Competition on and supporters welcomed as normality starts to return *H&H Plus*

  • H&H finds out what the most recent easing of lockdown restrictions means for riders in all the home nations, including the implications for competing and spectating

    SUPPORTERS are returning to equestrian sport and restrictions on the use of indoor schools have eased as the horse world takes further cautious steps back to normality in England.

    The latest step in the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown is a boost for those riding school and competition venues hit by frustrating restrictions on use of indoor arenas, which have now lifted.

    “Throughout the pandemic, our aim has been to provide as much tangible support as possible to everyone in the equestrian community,” British Horse Society chief executive James Hick told H&H.

    “Our BHS hardship fund and coronavirus donations appeal collectively raised over £1m for the ongoing care of BHS riding school horses and ponies – a lifeline to many of our riding schools, enabling them to survive and be around for future generations of equestrians.

    “With this next phase out of lockdown, we look forward to a brighter future with the gradual reopening of riding schools, coaching, and the return of live events.

    “This is vitally important for riding schools, as businesses, to be able to open their doors once again, enabling riding to be accessible for current and new riders, as well as for the welfare of their horses and ponies.”

    The new rules mean organised sport can take place both outdoors and indoors “with no limit on numbers”, subject to sport-specific guidance.

    Spectators at shows are down to organisers’ discretion, in line with their member body’s rules. A ticketing procedure and full Covid protocols should be in place, and social distancing and gathering limits also apply.

    Racecourses and point-to-points also welcomed back fans from Monday, again with limits on numbers and strict safety protocols.

    Restrictions have eased slightly on rider support team numbers, while the restrictions on indoor hospitality and overnight stays have lifted. As with all these new rules, the eased restrictions all apply under additional Covid protocols.

    British Equestrian chief executive Jim Eyre said things are “certainly moving in a positive direction”, bringing us “ever closer to normality”.

    “I must stress that we all continue to exercise caution, not be complacent and act responsibly in line with the protocols in place from Government, member bodies and venues – we’re not out of the woods just yet,” he said, adding that provided the horseworld continues to work together, “we can look forward to a great British equestrian summer”.

    British Dressage (BD) chief executive Jason Brautigam said Monday was “another landmark day to getting our sport back on the road to recovery”.

    He added that the latest announcements allow all facilities to “fully reopen, within the permitted numbers”.

    “I’m delighted to say we’ve welcomed 1,200 members to [BD] since we restarted at the end of March, with many new members as well as those rejoining us – and it looks like we’re on course for record starter numbers in April and May,” he said. “However, it is vitally important that all participants continue to follow the protocols to ensure our activity can continue safely.”

    Racecourse Association chief executive David Armstrong said this step is a “hugely important milestone in the recovery of British racing”.

    He added that racecourses are “very excited” to welcome racegoers back and extend what they are able to offer owners.

    “Lockdown began almost 14 months ago and it has been a very challenging journey for the industry and for racecourses in particular though several false starts and aborted pilot events,” he said. “[This] marks a key step on the return to normality.”

    Home nations

    COVID rules vary across the UK’s devolved governments, but this week has brought easing of restrictions in every nation to some degree.

    Outdoor sport is now permitted in Northern Ireland, with further changes planned for 24 May, subject to a review today (Thursday, 20 May).

    Mainland Scotland, with the exception of Moray and Glasgow, has moved to level two restrictions. This means more competitors are allowed at events.

    Wales’ restrictions have been lifted to the extent of allowing overnight stays in holiday accomodation, including horseboxes at shows and training, and organised group activities in Wales are permitted for up to 30 people indoors or 50 outdoors. This means some shows are on, while some larger ones are unable to go ahead. These restrictions are set to be reviewed in three weeks’ time.

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