Graham Fletcher: ‘The first few months are going to be a pain’ *H&H Plus*


  • Graham Fletcher questions inconsistencies in Covid rules, and looks to Brexit

    I struggle to understand why anyone would hesitate to have the Covid-19 vaccine. I’m the world’s worst queuer, but would join a very long line if it meant being vaccinated and getting back to normal a bit sooner. For one thing, inconsistencies surrounding coronavirus rules make me scratch my head.

    When we were competing in Vilamoura, Portugal this winter, they checked everyone’s temperature as you entered the showground. It took a few seconds per person. In the six weeks I was there, I never heard of anybody becoming ill.

    Yet on the homeward journey, I found myself on a packed aeroplane and no temperatures taken before or after the flight. Even in normal times, a plane is an ideal environment for infecting other passengers.

    I recently went to Tedworth EC in Wiltshire which has just started running British Showjumping (BS) shows in its outdoor arena. Very well-run and with classes up to 1.30m, the show adhered to all the rules – including the one which says no rider can enter the ring until the previous one has left.

    Pre-Covid, shows got through as many entries as possible and we were used to
    it. But this rule slows things down and significantly reduces the number of entries a show can take.

    The science identifies very little risk of coronavirus transmission outdoors and our sport’s stance seems a bit extreme when the Government allows 2,000 football supporters into a stand within a stadium in tier two areas.

    Yes, the hypocrisy and double standards continue to amaze me. And I’m sure a swift return to normal is something we’ll all drink to on New Year’s Eve!

    Unprecendented times

    Until today (31 December), if you wanted to travel horses to Europe, all you needed was your passport and their passports. Then Brexit happened.

    Sadly, I well remember the ridiculously long waiting times at borders in the old days. We got a taste of it more recently when my son Will and I were travelling horses back from Morocco where he’d been on British team duty.

    It was incredibly hot at the Spanish border, they kept us hanging around for hours, yet horse welfare was obviously not on their agenda. If a horse had started colicing, God only knows what would have happened…

    My other son Olli, who was based with Steve Guerdat in Switzerland (a non-EU country) earlier this year, commented on how they needed carnets (paperwork) to cross into other European countries.

    “If we were lucky, it took one or two hours,” he said.

    Back in the day, there were agents at border crossings to help you get the horses through more quickly. But of course, they had to be paid.

    Already some post-Brexit conditions have been set.

    Every horse needs a Coggins blood test (more expense) within three months of travelling, and health papers must be applied for ten days beforehand. So potentially the days are gone of a last-minute call-up to a British team.

    Factor that in with long queues at the docks, and the first few months are going to be a real pain.

    Some British riders will decamp to Europe, maybe a few will set up satellite
    yards. But the majority will be looking for good shows on home soil.

    In the past, centres trying to run extra shows or classes have been frustrated by BS bureaucracy. So I ask BS to be more accommodating for the sake of the sport in these unprecedented times.

    Great achievers

    I’ve always been really interested in the careers of life’s great achievers, and they don’t come any greater than Nelson Mandela.

    A quote of his seems particularly apt as we start 2021: “Do not judge me by my success, but by how many times I’ve fallen down and got back up again.”

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 24 December 2020

    You may also be interested in: