The first steps back towards the return of competition *H&H Plus*

  • Following the government’s decision to allow only six people to meet up while exercising or taking part in non-elite sport in England at the current time, H&H has spoken to British Showjumping, British Eventing and British Dressage to find out the impact on plans for the resumption of equestrian sport...

    The first affiliated training shows since the start of lockdown look set to run this weekend, as equestrian sport’s governing bodies work together on plans for safe resumption of sport.

    British Showjumping (BS) had announced a plan on 22 May for the non-competitive events to run from 1 June, with a raft of safety measures to protect all involved. And while updates announced at the weekend have changed proposals somewhat, a number of centres hope to run viable events.

    Although elite sport may resume, behind closed doors, with more people and stringent safety measures, other sports must adhere to the fact each person can meet a maximum of five others (eight in Scotland, or only two households in Wales) while exercising or taking part in sport.

    British Showjumping’s plans

    BS CEO Iain Graham told H&H training show dates should start to appear in the BS online calendar this week, as they can comply with the new five-person rule, as well as the other guidance.

    “We’re trying to work in batches of five people in the warm-up at a time,” he said.

    Some large centres, whose employees have been furloughed, may not run yet as they may not want to bring employees back to work until they know there is enough work for them.

    The 22 May plan had set out a hoped-for return of category one and two competitive shows from 15 June, but unless the number of people who can meet is increased by then, this does not look likely. It is hoped national one-day shows may be allowed to run in July.

    All venues and riders must comply with protective measures, including entering online only, with time slots allocated, and riders should only travel to venues in their own region. The focus will be on social distancing, to protect all involved.

    “We were making plans not knowing exactly what was going to be relaxed; I think any relaxation coming out of lockdown is to be welcomed,” Mr Graham said.

    “Everything’s moving in the right direction. Some shows are looking to run this weekend, and that’s a positive step.”

    British Eventing’s plans

    British Eventing CEO Jude Matthews told H&H eventing is not expecting to start until at least 4 July, the “not before” date given by government for easing of other restrictions.

    “If we can go ahead safely, and within government guidance, from that week, that’s absolutely what we’d do,” she said, adding that BE is in contact with organisers of events that were in the calendar for July, and that its sport resumption plans are in place, but changing all the time.

    Measures such as paying start fees online and riders printing numbers have been released, and Ms Matthews said resumption plans are changing to reflect changing government guidance, but aim to deliver a viable and compliant sport, which fits members’ needs, when possible.

    “The plans are fluid; based on the guidelines at the time of writing but changing as restrictions ease,” she said. “They will remain fluid till we get to the point of starting competition.”

    Ms Matthews said she would like to see some sport this season, should this be possible, “albeit it will look different”.

    “We’ll keep planning and working on the information as it’s released, and ensure we can remain compliant,” she said. “We want people to feel safe and that we’ve done all we can to keep them safe.

    “Affiliated competition gives people that confidence, as we’ve got processes and a structure in place to keep them safe.

    “We all want sport to resume as soon as it can, safely and within guidelines; and we’re all working together on that. More places are opening for cross-country schooling, which will help people prepare and the fact they can do that is brilliant.”

    All sport when it resumes has to be under national governing bodies, so only affiliated activity may run in the immediate future.

    British Dressage’s plans

    British Dressage CEO Jason Brautigam told H&H BD’s approach is to offer venues options this month, as a “stepping stone” in the hoped-for return to competition in July.

    BD had already announced plans to restart flexi-training, BD youth coaching sessions, test riding and clinics with BD-accredited coaches, in all regions. Other options this month include training shows, clinics and test-riding events, based on local demand and viability.

    “We did have venues with dates booked in June, and this hopefully gives them a chance to get back up and running, and get some income, and get members active with the hope of competing in July,” Mr Brautigam said, adding BD has created toolkits for all stakeholders, and it is hoped events will run this month.

    Measures include an extra two minutes per competitor, to allow for social-distancing measures, and also to allow the judge time to prepare for the next person.

    BD is looking at using smartphones to record and transcribe comments, to remove the need for writers.

    “We’ve been working hard to get all operational plans in place,” Mr Brautigam said. “It’s a question of working with venues so they can get up and running, and offer a safe environment.

    “Giving everyone the confidence to return to activity in a safe, regulated environment is vitally important; after this long, we don’t want to rush into resumption.”

    All three CEOs thanked members for their patience, understanding and support.

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