Abby was not wearing a helmet with MIPS technology at that time,” Hayne says. “I immediately called my physician coworkers for advice on how best to handle her symptoms. She was off from riding probably for two or three months after that.
“That’s when I started investigating which helmets had the best safety rating. I stumbled upon an article done by a consumer report that ranked two Back on Track helmets with MIPS technology at the very top of the list. The brain is the most important part of the body to protect. After careful consideration to all the variables and choices, it was an easy decision to equip Abby with a BOT EQ3 helmet.”
Even though an in-person version of the Royal has been postponed until 2021, Back on Track customers can access Royal Winter Fair -like deals by coming to our online celebration hosted at our site (https://BoTcanada.com/). It runs concurrently with the virtual version of the Royal.
BOT is celebrating 98 years of the Royal Winter Fair with the following PROMOTIONS:
→ 15% off all BoT YOUR HEALTH products
→ 40% of all BoT EQ3 HELMETS, with MIPS technology (available online or in-store at participating retailers)
→ 20% of all MATT HARNACKE products, a BoT exclusive (online only)
→ 20% off all BoT DOG products, excludes items already on sale
“This is probably the first year in my life that I have not attended the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in some capacity,” Millar says. “It has been a part of my family and being Canadian, the very first time you are successful at any show on a pony, the goal becomes making it to the Royal.
“I’ve had great success there and great challenges there, just like any other show. The successes are so sweet… and challenges very humiliating in front of all that talent in a tiny indoor venue,” she laughs. “But from a competitor’s perspective, next year when the Royal returns, we will all be hungrier than ever.”