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Joy for dressage world as Winter Championships back on the agenda

The NAF Five Star Winter Championships and Petplan Equine Area Festival finals are back on after they were cancelled in April as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

British Dressage (BD) announced last night (16 July) that the revised championships are now set to run from 17 to 23 August at Hartpury.

All competitors who had qualified for the two finals were contacted and surveyed, with 75% suggesting they would be keen to compete at a rescheduled, Covid-19 secure show.

Event organisers Show Direct, managed by Kelvin Bywater, will oversee the seven-day show in line with BD’s pandemic protocols.

It will follow an amended format, with all competition taking place outside, “behind closed doors”, and with social distancing, health and hygiene restrictions in place.

There will be no spectators, sponsors, trade stands or hospitality on site, with competitors allowed to bring only one additional person per horse.

“Getting a rescheduled Winter Championships back in the calendar was always a priority for us, as part of our sport resumption plans, as long as the competitors wanted it — and they told us they certainly did!” said BD chief executive Jason Brautigam.

“Running a show this size in the current circumstances will be a challenge, but we’re confident that we have robust plans in place to ensure everything runs smoothly and efficiently.

“Add to that the management experience of Show Direct and first class facilities at Hartpury and we’re confident that the show can operate safely within government restrictions. It will be a very different championships, that’s for sure, but after months of lockdown the chance to compete and celebrate success will be as special as ever.”

Horse & Country TV will be providing a free-to-view livestream and a statement from BD said the organisers “will do their utmost to still promote a championship atmosphere for competitors”.

Both NAF and Petplan Equine have pledged their full support to the rescheduled championships.

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All the original classes are included in the revised timetable, which will be released next week, with the exception of the freestyle elements for the PSG gold and inter I championships, as the gala evenings will not be going ahead.

Stabling will be available on site as well as a limited catering provision from external mobile units.

Mr Bywater added: “The logistical task of preparing for a 38-class championships in a vastly reduced timeframe is well underway, but we’ll need to work collectively and with a degree of flexibility – that’s the BD and Show Direct teams, as well as the judges, officials, volunteers and competitors.

“Most importantly, we’ll all have to play our part, keep to the guidelines and follow the protocols in place – it’ll be a long week of teamwork for everyone involved, but we’re looking forward to it.”

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