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New training formats and extra competition days on the cards for eventing’s restart

Alternative formats and extra days of competition are on the cards as British Eventing (BE) prepares for the start of this season.

In advance of 22 February, when prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to set out how the country will emerge from lockdown, BE has provided an update to members, stating that it is working closely with organisers and venues, and is looking forward to restarting sport as soon as possible.

In a statement released today (10 February) BE said it expects demand to be high, and has taken this into account when planning fixtures, to “ensure we provide you with the competition opportunities you need”.

BE CEO Jude Matthews told H&H BE is hoping for the season to run reasonably similarly to the way it would have without Covid, albeit with a slightly later start than normal. And as historically, it is not uncommon for March events to be lost to bad weather anyway, many riders’ seasons may not be badly affected.

“People may have had concerns last season about whether it could be Covid-safe, and work properly, and hopefully those concerns won’t be there this year because last season ran successfully,” she said. “We don’t know what different restrictions or changes might be put in place by the Government, but we know we can run a sport that’s socially distanced and Covid-safe.”

Ms Matthews added that BE has not added some late-March events to the calendar in case they have to be removed again, but there are organisers who will be able to run should this be allowed.

“Inevitably there are some organisers who are understandably unable to commit to running their events under the current uncertainty,” today’s statement said.

“We are marking these events as cancelled on the fixtures list but will leave them on the list so that it is clear which events have cancelled, and which are still intending to run. We are working to fill any gaps left by these cancellations and we will update the calendar with the additions as soon as we have confirmation of when sport can restart. As with the restart last year, entries will not open until restrictions are lifted.”

BE has changed its protocol on extra competition days, to allow organisers to ask for such days earlier, in the event of high entry numbers. Riders are asked to enter in good time, as extra days will only be added if entries are high before the ballot date.

“We also know that moving whole classes to a different day at short notice caused problems for you last year and we will be working with organisers to minimise this, where possible, as we restart,” the statement said.

Ms Matthews added that it is likely some form of tiers may be imposed again once lockdown is eased. If these do not allow competition in some areas, but do allow training, BE’s two new alternative formats will allow people to get their horses out while complying with restrictions.

“Train for eventing” activities will comprise showjumping and cross-country, while “try eventing” will run all three phases.

Ms Matthews said the details have not been finalised but the idea will be to allow riders and horses to jump BE-standard courses, while being on site for as short a time as possible, and having as little contact with others as possible, to provide Covid-safe training opportunities.

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The statement added: “It is likely that the restrictions will be lifted in a different way across Scotland and Wales and we continue to work closely with the BE Scotland committee and other stakeholders to ensure that we can restart activity as soon as we are permitted to in each region.”

Riders are also urged to complete any administrative tasks, such as registering new horses, as early as possible, to avoid the rush when the season starts. This is free and means all details will be online before riders need to buy their season tickets.

“Not only does this mean the process will be quicker for you, but it also enables the BE team to handle the registrations more efficiently behind the scenes and not create the backlog that occurs if everyone leaves it until the last minute,” the BE statement said.

The statement added: “While the timescales and roadmap for coming out of lockdown are not yet known, with Badminton due to take place in early May, we are exploring all opportunities to ensure that our elite combinations are fit and ready to run.

“We are working with our performance manager and our organisers to identify and provide the right training and competition opportunities needed as the pathway to Badminton, ensuring that we are safe and compliant within all Government requirements.”

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