Riders’ competition hopes as Covid continues to challenge *H&H Plus*

  • European travel restrictions have affected British and British-based riders hoping to compete at top-level events on the Continent. H&H finds out who has managed to find ways safely to get to the competitions, and how

    PANDEMIC challenges continue for top riders but there is hope as competitors find ways to make the 2021 season work.

    Two British riders and a few British-based international riders have found ways to comply with German travel restrictions and compete at Luhmühlen (17-20 June).

    Exceptions were announced for elite athletes last week but British Equestrian (BEF) eventing performance manager Dickie Waygood told H&H this only reached him on Saturday (12 June), by which time most Brits who might have taken advantage were already at Bicton.

    “If anyone had a problem at Bicton, it could have been an option but it was a step too far, unfortunately,” he said.

    Mollie Summerland (pictured) is entered in the CCI5* on 12-year-old gelding Charly Van Ter Heiden, with whom she finished 10th at their five-star debut at Pau 2020.

    Germany’s travel restrictions broadly mean most people cannot enter the country if they have been in the UK within the last 10 days.

    Mollie based herself with Dutch Olympic rider Tim Lips in the Netherlands, to comply with the rule, and explained why it was important for her, as a young professional rider, to take on the opportunity.

    “I only have one horse at this high level and you never know if you’re going to be in this position again, with a horse that is fit, sound and feeling amazing,” she said.

    She added Pau was a “fantastic experience”, as a rider and in terms of building her businesses as it led to new horses joining her string.

    As her younger horses needed downtime after their three-day runs at Houghton, the possibility and reasons for going to Luhmühlen as a rider gaining valuable experience and with her business head on, made sense.

    David Doel was already planning on competing at Renswoude in the Netherlands (2-6 June) with two other horses, not bound for Luhmühlen, before the German travel ban was announced. Those horses returned home after Renswoude while David remained in the Netherlands and was joined by his three CCI5* rides: Dunges Don Perignon, Shannondale Quest and Carneyhaugh Rua.

    He told H&H the cancellation of the British CCI5*s means horses at the level had already missed opportunities, which is why he decided to head to Luhmühlen, and his owners have been “so supportive”.

    New Zealand’s Tim and Jonelle Price, whose entered horses include 2019 and 2018 winners Ascona M and Faerie Dianimo and Tim’s 2018 Burghley winner Ringwood Sky Boy, have been out of the UK for long enough to comply with Germany’s travel restrictions. British-based Australian multiple Olympic medal winner Andrew Hoy, who has Vassily De Lassos and Bloom Des Hauts Crets in the CCI4*-S has been quarantining in Belgium.

    The German travel restrictions were raised at the FEI Sports Forum (1-2 June), as most horses will be quarantining in Aachen ahead of their flights to Tokyo from Liège Airport in Belgium.

    FEI director of games operations Tim Hadaway told the forum that these challenges were “being addressed at the very highest level” and a British Equestrian spokesman has since confirmed that horses can quarantine in the UK.

    “All of our [horses] across the disciplines will be quarantining in this country and all arrangements have been made with Defra to get their approval in line with the requirements,” she said. “The exception will be European-based horses, who will have the option to do their quarantine in Aachen with the other nations.”

    French travel restrictions and vaccination timings mean there will be no British riders at Le Mans CDI4* (17-20 June), but there was better news for the British showjumpers competing at La Baule Nations Cup (11 June).

    A spokesman for British Equestrian told H&H that the showjumpers were already on the continent, so there was no issue with entering France.

    Tokyo is rapidly approaching and the final deadline for Olympic minimum eligibility requirements (MER) is Monday (21 June).

    There has been a reshuffle of Olympic dressage places in recent weeks after several nations gave up their Olympic tickets.

    New Zealand has withdrawn its individual dressage spots from both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, while Norway has also withdrawn its individual Olympic spot. This has resulted in a late call-up for Italy and Malaysia.

    This will be the first time Malaysia has competed in any equestrian competitions at the Olympics and their top rider, Qabil Ambak, is seeking his final Olympic MER at Le Mans CDI4* in France this week on Delatio.

    This is the first Games that Ireland has qualified a team, instead of sending individual riders. The retirement of the nation’s top horse, Vancouver K, ridden by Judy Reynolds, and the withdrawal from selection by Kate Dwyer, who is expecting a baby, has sparked questions as to who will be getting the call.

    Alex Baker, who is in need of one further MER, is on the start list for Le Mans aboard Dutchman but it was unclear whether she would be able to compete.

    You might also be interested in…