Alex Hua Tian – Eventing to Resume Soon?

Alex Hua Tian - Eventing to Resume Soon?

China’s equestrian Olympic star, Alex Hua Tian, shares his thoughts on the current situation and gives a little insight into life in lockdown. 

I don’t think it’s escaped anyone around the world that we are living through surreal and unprecedented times. The disruption, health worries and stress of all kinds has been felt by everyone. Other than the widespread health & financial concerns, the equestrian sports community here in the UK has largely had a charmed time in comparison to most both in the UK and around the world. We have been allowed to continue to train and care for our horses in what has been an extraordinarily warm and beautiful spring. 

 

All of us in the horse sports industry thrive on competition, but I can’t be the only rider who has secretly relished the forced break? With events and regular trips back to China, I have never spent so much time at home. Sarah and I have really enjoyed spending time together as well as addressing those little issues we all have with each horse that often get glossed over in the middle of the season. The team at Pinfold have been superstars throughout this period. With the benefit of following the situation in China closer than most, we were aware of what may come and by taking it seriously early on, we managed to keep everyone confident enough in their safety.

 

Of course, a huge change for us has been that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has been postponed to nearly identical dates next year (although it will still be branded the 2020 Games). Although it was 100% the right decision, the news still came with mixed emotions and certainly a considerable drop in motivation in those first few weeks of lockdown! Again, I’m sure that I was not the only rider or athlete who took a “mental backseat” whilst processing the news (Olympics and COVID-19). Somehow, finding the drive to push for a little more suppleness or straightness seemed much harder for a short while!

I have the four horses campaigning towards this Olympic cycle: Don, Spike, Emo and Sox – all very different horses physically and mentally. Of course, Don, owned by Pip Higgins & Pam Dews, who finished 8th in Rio as a green 9-year-old, will be in his prime for next year – and he will have to be with his talented stable mates all equally raring to go! Whether the Olympics was this year or next, we know that the Tokyo summers are stiflingly hot and so having the horses in top condition before going will be even more important than normal. 

 

An exciting part of this Olympic cycle is that China has qualified an eventing team for the first time ever, something that has been a big part of my life over the last two years since my team mates moved to Europe. They are all talented, professional horsemen with considerable experience on the national circuit in China, both in top showjumping as well as eventing. Despite this, competing in Europe has been a considerable step up for them and of course, the Olympics will be a daunting task for the team. 

 

There has been some inevitable rumblings from within the industry that teams such as China and Thailand have been able to qualify. I like to take Japan’s journey to its current Championships quality as a shining example of what’s possible. In two Olympic cycles (8 years), the Japanese team has gone from crashing out of its first team Olympics at London in spectacular style, to coming into Tokyo as medal contenders (as well as off the back of team 4th at the last World Equestrian Games!). 

 

The Japanese team has shown that strong strategic investment into a small pool of talented riders can be a successful model. Although many are unhappy that the overall quality of equestrian sport will be a little lower than average due to the new qualification rules put in place by the FEI, I am in no doubt that eventing and equestrian sports will be more interesting, more sustainable, have a far broader appeal and so a far stronger future with greater diversity and more flags taking part. The Olympics has and always will be the best way for riders from “untraditional” equestrian nations to secure investment in their horse power, and so allowing the Olympics to be a little more accessible will grow our sport. 

 

In the past week, BE have announced that national events may start on the 4th of July, dependent on the expected lifting of further restrictions by the government. BE have not been without their own controversies over entry fees and abandonment insurance. Sadly, due to unavoidable Coronavirus measures, as well as the refund policy put in place (in case of future lock downs), there will be many members and owners who will not be able to event, or who will not want to take any further risk on entry fees. I, for one, understand these worries but also believe that BE has a responsibility to its members to try to run sport if it’s allowed to and if it can. 

 

If things go ahead as scheduled, it will be a strange affair with social distancing, no congregating around the score boards and no arguing about whether to put the oxer in the warm up square or not! I am sure that as a community we will adapt quickly to these changes and the lifestyles we are so lucky to lead with our horses will go on – just in a slightly different guise for a while!

 

 

 

Dressage Events Resume – Guidance for Riders

Dressage Events Resume – Guidance for Riders

After lockdown measures were eased slightly as of last week, the UK has seen an increase in equestrian activity, with the ability for up to six people from any household to meet anywhere outdoors. For equestrians, this has meant riders in groups of six are now able to ride together, and coaches can begin to recommence training with up to five riders in an outdoor facility (as long as the 2-metre distancing rule is observed).

