Pippa Roome: Let’s keep these benefits long-term *H&H Plus*


  • What do you want to keep from lockdown in the post-Covid world?

    This question is rife in the mainstream media, with people talking about working from home, spending less time rushing about and better communications with remote friends and family.

    After one weekend of eventing under the new guidelines, it’s clear there are elements of the new protocols we’re keen to keep long-term.

    Riders have liked paying start fees online and printing their own number – it saves a trip to the secretary’s on the day. Miranda Collett’s excellent eventingscores.co.uk website allows riders to click through to a printable number, with times handily written on the bottom.

    This website has also been at the forefront of a push to make scoring quicker – a definite plus to come out of this situation.

    The showjumping warm-up is the most dreaded part of an event for many, particularly amateur riders, and competitors have found the pressure eased by more space and extra fences. Running to times also takes out the uncertainty about what system the poor beleaguered steward will be using and allows everyone to plan.

    Running in silence

    Two of the three events last weekend ran without commentary on the cross-country, as permitted by the new guidelines, and opinions were divided on this. I admit I am biased because my husband is a professional commentator, but I felt a little out of touch without it – it was hard to get an impression of how the cross-country was riding and which fences were causing problems.

    I also feel any event with genuine spectators attending for a day out, rather than to watch a particular friend or family member, needs commentary to explain what’s happening and get these visitors interested in the competition. Obviously with eventing currently running behind closed doors, that’s not a factor, although anxious owners and parents may well want to hear what’s happening when their horse or child is on course.

    Some riders said their horses performed better in the dressage without their heart-rates rising as they heard the loudspeakers on cross-country. Tweseldown organiser Rachael Faulkner mused that perhaps it’s not necessary at grassroots events, although horses being produced to move up the grades need to become accustomed to performing in an atmosphere.

    Rachael also mentioned a new system, again developed by Miranda Collett, which will be up and running very soon and allows commentary to be played through a radio channel, so people can listen through earphones on their phone.

    This is something we’re accustomed to at big events, usually as a complement to loudspeaker commentary rather than an alternative, but it’s an interesting idea to have it at smaller ones. The tone and content would inevitably probably be a little different to loudspeaker commentary, but it could serve the same purpose of keeping people updated and give people the option of whether to listen in or not.

    A socially distant Olympics?

    Working on H&H’s upcoming “Can’t Wait For Tokyo” specials has reignited my excitement for the Olympics, even if I’m now resigned to heading on a campervan holiday on the day I should have been flying to the Games. I recently watched a webinar with Lucia Montanarella, former equestrian journalist and now head of media operations for the International Olympic Committee.

    We all hope this situation is temporary, but it’s clear Lucia is considering how media operations in Tokyo could run with social distancing if necessary – a mind boggling thought. We journalists spend most of our time in a mixed zone where we can frequently be within 2m of 20 others, all packed in close to hear athletes.

    Technology could be used, but the thought of working remotely and never seeing the smiles or tears is depressing. Faced with the long hours and massive word counts of an Olympics, you feed off the riders’ emotions.

    It is great news, though, that Lucia recognises the importance of journalists asking their own questions even if they can’t be face to face. Perhaps even more important are the follow-up questions (Why has he improved? What bit is he wearing now? What new warm-up routine are you using?), which are key for specialist media to find the insight our readers crave.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 16 July 2020