Carl Hester: ‘Postponing the Olympics was the best option’ *H&H Plus*

  • In his exclusive H&H column, top British dressage rider and trainer Carl Hester discusses the prospect of Tokyo 2021 and why it’s ‘our duty’ to stay at home...

    The news we had all been waiting for came in as I sat down to write this; the 2020 Olympic Games have been postponed until 2021. Many people, myself included, felt this decision could have been made a lot earlier; good on Canada and Australia for withdrawing first and setting the precedent.

    My own view perhaps comes from a different angle to some – having competed in previous Olympics, I can be objective and pragmatic. It’s more emotional for those potential first-timers, the new, young and up- and-coming, although they would have been unable to qualify and educate their horses due to show cancellations. Then there are those with older horses in their last year. But if these Games had gone ahead they could have proved very unfair.

    For the welfare and wellbeing of all athletes, the Olympics had to be cancelled or postponed. One of the penalties of being a top athlete is that it can lead you to be selfish. But it is for the welfare of all the volunteers, those involved in the infrastructure and the audience that this had to happen.

    Nothing would have been more deflating than to compete in an arena empty of spectators. Of course, we feel for Japan and all those who have worked hard so far. On the plus side, this gives everyone an extra year for training, which could benefit horses hugely.

    Staying at home is our duty

    All members of the equestrian community should strictly adhere to the government’s directive to stay at home unless absolutely necessary. This isn’t a case of “where possible” or “if you can”, this is it and it’s our duty, like everyone else.

    In light of current circumstances we have stopped hacking on the roads. Sure, we can socially distance, but it’s a question of minimising risk for our overloaded NHS.

    With all this happening in spring, at least a good way of saving money, having rolled and fertilised the field weeks ago, is that we’ll hopefully be able to give the horses some cheap extra nourishment in the form of “Doctor Green”.

    All of our horses are now enjoying regular turnout, and this means in-hand and lungeing work have become safer options, particularly since the BEF issued its advice not to ride at this time. But I appreciate that this may not be possible or safe for those whose horses are on the hotter side, or who are still unable to be turned out.

    Pulling together

    How lucky we are to have technology to keep us all in touch. In fact, I set up Skype today and did my first TV interview on it. It will also be another way for me to keep in touch with pupils and I’m looking forward to doing lessons via Skype when it is safe to do so.

    The situation we are in and what we all must do to fight Covid-19 means there are going to be very difficult periods. We don’t know how long it will last and many will be at risk of feeling isolated. But we horse people are a community. We will pull together through this.

    Everyone hold on to that thought, and remember you are not on your own. I know this may have taken a rather “Queen’s speech” tone, but from the bottom of my heart, I mean it. Stay safe everyone. We’re all friends and mates.

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