 

*Equestrian centres are advised that they will be required to conduct a COVID-19 risk assessment before reopening their doors, the results of which should also be published online and made readily accessible to staff and clients. You can find out more information here.

 

In light of this latest announcement, British Dressage has announced moves to restart organised, in-person training this month, with the hope to see competitions resume in July. As a result, many riders will now be eager to get back in the dressage arena and begin working with their horse, however there are several important factors to consider if you’re planning to travel to a British Dressage venue, coach or competition later this summer.

 

Safe Travelling

Whilst it is now permitted for groups of up to six to meet in any outdoor space, social distancing measures are still currently in place. This means that, where possible, you should make every effort to travel alone or with other members of your household only. This may involve having to make plans for the care of any children or animals, so be sure to think ahead and give yourself plenty of time to make arrangements.

If you are required to make a particularly long journey, you should consider planning your journey in such a way that will enable you to minimise travel time, and you should only make stops and visits to service stations when absolutely necessary along the way. Packing your own food and refreshments is a great idea, as this way you won’t be tempted to stop and buy a coffee or a bite to eat en route.

 

Venues & Hygiene

Venues have been advised to ensure hand washing facilities are made readily available to staff and visitors, so you should always wash your hands thoroughly upon arriving at the venue and before you leave, or more frequently if necessary. You might also consider carrying your own personal hand sanitiser with you, so that you can make sure your hands are cleaned regularly during your visit.

You should plan your visits to any training facility or competition venue carefully. Try only to visit those that are close to you, in order to limit travel, and try to stick to the venues you’re already familiar with. You should also try to make any payments required over the phone or online, to avoid handling cash where possible.

 

Health

Those who are vulnerable are advised not to travel to attend lessons or competitions until guidelines are eased further and the Government announces that it is safe to do so. If you have recently showed symptoms of COVID-19, you should act quickly on Government guidance and self-isolate for 14 days.

Whilst some elements of the lockdown regulations have been eased, the rules surrounding social distancing remain in place, so it’s important to remember to keep a 2-metre distance between yourself and any person from another household whenever you leave your home. This includes class members, staff at training facilities, and your coach or trainer.

*Please note: the ability to train in-person currently only applies to those training in England. In Scotland and Wales, training is still taking place via video call.

 

An update on our services in light of the COVID-19 pandemic

As the work we do allows for ground workers to keep social distance from clients, and from one another within their own teams (both whilst working on-site and in transit to the site), we would like to assure our customers that we will still be able to carry out any required works and installations at this present time.

 

Contact our team today to find out more about our surface replacement/installation and arena construction services.

 

After the Fire – An Update on Our Services

After the Fire – An Update on Our Services

The team at Equestrian Surfaces Ltd is currently working hard in a recovery effort following an accidental fire which took place at one of our buildings in Burnley, Lancashire, during the early hours of 29th May, 2020.

“Whilst the damage caused to our recycling facility in Burnley is quite extensive, we would like to reassure customers and clients that we are working to overcome any setbacks and that this unfortunate event has not impacted out production capabilities – luckily the warehouses which we use for production and manufacturing purposes are based in Cheshire,” says Equestrian Surfaces Managing Director, Thomas Harper.

 

“As it currently stands, we are still able to fulfil any orders and continue to carry out construction, installation and maintenance works across the UK.

 

“I couldn’t be more proud of the team, who have all banded together to show their support and have all been very encouraging during this difficult time. At the moment, despite the damage that has been caused by the fire, we are all trying to stay positive and taking solace in the fact that no one was harmed.

“We are all incredibly grateful for the aid provided by the Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, who worked tirelessly throughout the night in order to bring the blaze under control. Thanks to them, our clean-up operation can now begin, and we can all look to rebuilding and recovering together.”

 

 

 

 

Surface Maintenance – What You Need to Know

Surface Maintenance – What You Need to Know

Although some lockdown restrictions are now gradually being lifted, and training yards are being granted permission to begin preparations for reopening, a lot of equestrians are still using this time in lockdown to work their horses on a yard or arena at home where possible.

At Equestrian Surfaces, we are regularly asked for tips and guidance on arena surface maintenance. Why is surface maintenance so important? And what can you do to ensure your surface is performing at optimum?

We’ve compiled a short guide on surface maintenance which intends to cover all bases. However, our team are on hand to answer any questions and queries you may have via the live chat facility, email or telephone, so please do not hesitate to get in touch.

