As surveys of event riders from grassroots to elite level indicate an appetite to return to competition this season, H&H speaks to rider and organiser representatives to find out more, while British Eventing’s wrangle with its insurers over refunds continues...
Early indications show there is a demand for eventing this year, at all levels, as stakeholders move to work out how to target adapted events to best serve the sport.
Surveys and questionnaires have popped up, including a collaboration between the Eventing Riders Association (ERA), Event Horse Owners Association and British Eventing Organisers Association (BEOA).
British Eventing (BE) and multiple event organisers Bede has also sent out surveys to help inform when, where and at what level competitors might want events when restrictions allow.
While these are early indications, there is cautious optimism that there will be a demand for events, and having goals to aim for has also been cited as important by respondents.
ERA president Bruce Haskell told H&H the main focus of its survey was whether there was an appetite, which was shown to be the case, to establish where there is demand and the stages people are at with their horses.
“What we need to remember and to be responsible in considering is this situation isn’t like a wet January, waiting for the season to start,” he said.
“We don’t know when we can resume and haven’t had access to things to prepare our horses, such as gallops, dressage and showjumping.
“It’s a case of horse welfare, not just coming out with cold horses who aren’t ready to go, as well as fitness and preparedness of riders.”
Some 500 people completed the survey in four days, with a mix of grassroots and professionals.
Bruce added the question surrounding refunds and insurance is one people want answering.
“From a rider point of view, one of the main issues we were contacted about is access to championships and qualifiers – from the Science Supplements Cup to Olympic qualifiers,” he said. “[It’s important] BE uses the rest of the season to reshape the calendar to best suit the membership.”
BEOA chairman and event organiser Jan Cottam told H&H it is about finding out what the membership wants from events.
“We have to understand whether our events are going to be viable,” she said, adding organisers are “passionate” about the sport, and planning in the face of uncertainty is an anxious one. “Whatever the appetite is will point us towards a decision of whether or not to run. It costs an enormous amount of money and we take very little profit, which for most is ploughed straight back in.”
Bede Events has had a “phenomenal response” to its questionnaire of around a 50% participation rate so far.
Bede director Stuart Buntine told H&H there was a feeling people “want to get out and compete”, as well as questions surrounding targets such as the young horse championships.
“It’s really useful to get an understanding of what riders want and when,” he said, adding one key thing it has shown is that riders want to work out their goals for the year.
“A lot of grassroots and a huge number of professionals responded. A big thing was what are we aiming for – [there was quite a feeling] of there’s no point pulling horses out of the field if there’s nothing to aim for.”
Meanwhile BE’s wrangle with insurers to pay out entry fee refunds for cancelled events continues.
Competitors who had entries at the seven events cancelled after the ballot date as a result of Covid-19 lockdown are waiting for their money to be returned (news, 28 May).
Eventers pay a mandatory abandonment insurance premium with each entry fee. If a competition is cancelled before its ballot date, the money is returned. If after, the payout is claimed on abandonment insurance.
While refunds of events that had not reached their ballot date have been processed, BE is working with its brokers and a legal firm to pursue the £385,000 claim declined by the underwriters.
BE has now shared the abandonment policy, and said it is hoping for a “substantive update” this week.
A message to members stated it hopes this is positive, but if not, BE will recommend members take up individual complaints.
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