Judges and riders 300 miles apart beat Covid with restriction-free show

  • Dressage riders and show organisers on the Isle of Man managed to beat Covid by holding a restriction-free show, with judges 300 miles away.

    As the island, in the Irish Sea, has been virtually free of infection throughout the pandemic, life has carried on mainly as normal in the last 16 months.

    Like other sporting events on the island, those organised by Kennae Riding Club could run as normal, with no limits on numbers, social distancing or other restrictions.

    But owing to the island’s closed border, there was no way of bringing in judges for the club’s British Dressage (BD) events, which put local riders at a disadvantage when it came to qualifying events.

    Club chairman Jess Collister said a committee member had asked whether it would be possible to stream the tests to a UK-based judge.

    “Jess is my partner and she asked if there was anything to be done to get the pictures over,” Juan Turner, who owns a media company on the island, told H&H. “I said if they were going to do that, they might as well have it so people could watch it.”

    Jess added: “Nowhere else in the world was competition taking place with zero covid restrictions – it would bring a bit of normality to people’s lives!”

    The club approached BD, which agreed to the idea, so Juan’s company Energy Media UK put on the three-camera outside broadcast set-up at Kennaa Equestrian Centre. Juan also “gave the Kennaa team a crash course in operating video switchers, doing their own voiceovers and adding in the graphics at the right time for each rider as they entered the arena”.

    The two judges, Sharon Butterworth and Sandra Edwards, who judged for one day each of the two-day event, were 300 miles away from their writer, who was at the venue.

    All watched the high-definition video and communicated via a talkback system.

    “It was quite a big effort to pull it together to make it work but everyone did really well,” Juan said. “The main camera was at C, where the judge would be, and it followed the riders as they went; the judges said it was incredible, really clear pictures.”

    Juan added that there was excitement on the riders’ part at the thought of being live-streamed for the world to watch, and because it was a chance to compete at BD level.

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    “The feedback was really good,” he added. “Some riders were a bit apprehensive about how it would work but they said it was amazing, and of course they could watch their test back afterwards. Plus, the weather was lovely, which always helps!”

    Jess added that the club is very grateful to BD for “having faith in us and allowing the event to take place”.

    The club’s next show, on 7 August, will again be streamed live on YouTube, at Kennaa Riding Club IOM.

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