Anna Ross: ‘Should the Olympics really go ahead?’ *H&H Plus*

  • Anna Ross on the ethics of the 2021 Games, and remote teaching anecdotes

    Dry January is over, thank goodness, the da odils are coming out and I’m counting the days until spring. As the vaccine works its way through the population, we are starting to see a faint light at the end of the tunnel.

    In the equestrian community, we have been so fortunate to have horses throughout this pandemic, with all the mental health benefits of spending time outside in nature and being surrounded by animals.

    The ultimate formula for happiness is widely regarded as having something to love, something to do and something to look forward to. Horses bring us all of these.

    A tough issue

    The question of the Tokyo Olympics going ahead in July is a really tough one. Just because we could, does it mean we should? There are so many support staff needed for every athlete, the Olympic village employs an enormous number of people and the mixing from all over the world at a time when the pandemic is so rife seems such a risk.

    I am involved in the Olympics in several capacities for different nations, and I would love to go if protocols can make it safe. However, it wouldn’t sit well with me if it was the case that I might be given the vaccine ahead of somebody more vulnerable in order to facilitate my attendance.

    Maybe the more low-key European Championships, set to be hosted in Hagen, Germany, is a more appropriate option for this year. The venue is well versed in Covid-safe protocols, it would be a wonderful competition due to the quality of the field and it could be made widely available to watch.

    Behind the scenes, virtual tours of the stables and interviews with competitors and support staff could give it a very special feel.

    Adapt, improvise, overcome

    “Smart people learn from everything and everyone, average people from their experiences, stupid people already have all the answers,” said Socrates, allegedly.

    Being determined to be in the first of these categories, I have fully embraced the Wonderful World of Winter Webinars. There is no excuse to be ill-educated in corona-time, and I’ve particularly enjoyed The Horse & Hound Podcast and Gillian Higgins’ Horses Inside Out.

    Some of our young professionals have made their own excellent content, too, and for a bit of light relief, Equidance has been running a series of Friday night interviews with a fun party feel.

    During the pandemic most things are different, but Zoom lessons are proving a huge success.

    But online teaching has brought with it a whole new dimension, which my British Horse Society exams certainly did not prepare me for, regarding the placement
    of a rider’s audio handset. Is it appropriate for a remote trainer to be virtually shoved down someone’s sports bra or stuffed into a sandwich box?

    While coaching from afar I have been lost down someone’s breeches, virtually fallen off and witnessed several rows between usually happily married couples, one of which ended in the phone (and therefore me) being chucked across the arena and left there while the battle raged.

    Where children are involved it’s even more entertaining – an unforgettable session where a baby ate a sock during the mother’s leg yield. The ensuing carnage will stick in my mind for some time.

    Then there was the time spent with a videographer aged under nine who, bribed with an abundance of E numbers, worked out how to make a goldfish effect come up over the screen during a training session, but not how to switch it off again.

    “Adapt, improvise and overcome” has to be the mantra in these most testing of times. Luckily, those of us who are surrounded by animals are used to having curveballs thrown at us – we all just have to keep on catching as many as we can.

    Ref: 11 February 2021

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