Hope of light at the end of the tunnel after a difficult year *H&H Plus*

  • Despite the huge challenges of last year, there have been some positives, and there are hopes of better days to come. H&H speaks to governing bodies to find out what may be on the cards

    THERE is “still a long way to go” for equestrian centres following the past difficult year – but there have been some positives, as the industry looks ahead to 2021.

    It is hoped there is “light at the end of the tunnel” after a hugely challenging year for venues.

    British Showjumping (BS) chief executive Iain Graham told H&H one of the biggest challenges for venues has been the different lockdown rules applying in different parts of the UK.

    “We’ve had centres in Wales not able to run jumping competitions since March, and Scottish competitors going to England when Scottish venues weren’t allowed to open,” he said. “In England, some venues haven’t managed to reopen, such as Addington, just due to the costs of opening a larger venue.

    “Indoor venues struggle more because of increased costs with rates and lighting, and we’re restricted on numbers and not allowed to do hospitality, depending which tier or level you are in. The difficulty is how quickly things can change. Any venue that’s had to cancel shows because of Covid, we’ve been refunding their booking fee, but it’s very small in the scheme of them managing to survive for months being shut.”

    Mr Graham added that although he believes it could be years until we fully see the financial impact of Covid on venues, there were positives from last year, such as Bolesworth hosting the BS national championships, and Aintree the championship finals following the loss of Horse of the Year Show.

    “People in the sector are trying their best to make sure members have opportunities,” he said.

    British Dressage CEO Jason Brautigam told H&H there is no doubt it has been an extremely difficult year, especially for venues.

    “Restrictions and uncertainty have made it challenging to plan and get competition back to pre-pandemic levels,” he said. “We have tried to be flexible to help competitors and organisers in terms of fixture planning and show allocation, and by extending horse registrations and waiving minimum starter levies.

    “While there is still a long way to go, there is light at the end of the tunnel and we’re optimistic we will be able to achieve a full recovery in 2021. It may take time, but working with organisers and venues we aim to return to previous levels of activity and continue to build from there.”

    British Eventing CEO Jude Matthews told H&H the impact of Covid had been significant on eventing, but the restart of sporthad been “well received”.

    “Extra dates were added and we are grateful to organisers for accommodating these,” she said.

    “We hope 2021 will be easier – with restrictions eased and a more normal calendar possible. The majority of our organisers have indicated they intend to run in 2021 and we look forward to seeing our members enjoying sport again.”

    Working hard

    SARAH DALE, British Horse Society (BHS) head of business support for approved centres, told H&H the BHS has worked “tirelessly” to support centres, and has offered one-to-one advice. The BHS launched a hardship fund this year to support riding schools, which is now in its third stage, with 292 of 395 approved centres accessing the third round of funding. (news, 3 December).

    BHS recorded three riding schools and two livery yards had closed, and five riding schools had closed but were still offering livery.

    “Some centres have swapped from dual businesses to solely livery as lockdown made riding schools difficult to sustain. Those that have sold are either due to a good offer, or the’ve had no choice due to the pandemic,” she said.

    “We have also supported centres by hosting coffee mornings online. These sessions included helping with their social media presence, and giving them the opportunity to chat to others in similar situations.”

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