How post-Christmas Covid rules impact horse sport, plus update on indoor arenas should lockdowns arise

  • The equestrian world is urged to “exercise caution and remain vigilant” as Covid cases soar.

    Equestrian activity can continue across the devolved nations and work is under way to challenge how indoor and covered arenas are viewed, should there be another lockdown. British Equestrian, its member bodies and the British Horse Society are in consultation with Government on this second point.

    “Collectively, existing research findings have been compiled, and a new study has also been commissioned, which puts forward a strong case that the application of the smoke-free (premises and enforcement) regulations 2006 on equestrian riding facilities does not take into account their size and volume,” said a statement from British Equestrian.

    “The submission is currently under review with Defra and we’ll keep up the momentum to try and keep our facilities open should there be another lockdown.

    “In the meantime, any equestrian premises which use indoor or covered riding facilities are encouraged to write to their MPs outlining their concerns for their business and the resulting impact on equine welfare, should any or all of the country come under lockdown.”

    New post-Christmas restrictions have been announced for Wales and Scotland. Equestrian activity can continue, provided mitigating measures are in place to comply with the new rules.

    From Boxing Day in Wales, up to 50 people can attend outdoor events and up to 30 can attend indoor events. A maximum of six people will be allowed to meet in public premises.

    First Minister Mark Drakeford said today (22 December) that there is an exception for team sports, where up to 50 spectators will be able to gather in addition to those taking part. He added that there is also an exception for events involving children.

    The restrictions mean that in reality, most sporting events will be taking place behind closed doors, such as the Welsh Grand National (27 December).

    In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced restrictions as of Boxing Day that will be in place for three weeks at public events.

    These include attendance limits of up to 100 standing and up to 200 seated at indoor events; and up to 500 seated or standing outdoors. All events will operate a 1m physical distancing requirement, and indoor contact sports should not take place.

    Covid passes are already required for entry into certain sporting events and venues across the UK. The rules vary slightly in each devolved nation and visitors planning on attending racing over the festive period are urged to check the rules for each meeting and racecourse before they travel.

    “The situation is rapidly changing and with differing requirements across the nations, so I’d urge the equestrian community to exercise caution and remain vigilant,” said British Equestrian chief executive Jim Eyre.

    “It’s important you follow the news in your area to make sure you’re up to date with any rules and guidance in place during the festive period and beyond.

    “We’ll continue to monitor any updates and publish guidance to ensure activity can continue, provided it’s within any Government requirements. Keep public mixing to a minimum, make sure you test before meeting others, wear a face-covering indoors and practice good hand hygiene in order to keep yourself and those around you safe.”

    The specific rules for England, Wales and Scotland are as follows:



    • In Scotland, the First Minister announced restrictions, which come in on 26 December for a period of three weeks around public events
    • Attendance of up to 100 for indoor standing events, up to 200 for indoor seated events, and up to 500 seated or standing outdoors
      All events will operate a 1m physical distancing requirement
      Indoor contact sports should not take place
    • sportscotland has issued further guidance on what this means for sport
    • From 27 December, people are being asked to limit their contacts, restrict gatherings to groups of no more than three households and to stay home as much as possible. Bars and restaurants should only operate on a table service basis where alcohol is served


    • The Prime Minister has confirmed that there will be no new Covid restrictions for England before Christmas but has not ruled out any further measures afterwards
    • It has also been announced that people infected with Covid in England can stop self-isolating after seven days, instead of the previous 10, if they show two negative lateral flow tests on days six and seven

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