 

Why is surface maintenance so important?

Carrying out regular maintenance work on your arena surface is key to keep it performing at an optimal level and prolonging its lifespan. In addition, ensuring your surface is in top shape will help to keep your horse performing well, promoting soundness and ensuring security in landing and through turns.

Find out more about horse footfall patterns and how arena surfaces can impact your horse’s  performance here.

 

How often should I carry out maintenance works on my riding surface?

Different types of surface require different levels and methods of maintenance, but the key thing to remember is that all types of surface require a regular maintenance routine.

Setting a maintenance routine into place as soon as your surface has been laid is the best way to protect your investment and ensure its longevity.

The method and frequency of the maintenance work you should adopt will be dependent upon a number of factors, including the type of surface you have (i.e. waxed or non-waxed), the purpose and regularity of use, and whether it’s an indoor or outdoor surface.

 

How to maintain a waxed riding surface

Waxed surfaces are a popular choice with many riders, including for larger equestrian centres and riding schools as well as home yards, owing to their durability and their ease of maintenance, requiring little to no irrigation. The wax content in their makeup also offers binding and adhesive qualities which will help to keep your surface dust-free.

Although a waxed surface may generally be easier to maintain than a surface with no, or a very low, wax content, it will still require regular maintenance if you are to ensure it continues to perform well in the long-term. If not properly maintained, a wax surface is likely to become over-compacted, resulting in a reduction in its shock-absorbance levels which in turn will leave your horse more vulnerable to injury.

You will need to keep your surface light and even in order to provide a steady and supportive footing for your horse. It’s a good idea to grade your surface regularly in order to prevent it from become too compacted and ensure high levels of shock absorbance, support and energy return are retained.

 

How to maintain a non-waxed riding surface

When compared with a waxed surface, non-waxed riding surfaces do have increased maintenance requirements; however, they also offer a low-cost, economical alternative which does not compromise on quality or performance.

It’s important to monitor the condition of your surface regularly, as non-waxed surfaces are more likely to be affected by changes in climate. You should be prepared to increase your maintenance routine when the climate is especially hot and dry, or cold and wet.

Regular irrigation and grading will be required, particularly in hot and dry weather, to manage the moisture levels within the surface and keep it performing at its best.

 

How soon should I carry out maintenance works after my surface has been laid?  

When it comes to surface maintenance, the earlier you can introduce a regime, the better. Operating a daily maintenance programme in the first few months of your surface being laid will enable you to become familiar with your surface and how it’s affected by different weathers. It will also allow you to learn the impact of your horse’s hooves on your surface, and to monitor any areas that are prone to heavier footfall and therefore more wear, such as the entrance(s), tracks and the centre line.

 

At Equestrian Surfaces, we offer a range of Trackmaster surface graders, which are available in different sizes, including 1.5m, 2.3m, or a custom size. We can even match the colour of your grader to your other maintenance equipment. Get in touch to find out more about our graders and the range of maintenance packages that we offer, or click here to see our surface range.

 

 

 

 

Harry Meade – Keeping Busy During Lockdown

Harry Meade - Keeping Busy During Lockdown

Eventing Champion Harry Meade shares his experience of keeping busy and staying positive during lockdown. 

 

 

 

 

It’s extraordinary to think that every sector in every country has been affected by what’s going on in the world. Like everyone, we’ve had to adapt and adopt what we felt was the best strategy, which has been to keep our full team of staff intact and devise a new programme for the horses, trying to see the positives and find opportunities.

In many ways, having an enforced period of training at home is no bad thing for the horses. Mine are very much continuing with their training and they have made huge strides in the couple of months since the start of the hiatus. The first move was to swap their fastwork for a more strengthening-based programme – working in walk and trot on the steep hills or on a water treadmill, rather than galloping – as the strength they develop through this time-consuming work will stay with them throughout their career, whereas any fitness gained through fastwork is temporary and more attritive.

Each horse is also having more frequent days off. I’ve focused on test riding in order to maintain structure to the training and used the time to work on the flying changes for all the intermediate horses. The aim has been to make progress during the enforced break so that when we start eventing – whether that’s imminently or not until next season – they’re all much further on in their training than they were when the stop button was hit.

From May to June is usually one of the busiest periods in our calendar; back-to-back international events mean I’m usually away from home and the yard the majority of the time. Being around has been a positive, largely because it’s allowed for really in-depth training of the horses. Much of the work during the season is short-term tweaking for the next event, so the past eight weeks has been more like the pre-season routine when you get right to the essence of a horse’s way of going. It’s also a benefit to our team as I’m able to teach them myself on a daily basis.

