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Trot-ups and cross-country stops: virtual on-foot event brings grounded riders together

With refusals, a spook or two in the dressage and at least one pole down showjumping, it could have been any three-day event. But there’s a big difference.

As France went into lockdown last week over the coronavirus pandemic, and riding horses was banned, frustrated event rider Kate Bunby, who lives in the country, and UK-based Debbie Newton came up with a plan.

The pair’s Lockdown International horse trials has attracted competitors from an eight-year-old girl to a rider in her 70s – on foot.

Kate told H&H she has been posting her own hobby horse videos of each phase – including the trot-up and course-walking – and then inviting entrants to post their own efforts underneath.

And the full results are not yet in.

“I’ve got a frangible pin issue from the cross-country,” Kate explained, adding that she hopes to have final placings confirmed once her appeal to remove penalties has been heard.

“We’re the same as the UK in that we’ve got no competitions but we’re not allowed to ride, because it could put more stress on the emergency services. So I was thinking ‘What are we going to do, the horse is ready to run’.

“So I had the idea and Debbie and I conjured it up – and it’s been so much fun.”

Kate and her seven-year-old Anglo-Arab Dumbledor event at a high amateur level in France, competing in the young horse championships last year. And although the real Dumbledor is now grounded, her hobby horse alternative has been strutting his stuff in all three phases.

“My test was one I made up from French tests I’ve done, although my little hobby horse was a bit naughty,” she said. “They’re usually in 20x60m arenas here but we went for 20x40m, then realised it needed to be a lot smaller! One thing this has taught most of us is how unfit we are so once this is over, we might look at how we can work ourselves like we do our horses.”

Kate, who praised Debbie as “instrumental” to the competition, said it had thrown up a number of issues, and not only the frangible pin on her own cross-country.

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“One girl gave herself a stop cross-country – she also had to hide the hobby horse because her landlady came round – and pulled out before the showjumping, and someone else had a migraine, so she pulled out because her hobby horse got cast, and of course it means more to her than a competition,” she said.

“The main thing is that it’s brought so many people together. This is a dreadful thing that’s happening but we’re all in it together, we’re all in the same boat.

“It’s taken over my husband’s and my lives, but all for the best, and I’m sure we’ll do something else on the same lines as everyone’s enjoyed it so much.”

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