New rules on extreme weather aim to benefit horses, riders and venues

  • British Dressage (BD) has released new protocols designed to give competitors and venues clearer guidance on what to do when weather warnings are issued.

    The 2023 rules set out specific guidance for venues to follow when yellow, amber and red weather warnings are issued. These include when venues need to prepare a mitigation strategy, at what point the situation should be reviewed with BD, when competitions must be cancelled, and how much notice is ideally given to competitors.

    Last year was the warmest on record for the UK, according to provisional Met Office figures, with an average temperature of over 10°C. Temperatures in excess of 40°C were also recorded for the first time. The UK had four named storms in 2022, three of which came within the space of a week in February.

    British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) veterinary projects officer Lucy Grieve told H&H the guidance “should provide everyone with a protocol to follow and more predictability with regards to how those situations will be handled”.

    “This is also a change that is welcomed by BEVA in order to protect the welfare of our equine competitors,” she added.

    BD sport operations manager Lou Jones told H&H members “still need to take personal responsibility”.

    “Extreme weather conditions are becoming more frequent, both in winter and summer, so we wanted to produce more robust guidance for organisers and venues as to what actions need to be taken in the event of official weather warnings being issued by the Met Office,” she said.

    “In 2022 we experienced the full range of weather warnings over the course of the year, so this gave us a good benchmark as to what advice was available to the public in each set of circumstances, whether due to ice and snow, heavy rain and flooding, strong winds and storms, or extreme heat.

    “We want to be able to provide further clarity and manage member expectations when a warning is issued, as the speculation on social media can sometimes be alarmist and inaccurate.”

    She added that as forecasts can change quickly, the sport needs to be able to conditions on a day-to-day basis.

    “By having a more formal framework, based on the red, amber, and yellow warnings provided by the Met Office, this allows us sufficient time to consult with the venue, and either reschedule if necessary or put mitigations in place to ensure it is safe to go ahead,” she said.

    “With timescales often tight, particularly during the latter stages of qualification in the build-up to championships, this will provide us with the flexibility required to maximise the opportunity for BD competitions to run safely.”

    She added: “It is important to stress that members still need to take personal responsibility for their own choices, especially when considering travel conditions to and from a venue, and the length of time for their journey.

    “Equine and rider welfare must always be paramount, but we share collective responsibility for this with our venues and members – and ultimately, they still need to make decisions based on their own individual set of circumstances.”

    BD weather warning guidance: what are the new rule?

    The 2023 BD rule is as follows:

    • Yellow: In the event that the Met Office issues a yellow weather warning, the competition may still go ahead as planned, but the venue will be required to prepare a mitigation strategy for the weather event and communicate this to those members affected.
    • Amber: If the Met Office issues an amber weather warning, the venue will review the situation with BD to determine whether the competition can continue to be run as scheduled. The venue will prepare a mitigation strategy for the weather event, agreed with the BD sport operations manager, and communicated in advance to those members affected. If these mitigations do not allow for the safe running of the competition for members or horses, the fixture must be cancelled.
    • Red: In the event that the Met Office issues a red weather warning, the competition must be cancelled, unless there are extenuating circumstances and agreed in advance with BD. Weather warnings apply to the location of the competition venue itself, and decisions will not be based on where members reside, or if they are required to travel through an affected area. It is the responsibility of the venue to communicate with those competitors affected.
    • A decision on cancellation or postponement of the fixture will be taken no later than 48 hours prior to the start of the competition (unless there are exceptional circumstances), to allow for any additional planning or rescheduling required, based on the most recent weather report.

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