Why Burghley cancelled, plus another Nations Cup leg lost *H&H Plus*

  • H&H speaks to the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials director about the reasons behind this year’s cancellation, and gets the rider view, as well as investigating what the loss of Dublin Horse Show 2021 means for the Nations Cup series

    BRITAIN has lost both CCI5* events for a second year as Covid uncertainty and no available pandemic insurance forced the 2021 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials to cancel.

    Organisers of the event (2–5 September) said on 8 May there “have been and remain too many variables and uncertainties owing to the pandemic to deliver this much-loved international event”.

    Burghley director Elizabeth Inman told H&H the costs and set-up of the event made the financial risk unviable.

    “All events start from a different perspective about their basic infrastructure, whether they have permanent facilities or, as we are, a greenfield site, and that alters cost significantly,” she said, adding costs would be “well in excess of £1m” to set up to run, even behind closed doors.

    “Under FEI rules, there are minimum prize money requirements, TV costs are significant, as are costs before you even start on a greenfield site – there are a lot of extras when it comes to running a five-star that would be different to many other events.

    Added to which, Burghley Horse Trials is owned by the Burghley Estate, which comes under the overarching body of the Burghley House Preservation Trust that has charitable status.”

    She said this status means it is unable to underwrite or subsidise the significant financial and reputational risk that would come with a sudden and late cancellation. Other events in Burghley Park this year are significantly smaller than the horse trials and independently run, so shoulder their liability.

    “We did explore crowdfunding, and spoke to many riders, among other bodies, and received masses of support. It’s sadly not just about that and the estate has other considerations, such as the local area, how it affects people who live locally, the perception of running behind closed doors; it’s a bigger picture and we must acknowledge we are here by invitation of the landowners, Burghley House Preservation Trust, who are our hosts,” she said.

    She added that while many national events can have hundreds of competitors to bring in funds from entries, Burghley is limited to 80 and as the weeks go by, the pre-event costs increase. A late cancellation would risk more than just this year’s event; it could “jeopardise” the fixture’s future.

    “The support we’ve had from riders and bodies has been phenomenal and we understand the huge disappointment; as well as riders there are owners, sponsors, horses getting older, and we share that,” she said.

    Tim Price, who won Burghley in 2018 on Ringwood Sky Boy, told H&H he had intended to retire the horse there last year.

    “He came into work super this year, aged 18, and I was really excited about trying to repeat the dream,” he said. “It’s really difficult for owners too as they’re starting to question what they’re investing in.

    “It seems surprising, when so many things are going on, that there wasn’t an alternative. Most of the country will be vaccinated by then, there seem lots of reasons it would be doable; stadiums and malls are filling up, but we can’t hold an outdoor event.”

    Tim said not knowing the full reasoning makes it harder to understand the decision.

    “[Jonelle and I] would pay thousands; no one’s asked us to but we’d pay £4,000 to enter instead of the £600 or so if that’s what it took,” he said. “Last year, they seemed more open to running behind closed doors, which in my opinion could work really well, as the whole world is desperate for the sport.

    “Maybe they have tried different things and failed, we’re not privy to it, but it’s very disappointing.”

    Nations Cup question mark

    IT has been a mixed week for equestrian sport. While Royal Windsor and Horse of the Year Show announcements are cause for optimism, uncertainty and cancellations elsewhere have tempered celebrations.

    Dublin Horse Show organisers the Royal Dublin Society (RDS) pulled the plug on 6 May, but will instead host some showing and showjumping classes at a RDS National Championships (18–22 August).

    “Preparations for a typical Dublin Horse Show take many months of planning and organisation, and this has not been possible this year with the levels of uncertainty that still exist for the re-opening of Irish society,” said an RDS statement.

    The blow also has knock-on consequences for the FEI’s prestigious Nations Cup series and the FEI is considering what action to take. Hickstead announced in April that an amended Royal International Horse Show would go ahead (20–25 July), without the Nations Cup leg or the King George V Gold Cup.

    Dublin’s cancellation means the European division one calendar has now lost back-to-back Nations Cup fixtures.

    Each nation is allocated four fixtures where they can collect points and Britain, Ireland and Italy were all set to collect points at both Hickstead and Dublin. Should a leg be cancelled, there is provision in the rulebook for points to be allocated to a nation based on their other performances in the series, but the cancellation of two legs has led to a rethink.

    An FEI spokesman told H&H on 8 May that the jumping committee is “closely monitoring the situation” for the Nations Cup series.

    “[The committee] has proactively considered potential additional Covid-19 by-laws for the 2021 season in light of the continued impact of Covid-19,” she said.

    “Further to the extraordinary circumstances that have now led to the cancellation of another qualifier prior to the start of the division one season, the jumping committee will shortly formalise a proposal to be presented to the FEI board.”

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