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Rules confirmed on shows, riding, training and travelling horses during lockdown

All affiliated equestrian sport has ceased for the duration of the second lockdown, it has been confirmed, but riders may ride, and travel horses in some circumstances.

After yesterday’s (4 November) vote in parliament on the new restrictions, and clarification from the Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Defra and and Sport England, British Equestrian (BEF) has confirmed what the second lockdown means for the horse world.

“All competition and organised training under the auspices of our member bodies has been suspended for the duration of the lockdown,” a BEF spokesman said. “We would strongly advise all competition taking place outside regulated body control to also be suspended, and for riders not to support any shows for the period of lockdown.

“Training activity can be interpreted as riding for the purpose of exercise, and is listed for one of the permitted reasons for travelling, but must follow the legislation requirements around travel, location and numbers who can meet.”

The BEF is seeking clarification on where coaches can teach, and on travelling horses for lessons and training. In an update on Friday (6 November), it advised that external hire of equestrian facilities is not allowed, so riders may not travel to a venue and pay to ride there. This includes arenas, gallops and cross-country schooling venues, and all businesses that offer this service should suspend hire for the duration of the lockdown.

A spokesman said on 6 November: While we have endeavoured to cover all points, and have sought and received further guidance from DCMS and Sport England, we are now seeking further clarity from Defra regarding some possible equine welfare issues within the guidance, which also includes establishing a final position on travelling horses for lessons/training and will advise further in due course. This guidance is our interpretation of the legislation working with government and our sporting bodies and is subject to change. All stakeholders should read any guidance and advice and ultimately make a decision based on what they feel is appropriate for their circumstances.”

Stables and riding centres had been listed as facilities that should close, but after work by the BEF, British Horse Society, British Horse Council (BHC) and Association of British Riding Schools (ABRS), these have now been removed from the list.

They may only stay open within the legislation and requirements, with Covid-19 protocols, hygiene measures and risk assessments in place.

“Riding centres and schools may remain open and deliver formal training and education under the requirements of the legislation, and clients are permitted to travel to take part,” the spokesman said.

“We would advise any facility to work with their local authority and insurance providers to operate within the best interests for their businesses.”

People may leave home to seek advice about the health and welfare of horses, and other animals, and to care for or exercise them. Exercise includes riding but journeys from home should be “as short and infrequent as possible”.

“We would advise that you work with your yard owner/manager closely, and follow their guidance and wishes,” the spokesman said.

“During lockdown, it’s worth looking at a buddy system or allocating time slots to minimise journeys and avoid interaction/contact with others.”

People may ride with members of their households or linked households, or one other person, in a public outdoor place. The BEF advises that riding “is done for exercise purposes only and should ideally start and end at the yard where the horse is kept”.

Public open spaces include roads, so hacking is allowed.

“We don’t have any definite clarification around travelling your horse to a public outdoor place such a park, forest or beach for exercise (where horses are permitted), but it should be possible if done on safety and welfare grounds,” the spokesman said.

“It’s worth consulting your local authority or the landowners before doing so.”

Arenas at livery yards may be used, subject to social distancing and number restrictions, and riders may travel horses “a short distance” to use a private arena “for exercise purposes only”.

Feed, bedding and equipment shops may stay open, and guidance for vets, farriers and musculoskeletal practitioners has already been released.

Coaches may travel to clients to give lessons. The spokesman said: “Clients travelling to a coach’s base with their own horse(s) for one-to-one lessons could be covered under the legislation, which states you may travel ‘for education or training purposes’. However, there is no definitive guidance on this and it’s down to individuals to make their own decision.

“We would advise coaches intending to continue operating in England, both in person and using virtual provisions, to consult with their insurance providers in order to make sure that their cover is in place as normal during the lockdown period.”

BEF interim CEO Iain Graham said while this lockdown is less restrictive than last time, there is an “overarching message”.

“We must play our part by staying at home where possible, minimising contact with others and acting in a Covid-safe way at all times,” he said.

“We’ve worked hard with Government, in conjunction with our member bodies, to get to a position that upholds the aim of the lockdown but still enables the equestrian sector to function in the best interests of horse welfare and the livelihoods of all involved.

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“The removal of stables and riding centres from the list of venues that should close during lockdown has to be counted as a small victory for us all, and shows the power of what can be achieved when we speak with one voice. I thank the teams in the BHS, ABRS, BHC and a number of other member bodies for their help and support, and we’ll all work with our stakeholders to run what activity we can safely and within the legislation.

“As ever, giving clear advice is a challenge because much is open to interpretation but, ultimately, individuals and businesses must read the guidance and legislation, consult with the relevant organisations, and make a decision on what is right for them, and be prepared to answer any challenges from enforcement agencies, peers or clients. Thank you again for your support and patience.”

  • How will you keep busy during lockdown? Did you try anything new with your horses last time? Share your experiences at hhletters@futurenet.com

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