All shows and events are off across the country owing to the latest lockdown to control the spread of Covid-19 — but governing bodies are working on different options and contingency plans for the restart of sport.
The national lockdowns in England, Wales and Scotland mean no organised amateur sport may run, but British Equestrian and the governing bodies are working with the Government to prepare for resumption.
British Eventing (BE) hopes the start of the 2021 season may not be too much delayed from its normal early March kick-off.
“We have every confidence that the equestrian community will pull together to play its part once more during these challenging times,” a BE spokesman said.
“We are planning for resumption of sport in March. We may of course need to be flexible about the timing as guidance changes, however we anticipate at this stage that eventing could resume by mid-March.”
BE intends to implement an online training schedule shortly, and “continues to plan the rollout of alternative competition formats to support members in the transition to a full return to competition”.
“We thank you all for your support and understanding during these extremely challenging times,” the spokesman said. “We are all looking forward to welcoming you back on-event and for us to all enjoy the sport we love so much.
“In the meantime, we send well wishes to you and your families during this difficult time.”
British Showjumping chief executive Iain Graham said he understand the “extreme disappointment” members will feel.
“However, we have to all pull together and play our part during these extremely challenging and unprecedented times to ensure that we not only safeguard the health of our nation, but also minimise the strain on the NHS and the highly valued frontline workers who are doing their best to save as many lives as possible,” he said.
“With the vaccine now being rolled out across the country it is hoped that we are on the home straight in terms of tackling this pandemic. By pulling together now we should all be in a position, within a relatively short period of time, to be out competing once again and looking ahead to the numerous championships taking place alongside the deferred Olympic Games in Tokyo later this summer.
“Once again on behalf of myself and the entire board at British Showjumping, I would like to express our heartfelt gratitude for the ongoing support received from our members, officials, show organisers and sponsors.”
British Dressage is working on contingency plans for major fixtures and competition dates in the next two to three months, to “ensure qualification efforts are not lost, wherever possible”. Further details will follow in due course, although it may take some time to put alternatives in place.
CEO Jason Brautigam said: “It is incredibly disappointing to be entering a third lockdown and certainly not the start to the new year that anyone wanted. Once again we find ourselves in the unwelcome position of having to suspend the sport for what is likely to be at least a two-month hiatus while we all work together to help get the virus under control.
“We know you’ll be concerned about the impact this will have on the competition schedule and what this means for your hard-earned qualifications, but rest assured we are continuing to work on a number of options as part of our contingency plans. It’s quite a complex logistical puzzle, so please do bear with us and we’ll announce alternative plans as soon as they’re finalised.
“We really do appreciate the patience, understanding and support of our members during these difficult times, but as we proved in 2020, we have the resilience as a community to rise to these challenges and emerge even stronger.”
The lockdowns will be reviewed in Wales on 18 January, Scotland on 31 January and England on 15 February.
British Equestrian has released updated guidance to apply until then.
A spokesman said the federation is advising that, in England, coaches should “read the guidance and assess whether there is a necessity to continue coaching face to face”.
“We would advise that one-to-one instruction for clients who keep their horses on site at a coach’s home facility would be acceptable, provided Covid practices are observed”, the spokesman said, adding: “Coaches should also check with their insurance providers before undertaking any activities.”
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No hire of facilities is allowed, but private arenas, such as those at livery yards, may be used to exercise horses “for their welfare when necessary”.
“Travelling horses should only be on welfare or veterinary grounds,” the spokesman added.
In Scotland, arena hire is allowed and coaches may teach one-on-one sessions within each rider’s local authority area.
In Wales, the advice is as for England, with one addition being: “You may leave the house to tend to and exercise a horse in your ownership or care, but journeys should be kept to a minimum. The advice is not to travel horses off a premises for the purposes of exercise – all activity should ‘start and finish at home’.”
See H&H’s coronavirus Q&A for full details on what the lockdowns mean for equestrians.
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