We’ve had eight members of staff living with us throughout lockdown with no let up, and my wife, Rosie, has been amazing to make this work. In many ways it’s been a fun experience and has brought the team closer together with campfires and games in the evenings, as well as formal inter-team competitions to put the training into practice and give everyone some goals and fun.

 

During the winter we purchased the yard I’d rented for many years and the house in which I grew up. It was about to go on the market, and we’d been trying to buy it for some time. It’s a huge relief as our whole training philosophy has been shaped by the set-up here, and it’s where my father’s horses were produced before mine.

There’s been plenty of projects to get on with – we’re on top of the office work and we’ve done a huge amount of sorting, clearing, planting and fencing. This week’s project has been making a crossing place in a stream next to our lane, so the horses paddle through water every time they do roadwork. It was two full days’ work for four people, which isn’t time we’d usually have. We’re excited to be putting in a new Equestrian Surfaces arena and lunge pen. Given that soundness is the most important factor in the production of horses, the surface they work on is absolutely key. I’ve been particularly keen to find a surface that’s consistent and stable in all seasons, but most importantly that isn’t too waxy, allowing a greater degree of movement underfoot, whether that be ‘life’ on impact, or freedom for a horse’s foot to slide rather than jar, and to rotate rather than twist the limb.

 

There’s often little time to concentrate on the bigger things in life, so we’re trying to make the most of it and see the good in this break.

 

 

 

An Update on Epsom

An Update on Epsom

Plans for racing to be moved ‘behind closed doors’ this Summer.

 

Racing officials from The Jockey Club last week announced plans to stage the 2020 Investec Derby and Oaks behind closed doors amidst the Coronavirus pandemic.

Conservators of Epsom and Walton Downs have considered the proposal made by The Jockey Club to reschedule the races that were originally planned to take place in June, and move them to a Saturday date in either July or August this year, offering restricted access for participants to certain areas for 24 hours in order to allow the event to go ahead. These plans are set to involve a seven-race fixture taking place without a crowd present.

Several safety precautions would need to be set into place in order to allow this event to be carried out safely, including a closure of the public footpaths and bridleways that surround the Downs Racecourse.

 

The Investec Oaks was originally scheduled in the racing calendar for 5th June, with the Derby following on the 6th. The provisional rescheduled event date proposed by The Jockey Club has been set as 4th July, subject to the Government’s approval of the commencement of racing and other such events.

 

Group Chief Executive of The Jockey Club, Delia Bushell, said: “We have worked hard on a practical and deliverable plan to stage the 2020 Investec Derby and Investec Oaks at their traditional home, without a crowd and once racing is approved to resume by the Government. Our teams now look forward to working with the British Horseracing Authority and local authorities to bring our plan to life.”

As “the most famous Flat race in the world”, the Epsom Derby is Britain’s richest horse race. Inaugurated in 1780, it is the most prestigious of the five Classics and regularly attracts large crowds, including famous faces. Last year’s event saw approximately 150,000 people attend, including Her Majesty the Queen.

 

Visit The Jockey Club website to stay informed on the latest updates.

Photo credit: Alan Crowhurst / Getty Images

A Guide to Hoof Health – What to Look Out for with Your Horse’s Hooves

A Guide to Hoof Health - What to Look Out for with Your Horse’s Hooves

There are certain conditions that are common to all horses, and treating them quickly can prevent them from worsening and causing pain and damage to your horse’s hooves. Here’s a list of some common hoof health issues to keep an eye out for when you next carry out a hoof check.

 

Bruising  

There are many reasons as to why your horse may suffer bruising on their hooves. Usually caused by a direct trauma to the foot, bruising can occur after the hoof has made significant impact with a hard surface, such as a stable door or wall, a pole, or even one of your horse’s other feet whilst they are in work. However, bruising can also occur as a result of an imbalance if your horse is coming to the end of their shoeing cycle, as this can cause uneven pressure to be placed on the hoof wall.

Advice would normally be to shorten the time between farriery visits in order to ensure balance can be restored as frequently as possible. However, during lockdown, farriers are currently under visiting restrictions, and appointments are being made according to an assessment of the risk a horse may be placed under of suffering long-term health issues should a condition not be addressed. You can find out more about the system under which farriers are currently operating here. We also recommend contacting your farrier directly for advice relating to your specific needs.

