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Coronavirus latest: more equestrian bodies call their sports to a halt

Many equestrian sports across the UK are coming to a halt as more bodies announce they are ceasing activities owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

The British Horseracing Authority (BHA), the Point-to-Point Authority, the Pony Club, Endurance GB, and the Hunting Office are the latest to cancel all events – following British Eventing’s announcement last night that all eventing would cease with immediate effect.

The British Horse Society (BHS) has cancelled its activities due to take place in Ireland; the BHS on Tour (29 March) and the National Coaching Convention (30 March). A spokesman said an update on the society’s other UK activities would be released today.

At the time of publication, the British Equestrian Federation, British Dressage, British Riding Clubs, and British Showjumping had yet to release statements on whether events under their remit would continue.

The Pony Club’s statement said the trustees had been in discussion yesterday and made the “very difficult” decision to cancel all centrally organised events.

“This includes the winter triathlon at Stoke Mandeville on Sunday (22 March) and the winter series final at Arena UK on 4-5 April,” said the statement.

“Following the Prime Minister’s announcement, requesting that we minimise social contact and non-essential travel, we advise all Pony Club activities cease with immediate effect.

“We would like to thank our members, parents and volunteers for their support in the decision to play our part in preventing the spread of covid-19.”

A spokesman for Endurance GB said its board had taken the decision to cancel all rides for at least the next couple of months.

“Following an emergency meeting, the board agreed unanimously in the light of the government advice and in the interests of ensuring the sport placed no additional burden on the NHS or put the health and safety of members, volunteers and officials at risk – all ride activity would cease until at least the end of May,” said the spokesman.

Endurance GB’s chair Phil Nunnerley added the situation would be under constant review in line with the latest advice, with the aim of resuming the season as soon as practical and safe to do so.

“This is a very sad situation,” he said. “I know during the enforced absence of the sport from the calendar our members will pull together, and our community will be an important focus for us all. I must underline our thanks to our organisers, officials, volunteers and staff for their support during these unprecedented times.”

The spokesman added ride organisers will be contacted and members will have entries refunded, while the board will be looking at ways to “boost” communication across Endurance GB’s social media channels including webinars and online training to maintain interest and focus on the sport.

The BHA said in a statement today (17 March) all racing in Britain is suspended from tomorrow to the end of April. This follows last night’s announcement the 2020 Randox Health Grand National Festival (2-4 April) was cancelled. Two race meetings remain scheduled to take place today behind closed doors at Wetherby and Taunton.

“The BHA took the decision to protect essential emergency services and the health and welfare of staff working in the racing industry,” said the statement.

“Racecourses and racing have obligations to ensure the safety of participants and provide medical cover which clearly cannot be fulfilled in these circumstances. This follows the new advice issued by government yesterday to combat the spread of the virus.”

BHA chief executive Nick Rust added the situation is a “national emergency” of which most have never seen before.

“We’re a sport that is proud of its connection to rural communities and to the local businesses that support our industry. But our first duty is to the health of the public, our customers and to racing industry participants and staff so we have decided to suspend racing following the government’s latest advice.

“Racing is a family and I know we will pull together over the coming days, weeks and months and support each other. By stopping racing, we can free up medical resources, doctors and ambulances, be they private sector or NHS, to assist in the national effort to fight this virus. And we can support industry participants and staff as they face personal challenges ahead and care for their own families.”

Mr Rust added there will be “difficult months” ahead for many.

“We need to focus now on ensuring that we can continue to look after our horses as the virus affects the thousands of participants and staff who dedicate their lives to caring for animals. We need to do what we can to support businesses inside and outside racing and the many people whose livelihoods depend upon this four billion pound industry,” he said.

The Point-to-Point Authority (PPA) announced today (17 March) the 2019/2020 season is now closed.

“This was a very difficult decision to make, recognising that many people’s livelihoods are involved,” said the statement.

“However the Prime Minister’s words made clear everyone should minimise social contact and non-essential travel. Furthermore our sport creates some medical burden, both on the course and potentially at the hospitals, where it would be unwelcome under the current circumstances.”

The statement added the PPA would like to thank everyone who has worked to keep this season going “so successfully” until now.

“We will be working on preparations to ensure we start next autumn in the same successful manner as last, and will soon be in touch with many of you for your thoughts and ideas,” said the statement.

A statement by the Hunting Office was issued to all masters and chairmen announcing all hunting would cease until further notice.

“This follows from the statement made by the Prime Minister yesterday. I realise that for many still hunting that this will not be a popular decision but hunting cannot be seen to carry on when all other social, cultural and sporting activities have been cancelled,” said a Hunting Office spokesman.



While cancellations continue to be announced across the UK, good news came from the Hong Kong Jockey Club (HKJC) where riding schools are planned to re-open this week.

“Beas River, Tuen Mun, and Pokfula riding schools will open on 19 March (Thursday),” said the HKJC statement.

“In order to ensure the on-going safety of all and to mitigate the risk of spreading infection, special measures will be in place until further notice. We thank you for your continued support and understand at this challenging time.”

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