‘We will not let this rest’: frustration as Government refuses to allow indoor arena use

  • “We will not let this rest” is the position of the equestrian industry as the Government has refused to allow indoor arenas to re-open.

    Indoor arenas will stay mainly closed under the latest Covid restrictions, despite a joint campaign by the equestrian governing bodies.

    After nearly a week of discussions, it has been confirmed by Defra to British Equestrian (BEF) that apart from some exemptions, indoor schools may not be used.

    The BEF, British Horse Society, Pony Club and the Olympic discipline governing bodies led a campaign for clarification on the most recent legislation.

    “Our previous agreement with Government that equestrian indoor venues would be classified as outdoors due to their agricultural and airy nature no long applies,” a BEF spokesman said.

    “This is because the classification of what makes a venue ‘indoors’ has been now been determined using section two of the Health Act 2006, which relates to smoke-free regulations.”

    A Defra “roadmap” states that an indoor structure is one considered to be “substantially enclosed” for the purpose of smoke-free regulations.

    A structure is likely to be classed as outdoors if more than half the area of its walls is open. For details, see the smoke-free legislation.

    Indoor arenas may be used by elite sportspeople, mainly those on the World Class programme at P1 and P2 levels, owners of horses kept at riding centres and employees of such centres, to care for, exercise and provide veterinary services. They can also be used for organised sport and leisure by disabled people and children, which would include junior shows, and for activities that form part of the core curriculum of formal education or professional/work-related training/development.

    Otherwise, they must be closed until step two, no earlier than 12 April, when they may be used by a single household or bubble, or for individual sport, if the warm-up is outdoors. In step three, no earlier than 17 May, the intention is that indoor arenas may be used under the looser social contact rules in place at the time; allowing groups of up to six people or two households.

    “This is Defra’s current confirmed position and we ask the equestrian sector to operate in line with the above at this time,” the spokesman said.

    “Collectively, we will continue to make the strong case for the use of equestrian indoor riding arenas with Government in a bid to get agreement on their use at an earlier stage. We have support from a number of MPs and Whitehall staff, plus Sport England, who have worked strongly on our behalf. We thank our member bodies for their support and input this week and, with the support of the British Horse Council, we will not let this situation rest.”

    Continues below…

    BEF interim CEO Iain Graham said the sector’s collaborative working and united case had meant a strong argument put forward to the Government.

    “However, the position remains that indoor arenas are to stay closed on the whole,” he said.

    “We all share the disappointment and frustration that we know a number of venues, proprietors and the equine community will be feeling. However, we will continue the campaign on everyone’s behalf, with the support of Sport England, in a bid to get indoor riding facilities fully open within the Government’s stage 2 timeframe which we hope will be 12 April.”

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