Burgham provides a feast of sport under new rules, says H&H’s eventing editor
We all know that feeling of half recognising people when we’re out eventing. Add masks into the equation and the “do I know you?” game took on a whole extra dimension at Burgham last weekend. It turns out the bottom half of people’s faces is useful for recognition… and a tentative smile to test the water doesn’t cut it when you can’t see mouths!
With the FEI “strongly recommending” face masks at all times except when on a horse, there was a good level of compliance, although not 100% – probably more through forgetfulness than wilful refusal. And of course with long days on site, everyone has to eat and drink.
It amused me to see people pulling down masks as they approached someone to start a conversation. It’s a natural instinct, but that’s exactly the time a mask is needed and we all have to become accustomed to speaking through them. And don’t forget the nose needs to be covered as well as the mouth for maximum effectiveness.
This is about protecting ourselves and each other, but it’s also about being seen to do the right thing – making it very clear to outsiders that horse sport takes Covid-19 seriously, we understand how lucky we are eventing can resume and will do everything we can to avoid jeopardising that.
So if you’re going to an FEI event, experiment with what sort of face covering you can best tolerate, get used to it and mask up.
There are of course those who are exempt from wearing masks for medical reasons so we shouldn’t assume negligence if we see a person without one.
The start of lockdown was characterised by a great deal of kindness, but in recent weeks sniping seems to have increased, not least in the horse world over the quarantine exemptions for elite athletes travelling home from abroad.
The heat was taken out of the situation by the mutual agreement between British Eventing, organisers and riders that those who had been at Haras du Pin would not attend Burgham, but this is not an isolated incident, with the situation mirrored in showjumping last week.
I’ve taken to saying we’re not getting a Covid-19 vaccine for Christmas when people start predicting a carefree 2021 – coronavirus is here to stay and we’re likely to be negotiating these questions for months or years to come.
The answers aren’t easy, but everyone is trying to do the right thing. Some of the social media posts around quarantine were vicious and it would be awful if Covid-19 resulted in friendships being broken or ugly scenes at events.
Negotiating a hotel and restaurant meals for four nights at Burgham was a shock after five months at home. Even with all protocols followed, it’s unsurprising that plenty of us feel uncomfortable at times as we come out of lockdown. We need to communicate honestly, be kind and give each other space, physically and emotionally.
Praise for Burgham
Burgham hosted a huge feast of international and national eventing, and Martyn Johnson and his team did a fantastic job. Praise from regular visitors and Burgham virgins was universal.
The smart white-railed main arena created a decent atmosphere for the showcase dressage and showjumping, with flags and a few tradestands, despite spectators being prohibited. And the ground on cross-country was excellent, giving riders confidence to run fast.
Gosh, the top riders are so good. The poise and confidence shown in the riding of the likes of Oliver Townend, Piggy March, Izzy Taylor, Laura Collett, Kitty King and Ros Canter and their ability to train, help and adapt to so many different horses is awe-inspiring.
Among the younger contingent, Bubby Upton and Yasmin Ingham impressed me at Burgham – not least because both delivered good results for my Eventing Manager team. Using EquiRatings’ fantasy football-style app with real rather than simulated sport for the first time was great fun, although my street cred has gone down in my family since I was beaten by my unhorsey father.
Ref Horse & Hound; 27 August 2020