Poppy Foster in Year 8 at Alton Convent School and her pony Shoormal Veev were invited as one of only six jockeys and ponies, chosen from all over the country, to perform at The Queen’s 90th Birthday Celebration at Royal Windsor Horse Show. Poppy first knew about performing at Christmas but didn’t know what sort of event it was! HMQ90 as the event was known as, not only involved the jockeys and ponies performing their Shetland Pony Grand National as part the show, but also the jockeys took part in the finale where they sung and danced around the giant birthday cake and joined the military in saluting her Majesty the Queen and wishing her a Happy Birthday. The week began with rehearsals and a Shetland Pony Race at Windsor racecourse which was made into a short film and presented to The Queen by The Jockey Club as a birthday gift.
The nine hundred horses and fifteen thousand participants for HMQ90 were all accommodated in the grounds of Windsor Castle where a competitor’s village had been built, which was known as the “Global Village” as the participants had come from all over the world, some as far away as Canada, Chile and New Zealand. The Village comprised of a huge restaurant, a shop, entertainment, games rooms, relaxation zones, a medical centre and even a laundry! Celebrities involved in the show were often to be seen in the Global Village, Ant and Dec were spotted one day filming the back stage interviews, and even the Queen herself visited and was introduced to Poppy and the other Shetland jockeys while they were having lunch. She asked them if they were being well fed!
After three days of intense rehearsals, a night of torrential rain caused such severe flooding Windsor Great Park that the following day had to be cancelled, including that evening’s dress rehearsal. No horses were allowed to be removed from their stables that day and no one was even allowed to walk on the grass to try and preserve the show ground for the weekend. A tour of Windsor Castle was organised for the jockeys instead and that evening a huge party was thrown in the Global Village to lift everybody’s spirits. Fortunately a spell of sunny weather dried up the ground, along with an incredible effort by the grounds staff, and the following day the first of four Royal performances took place with the final performance on the Sunday Night attended by her Majesty the Queen and was televised live to the nation.
Back at school, Poppy excitedly explained, ” I only found out two months ago at the annual Shetland Pony training day and knew then it was a really big honour to perform for the Queen. When I came out into the arena the atmosphere was amazing but it was the lights and the cameras that surprised me. The whole week was really cool and very professional, I loved it.”
All photographs to be credited to www.esphotography.co.uk