Dressage and showjumping’s plans to restart their sports

  • British Dressage (BD) and British Showjumping (BS) have released further details as to how they are planning to resume activity when the time is right.

    The organisations are also hopeful they will soon be is a position to encourage people to ride again.

    H&H has reported on the work the governing bodies and British Equestrian are doing to get the sport up and running when it is safe to do so. This includes logistical planning (news, 30 April) and working with the government in putting forward a “strong case”that the equestrian sport will be in a favourable position to resume while complying with any restrictions (news, 7 May).

    All affiliated dressage and showjumping activity is suspended until 31 May, which will remain the case until restrictions are relaxed.

    “Until now our focus has been on managing the initial impact on our sport and organisation in the wake of the pandemic and responding to constantly evolving conditions,” said BD chief executive Jason Brautigam.

    “But we feel it’s now appropriate to look forward to the resumption of the sport and consider what this will look like over coming weeks and months. We’re extremely grateful for the support that we have received from members and stakeholders so far and we all want to get back under way when it’s possible.

    “While it is important to stress that this will only be when it’s safe to do so and in line with whatever government regulations remain in place, it is important that we have an operational plan ready to put into action as soon as we get the green light.”

    Individual operational plans and summary documents are due to be released shortly by both organisations. The uncertainty of the pandemic means precise timescales for each stage are difficult to pin down.

    But the organisations are hopeful the government announcement due on Sunday (10 May) “could potentially provide more of an indication on the relaxation of lockdown measures and give a clearer timeframe to move these plans forward”. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in parliament yesterday (6 May) he hoped some lockdown measures could be eased from Monday.

    BD and BS are looking at managing the short, medium and long-term implications of the crisis in three phases: response, resumption and recovery.

    After this, there are four stages in the gradual approach to the resumption of activity: ride, train, compete and qualify, with each stage dependent on what government restrictions allow.

    “The first priority is to get members back riding, where it is safe to do so, then restart limited one-to-one training activity,” reads the statement.

    “Online training and competitions can then pave the way for face-to-face activity to resume, including test riding days and training shows, before standard competitions begin again, with appropriate social distancing measures implemented.”

    It adds these measures will be “small scale initially”, including any limits to public gatherings and distances permitted for travel, with the competition structure building back up again as these restrictions are relaxed.

    “In the emergent phase of the outbreak, it was necessary to avoid any activity that would put additional pressure on the NHS and emergency services,” adds the statement.

    “With the NHS operating within capacity and extending support to other areas of critical care and specialist treatment, indications are that we will soon be in a position to actively encourage riding again as a low-risk activity that has clear benefits for the mental health and physical well-being of all participants.

    “This also then allows coaches to continue training with their clients, whether remotely online or in person where the coach travels to the rider. Once the government makes further concessions around travel restrictions and public gatherings, both organisations can look towards sport resuming, with modifications in place to meet any requirements.

    “Regional training, test riding and a new concept of training shows would build horses and riders towards readiness to compete.”

    Both BD and BS are preparing tool kits for different stakeholder groups to help with the safe return to training and competition.

    “We have to consider all our stakeholder groups in planning resumption, as everyone has been impacted differently,” said BS chief executive Iain Graham.

    “Across all equestrian disciplines there will be groups of ‘at risk’ individuals who may still need shielding and who are imperative to the delivery of the sport, there will also be those who may not have had access to or been able to ride their horses since the lockdown and in addition there will be some venues who will need more time than others to adapt to new requirements before they can re-open.

    “It’s not going to be an instant fix and it is difficult to put firm plans in place while the future remains so uncertain.

    “However, it’s vital that we’re fully prepared and ready for sporting activity to resume, so everyone can enjoy their horses and competing again and we can all collectively rebuild for the future.”

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    The disciplines are in a positive position to manage the resumption of activity while taking into account restrictions for a number of reasons.

    These include the fact that equestrian activity large takes place outdoors and is naturally socially distanced, attendance is primarily competitors only, with limited spectators, only small numbers of staff and officials are needed to run shows, communication can be managed remotely and in advance, contact tracing can be done centrally, if required, riders compete as individuals in non-contact sports and affiliated venues provide regulated, controlled environments.

    “There remains a great deal of work to be done on rebuilding the two sports back up to pre-crisis levels and formulating revised competition calendars, the shape of which will be dependent on when government restrictions are relaxed,” adds the statement.

    “However, the aim is to get back up and running at the earliest opportunity by taking a flexible and adaptable approach.”

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