Eventing world reacts to Badminton cancellation *H&H Plus*

  • H&H finds out more about the decision to cancel Badminton 2021, and speaks to riders and coaches to find out what this means, especially in an Olympic year

    THE eventing world has reacted with sadness and understanding after Covid forced the cancellation of Badminton Horse Trials for the second year running.

    The Gloucestershire CCI5* said in October it planned to run in 2021 (5-9 May) behind closed doors and as recently as two weeks ago said everything was “in hand”.

    On Monday (1 March) organisers said with “great disappointment and regret” the CCI5* and grassroots championships were cancelled.

    “Despite the encouraging Government announcements and rollout of the vaccine, the situation still remains fragile and unpredictable,” it stated.

    “Following consultation between Badminton, Public Health England and South Gloucestershire Council it has been deemed that due to the scale and location of the horse trials it is not possible to secure the surrounding area in the proximity of the event site.”

    It added the health and safety of all those involved and the local community “remains Badminton’s priority” and the level of operation and public health risk was “agreed by all concerned to be unacceptable”.

    Crowdfunding, as happened with Kentucky CCI5* (22-25 April) — whose entries close on 23 March — was not a solution, as local public health rather than finances were behind Badminton’s cancellation.

    A Badminton spokesman told H&H that as the event site sits within the proximity of Badminton village, it was impossible to secure.

    “It is not what we can control – the issue is what we can’t control in terms of people going about their daily business,” she said, stressing that the health and safety of the local community remains Badminton’s priority.

    “We did look at postponing but unfortunately this is not possible due to factors including, broadcast rights, Badminton Estate farming programme and fixture congestion.”

    Imogen Murray, eighth in 2019 aboard five-star specialist Ivar Gooden, whom she was preparing for their fourth Badminton, told H&H: “Obviously I’m really disappointed, especially as the news has been quite positive.”

    She added that Bramham or Luhmühlen are now on the cards, but she is also keeping a close eye on the developing EHV-1 situation in Spain.

    “Everything was heading in the right direction, so it’s a bit of a shock. It’s one of those things; it’s sad, but I do understand,” she said, adding that while everyone is keen to get going again, it would be a shame to rush and risk a setback when so much work has gone into safely getting back to normal.

    This would have been the first CCI5* and Badminton for Susie Berry, who is on the Irish Tokyo potential squad.

    “We were very excited, but it is one of those things,” she said, adding she is particularly sad for the owners of her Badminton contender, Ringwood LB.

    While Badminton wasn’t essential as a qualification for Susie and her listed Tokyo potential rides, it was a goal in its own right and a chance to get experience “at a big event with more pressure”.

    “It’s so sad for the organisers, owners and such a big team of people trying to make it all happen,” she said.

    British Equestrian eventing World Class performance manager Dickie Waygood told H&H it is hugely disappointing and he is “absolutely heartbroken for Jane [Tuckwell, Badminton director] and the team, and likewise for competitors and owners”.

    “Behind the scenes, I know that everyone is looking at every other option for contingency plans [for their own competition routes] and I have confidence that no stone will be left unturned,” he said, adding being flexible and having those back-up plans is important in the world we live in.

    “With regard to it being an Olympic year, although we have challenges over travelling with Brexit, there are still a number of four-stars in the calendar.”

    BE chief executive Jude Matthews echoed the disappointment.

    “The team has worked hard to do everything they could to make it happen and we are fully supportive of their decision,” she told H&H.  “With plans under way for the season to start at Easter, we very much look forward to seeing eventing action again soon, with Badminton back in the calendar for 2022.”

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