European travel bans cause headaches for top riders in Britain *H&H Plus*

  • The German ban on travellers from the UK has thrown a major spanner in the works for Brits and British-based riders. H&H speaks to eventers, organisers and authorities to find out what might happen next

    FRESH challenges face elite British-based riders as travel restrictions place question marks on whether competitors will be able to compete at top-level events.

    Luhmühlen holds the first European CCI5*-L of 2021 this month (17–20 June) and more than 30 British combinations, plus many leading British-based riders of other nationalities, are entered.

    Doubts were cast over whether riders would be able to travel from the UK to the event given the German travel ban, for which there are very limited exceptions. The rules broadly mean that people cannot travel to Germany if they have been in the UK in the previous 10 days.

    A spokesman for the event confirmed on Friday (28 May) that there would be “no exceptions” to the travel restrictions for riders.

    One potential route for competitors still determined to get to Germany would be investigating travelling earlier and undergoing a minimum 10-day “quarantine” stay in a nation that does not currently have a ban on UK travellers and is not on Germany’s “areas of virus variants of concern” list.

    “This is not only binding for equestrian sports but for example also for soccer, golf etc. at the moment. Nobody can say if things will change again closer to the event,” the Luhmühlen spokesman said.

    “Therefore everyone needs to decide if they would like to hope and wait, find a way to travel earlier in order to go into quarantine or cancel their trips.”

    Riders are now weighing up their options and many are double- or even triple-entered in four-star sections at Bicton (9–13 June) and/or Millstreet (3–6 June).

    British Equestrian (BEF) eventing performance manager Dickie Waygood told H&H the news is “massively disappointing”.

    “There’s a few [Brits] looking at various options of a 10-day quarantine in another country, but I think when reality hits home, it just might be too complicated,” he said.

    “I think we might get the odd one or two there, if that. Obviously there’s Bicton, which is fantastic and Helen [West, manager] is doing everything she can to make sure she gets as many, if not all, of them in.”

    While Luhmühlen is not part of the British side’s preparations ahead of Tokyo, he added that the five-star “would have been a good barometer for the Europeans” (23–26 September).

    Tim Price told H&H he and wife Jonelle are “endeavouring to find a way” to Luhmühlen but things are changing on an almost daily basis.

    Defending champion Tim, who has twice won the CCI5*, is entered in the five-star class with his 2019 winner Ascona M, plus his 2018 Burghley victor Ringwood Sky Boy. Jonelle is on the five-star list with her 2018 winner, Faerie Dianimo.

    Imogen Murray, who was entered with her long-term CCI5* campaigner Ivar Gooden, told H&H: “It’s really difficult with ‘Charles’ as we were aiming for Luhmühlen because he is an out-and-out five-star horse. He’s not really a four-star short horse, he’s not really a four-star long horse, he is a five-star machine, so we really needed to find a CCI5* run for him when Badminton and Burghley cancelled.

    “With Luhmühlen cancelling there is the potential of Pau, but equally we are also now considering looking at ways that we could fund a trip to Fair Hill [the new US CCI5*] in October as another potential option. It’s a big cost for us as a team, it’s a big cost for the owners and there’s obviously extra risks involved with flying the horse and the team out to America, but it’s starting to feel like one of the only options left when you’ve got a horse who needs his five-star runs.

    “Five-star horses only have a certain number of years in their career and we are very aware that he missed one last year and we might miss one again this year, so we are now looking at funding options to help us get to America.”

    France also tightened its restrictions on Monday (31 May). Travel to France from the UK is now permitted only for EU nationals, French residents, or those travelling for essential reasons. It also involves a seven-day quarantine period, plus tests.Britain’s second point-scoring leg of the FEI Nations Cup showjumping series is at La Baule CSI5* next week (10–13 June), while Le Mans CDI4* (17–20 June) would likely have been on the radar for some of the nation’s leading dressage combinations.

    The BEF is awaiting news from UK Sport, which is assisting as a number of sports are affected.

    Ireland has travel restrictions in place, but top competitors are being allowed to travel to Millstreet with quarantine exemption, with negative tests, as part of a “bubble” situation. This  means they are stabled and parked in a separate area to avoid any cross-over with Irish-based riders. There was a similar set-up at Ballindenisk in April, while there have also been bubbles at racing fixtures such as the Cheltenham and Aintree festivals.

    “We are very thankful that Horse Sport Ireland and Sport Ireland have made it possible for these combinations to come and compete in Millstreet,” a spokesman for the event told H&H. “It will provide a great standard of competition for all and great Olympic preparation.”

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