As the team chasing community prepares to get underway, H&H finds out what steps have been put in place to make the sport Covid-secure and talks to some of those involved...
The autumn team chasing season is set to start within weeks, in a Covid-secure manner, thanks to a “terrific effort” from all involved.
British Team Chasing (BTC) has announced its 2020 autumn calendar, which kicks off with the Warwickshire on 6 September.
BTC chairman Philip Cowen told H&H a “very nearly full calendar” has been put together, with a full complement of Covid-19 mitigation measures to ensure all involved are safe.
“A number of disciplines have rightly taken the plunge ahead of us and we’ve been following the way events have been running pretty closely,” he said.
“Team chases are run by individual hunts, on an entirely voluntary basis, and they have to be viable, as well as protecting everyone, so that means a more complex conundrum. But there’s a very committed group of people, determined to keep it as a sport, and feeling as near to the same as possible under the circumstances.”
Teams will be asked “to turn up at an allocated time, effectively to compete and then leave”, Mr Cowen said, which will remove the social side of the sport, but should not affect the chase itself.
Other measures include social distancing, no secretaries’ tents, and all administration in advance.
“At the same time, we’re very anxious to ensure the team ethos is very much kept,” Mr Cowen said. “This has taken a significant commitment, which is fantastic.”
Hannah Mahon, of the Warwickshire organisers, told H&H the team is “delighted” to be going ahead so soon.
“We’ve followed British Eventing’s template closely,” she said. “Since Barbury Horse Trials, which friends said worked really well, we thought that’s the basis for us.”
Competitors will see “hand sanitiser everywhere” and signs, and one-way systems for buying refreshments. And Ms Mahon said she hopes everyone knows by now to stick to the rules.
“I think riders are sensible with this sort of thing anyway; they’re not the types to be on a packed beach,” she said, adding that rider awareness of biosecurity and contamination should help.
Fence judges will also have full PPE, she said, and the warm-up area has been increased in size.
“We’re delighted to be running,” she said. “And our entries are full, we’ve closed them. People obviously want to get back out and it’s nice to crack on.”
The Duke of Beaufort’s team chase will run on a new course at Sopworth, north Wiltshire, on 25 October, and the Avon Vale will run on 4 October to replace its lost spring fixture.
BTC said it will monitor the situation and work with organisers and authorities to ensure events are compliant.
“Most importantly, we are immensely grateful to landowners, organisers, volunteers and other helpers and sponsors in enabling a calendar to be put together in such challenging circumstances as the country is experiencing at large,” a spokesman said.
“We are sure all competitors will help organisers achieve smoothly run, viable events.”
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