Following the introduction of new quarantine requirements affecting those returning from competition in France, the riders concerned have agreed not compete at Britain’s first international horse trials since lockdown lifted. H&H finds out more...
Elite event riders competing in France last weekend when new quarantine requirements were brought in at short notice will not ride at the UK’s first international event at Burgham this week.
A small number of eventers riding at Haras du Pin in Normandy — which had classes from two- to four-star, including the first FEI Eventing Nations Cup of the season — were set to compete at Burgham (19 to 23 August).
The riders were already in France and competition at Haras du Pin had started when the announcement came through on Thursday night that people returning to the UK after 4am on Saturday would be required to quarantine for 14 days.
Some competitors are eligible to apply for an elite athlete exemption, provided by British Equestrian or British Eventing under the Department for Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) guidance, which allows them (and certain members of their support team) to return without quarantining.
However, they will now not compete at Burgham.
BE originally stated it was down to individual riders to ascertain whether they fulfilled the elite athlete criteria and could therefore apply for a self-isolation exemption, and told H&H those riding on the Nations Cup team at Haras du Pin would be classed as elite.
This was further clarified on Sunday (16 August) to state, under BEF guidance, that: “Exemptions may be awarded to riders on the World Class Performance Programme and those selected to represent Great Britain on a team or at a championship.”
BE added for eventers who do not qualify under the BEF criteria, consideration will be given to: any rider who has earned their jacket pocket flag with in the last four calendar years (all age categories) and riders who have finished in the top 10 at a five-star CCI FEI competition in the last two calendar years.
“In line with the BEF’s position, any exemption will only currently be given where an athlete has travelled to a country on the UK Government’s exempt list to compete which becomes non-exempt during the period of competition,” said a statement from British Eventing (BE).
Questions were raised as to why riders could be exempt, when other sports have different criteria, such as racing. The British Horseracing Authority released a statement on Friday (14 August) morning, stating all returning jockeys and staff had to be tested twice, seven days apart, before going anywhere. This timing meant Frankie Dettori could either choose to take his rides at Deauville at the weekend, which he did, or his rides at York this week.
The BEF and BE have also strongly urged exempt riders to be tested for coronavirus twice before returning to activities, but it is not a requirement.
A BEF spokesman told H&H riders will be required to to negotiate the “normal procedures” to book a local test. How this will work given NHS guidance surrounding testing and who can apply remains to be seen.
The BEF also told H&H British-based foreign riders — several of whom were at Haras du Pin and entered for Burgham — would need to seek information from their own national federations.
When H&H magazine went to print last night, Burgham was planning to allow riders to compete, under the DCMS exemption and in line with BE and BEF guidance, albeit with strict additional protocols.
But today (18 August) the event announced it has agreed together with BE and the riders concerned that those riders will not.
“This has been an extremely difficult situation and we apologise to those riders affected,” said event director Martyn Johnson.
“Although the riders could apply for an exemption under the DCMS guidelines, we are all in agreement with the proposed way forward. We were all very uncomfortable with the idea of any potential risk, however small, to our amazing volunteers and helpers and the local community – and of course other riders, owners and officials.
“Burgham is the first international event of the British 2020 eventing season. We do not wish to jeopardise the rest of the equestrian competition season or to bring ill-feeling towards the equine community from other parts of society.”
BE chief executive Jude Matthews thanked riders who applied for the elite athlete exemption “who have done everything necessary to ensure that they have kept themselves and others safe”.
“While the exemption covers them to compete at Burgham, all involved agreed that it would be prudent for those returning from Haras du Pin not to compete at Burgham this week,” she said.
“It has been a difficult period for all concerned, but safeguarding both our members and the future of the sport remains absolutely key.”
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