If your horse has black hooves, bruising can be a little more difficult to spot than on hooves of a lighter colour. Try to look out for any unexplained lameness or differences in balance or posture whilst riding, as this can usually be a reliable indication that something is wrong.

 

Thrush  

Thrush is an infection which commonly targets the frog in horses’ hooves. The bacteria concentrates on the frog as it is the softest and most flexible horn in the horse’s foot, and essentially causes it to rot, the process of which will result in the frog becoming black and slimy, and secreting a black, foul-smelling discharge. The frog may also have softer spots and appear irregular in shape.

Despite the offensive smell and discharge, horses often show no signs of lameness when suffering with thrush. This is why it’s important to clean and pick out the feet thoroughly and regularly in order to prevent the bacteria that often gathers there from impregnating the horn. As well as preventing the likelihood of an infection, thorough and regular cleaning is also the best form of treatment for thrush.

If your horse is suffering with thrush, it is equally important to clean the stable as often as you can and disinfect the floor and bedding, avoiding the use of bare rubber mats if possible. It’s advisable to pick out the feet as often as a few times a day if you can. Scrubbing the frog with warm water and chlorhexidine before applying antimicrobial spray will help to combat the infection and prevent it from worsening or spreading.

 

Sheared heels

Sheared heels are often the result of bad cases of thrush, but they can also be the cause of thrush, and involve the breakdown of the structure between heel bulbs, causing deep and painful cracks in the frog’s central groove. Sheared heels make it incredibly difficult for the frog to be picked out properly, and are most commonly found in horses with conformational deformities, or in horses whose feet have become imbalanced.

It’s highly likely that a horse suffering with sheared heels will display signs of lameness, as this condition is often very painful. Softer surfaces can worsen the effects of this condition, as they are more likely to ball up in the feet and apply direct pressure to the affected area.

Ensuring your horse’s feet stay well-balanced, and keeping on top of stable management duties, are key methods of managing sheared heels and treating the secondary problem of infection. If you believe your horse is in pain, you should seek advice on pain management from your vet. You should also ensure your farrier is made aware of the issue so that they can adapt the way that they work accordingly.

 

Seedy Toe

Seedy toe, or white line disease, is the result of a combination of bacterial and fungal infection and is often exacerbated if your horse is being kept in very wet or very dry conditions. Seedy toe affects the wall and white line of the hoof, making it crumbly, or “cheesy”, in texture.

Keep an eye out for changes in the appearance of the hoof wall. With this condition, it is common for the hoof wall to peel away, or for a cavity within the hoof wall to become visible.

Regular trimming and scheduling shorter shoeing cycles will help to maintain foot balance and reduce torque from uneven landing and loading on the shoes, thereby preventing the development of seedy toe. In terms of treatment, most vets will advise administering a topical treatment; we advise contacting your vet directly for further information.

 

Cracks in the hooves

Cracks are a common issue in horses whose feet are imbalanced or overgrown. It’s always a good idea to perform daily checks on your horse’s hooves in order to monitor the appearance or development of any cracks. Your vet will be able to provide a more specific diagnosis, and will also be able to confirm whether a crack is a superficial one, or the sign of a more serious health issue.

Many veterinary practices are currently only conducting appointments with animals whose health needs require urgent attention. It’s a good idea to make contact with your vet and explain any symptoms over the phone so that they can then determine whether or not your horse requires immediate care. If an appointment is to be made, most practices are asking for owners not to be present at the appointment in order to allow for social distancing rules to be respected, so be sure to ask your veterinary practice about the measures they’ve put in place amidst the pandemic to keep people safe.

 

Read our blog for more information on taking care of your horse’s hooves amidst the Coronavirus lockdown.

 

Gareth Hughes – Staying Positive During Lockdown

Gareth Hughes - Staying Positive During Lockdown

Champion dressage rider, coach and GBR Team medalist, Gareth Hughes, shares his experience of adapting to change during the lockdown. 

2020 was set to be a very busy and eventful year, before everything came to an abrupt halt in March.

 

Our 12-year-old daughter, Ruby, who is part of the English Vaulting Squad, was due to compete in France, USA, Belgium and Aachen (Germany). She was also aiming for the Senior World Vaulting Championships in Sweden. Rebecca had a full diary, taking Ruby to her internationals, and with premier leagues and internationals booked in with her own dressage horses. Rebecca is also normally kept busy looking after the sales side of the business and will usually complete two or three trips abroad every month, visiting horses for clients.

