Mark Phillips: Please, take these rules seriously *H&H Plus*


  • People must abide by the regulations as sport restarts, says H&H’s eventing columnist

    I’ve finally made it back to Britain, having been stuck in the USA for three months with flight after flight being cancelled. I have to say I’ve never felt safer travelling, with both Atlanta and Heathrow airports akin to ghost towns and social distancing extreme with a virtually empty aeroplane over the Atlantic.

    This has been the longest ever time to have been away from home, so my two-week self isolation does not seem too much of a hardship!

    In June, we had horse trials returning in America under strict Covid-19 rules. It seems to have been a successful process, if not normal in any way with masks, social distancing, no spectators and so on. It was thoroughly policed and I beg everyone in this country to follow the British Eventing (BE) guidelines and take the regulations extremely seriously.

    Coronavirus is still with us and everyone has to behave in a thoroughly responsible manner if we are not to be shut down once again.

    A desire to get going

    I was interested to see that venues currently due to run BE80(T), BE90 and BE100 are overrun with entries. At the time of going to press on Monday, Tweseldown had just shy of 1400 entries, with over 70% of them at the grassroots levels – people are obviously desperate to get out and start doing things again.

    The take-up for runs at novice and upwards seems to be a little slower. This is probably a reflection of the fact that upper level riders have nothing much to aim their horses for this year and so are content to keep them on tick-over in order to have them better and sounder for next year, when hopefully there will be a new normal to which we are more accustomed.

    The exception will be those riders with younger horses on the way up the ladder. People will not want horses to lose their 2020 mileage and run the risk of putting their programme a year behind, especially now that we have had serious rain and the footing in July looks as though it will be better than for many a year.

    Making budgets stack up

    BE currently has three or four events scheduled every weekend in July and August, but the jury is still out on how many events will run and how many will cancel in the coming weeks.

    A lot of venues run on very tight budgets, and with the number of entries being restricted by the size of the lorry park and warm-up areas, together with social distancing timings between horses in all three phases, it is likely that many venues will not be able to put through enough entries in a day to make them viable.

    Obviously the venues with more inherent infrastructure, such as equestrian centres, will have fewer overheads to budget than those operating on a green field site. Organisers such as Stuart Buntine and Alex Lochore, who run on a multitude of sites, will be able to amortize their overheads across multiple venues.

    Covid-19 has brought a lot of changes to many. There are going to be events, tradestands and businesses that sadly won’t be with us next year, through no fault of their own.

    As we see eventing return in Britain over the next month, I emphasise again: don’t be cavalier in your attitude, be respectful, be responsible. Then, hopefully, we will see more and more sport return in the coming weeks and months.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 2 July 2020