 

I had firmly set Tokyo in my sights, being in a very privileged position of campaigning three Grand Prix horses, led by our European Championship ride Classic Brionlinca. A busy year was planned with chasing that team place as well as bringing through the up-and-coming younger horses, and a lot of my time was assigned to coaching, at home but also abroad at least twice every month.

It all takes a lot of planning with running the yard and keeping all the wheels turning – there are always a lot of balls in the air for us!

In March, we were competing at Keysoe CDI when talk of the virus started to take hold. And none of us could have envisioned what was about to happen.

Within the week, the calendar ground to a halt. All competitions and plans for coaching had to be put on hold and, all of a sudden, we found ourselves in lockdown. It was like being in a movie, and there were a lot of questions floating around – what did it all mean and how would it affect the year? All our internationals started to get cancelled, and then we were met with the news that the Olympics were to be postponed until next year. It was like all of our plans had changed overnight.

 

We were, of course, initially very disappointed that the plans we had made would not come to fruition. But then the devastating effects of this virus hit, and it put everything into perspective. Our focus shifted to the safety of our family and friends.

Whilst in lockdown, we have still been training our dressage horses, but we’ve been careful not to take any extra risks, so we haven’t been hacking out or jumping them. Thankfully, the weather has been divine recently, and they have finally been able to enjoy some grass after a very long winter.

With no school, Ruby has had plenty of opportunity to ride more frequently. She has been keeping up her conditioning religiously, so that once her vaulting competitions resume, she’s fit and ready to go. She has, however, also had plenty of schoolwork to do at home, which she hasn’t been best pleased about!

 

I’ve found plenty of time to do the mowing, and our staff have all been helping with painting and cleaning the yard, so everything looks spic and span. With having this bit of unexpected extra free time, I’ve also turned my hand to music, and I’ve been trying to learn the guitar. I’ve managed to petrify the cat with my playing, to the degree that whenever he sees me reach for my guitar, he’ll do a runner, so I’m hoping to see some improvement soon!

I’ve also loved being involved with Equestrian Relief, organised by Nina Barbour. The event saw teams of equestrian celebrities competing against each other in several activities, which included a 5km run, a plank challenge, a bake off, an arts and crafts contest and a hidden talent showcase. We were able to raise around £300,000 for the NHS, which we were all incredibly pleased with!

 

At Hughes Dressage, we are in a fortunate position, due to our outdoor lifestyle, that we aren’t restrained within four walls and we are able to enjoy some extra quality time with our horses. This has allowed us to concentrate on their training without the pressures of competing. Like everyone else, financially we have taken a bit of a hit as clients aren’t able to travel for lessons. However, I’ve been spending more time carrying out training online, and it’s great that demand is growing. It will be interesting to see if this is something that will continue to grow after lockdown has been lifted.

We’re all keeping our eyes and ears peeled for the updates, which is all we can do for now. This, for sure, will be a year none of us will forget easily!

Stay safe, everyone. Look after your loved ones, and we’ll see you on the other side!

The Coronavirus Lockdown – A Bookie’s Insight

The Coronavirus Lockdown – A Bookie’s Insight

Racecourse Bookmaker, David Brewer, shares his experience of the lockdown and his thoughts on how it might impact the bookmaking game long term.

COVID-19 has certainly changed the world as we know it, at least for the time being. So, what is a bookie to do in lockdown? No racing, no football, no cricket; no live events from the equestrian, rugby, or athletics fields of sport. For the moment, the whole sporting world has ground to an abrupt halt.

For me, it feels a bit like Groundhog Day. I’ve no form to study; no opinion to formulate about the tracks and the racing that I would usually be attending at this time of year. Every day, I’m waddling around like a duck without a pond to play in!

I suppose the saving grace in all this is that no one is going through it alone – we’re all in the same boat, together. And maybe that’s what it’s all about. Maybe it is time for us all to look in the mirror and really think about the way that we spend our time, for work and for leisure (although leisure time is becoming increasingly rare!). Maybe we are supposed to be pressing the reset button…

I’ve been trying to make the most out of an unfortunate situation by taking some (albeit forced) time out. Discussing, planning, and preparing food has become a new obsession for me. Whereas my racing-oriented summer lifestyle is usually sustained by a quick breakfast on-the-go, skipped lunches and rushed evening meals in or out of the house, I’m now having (and enjoying) the recommended three meals per day. On a practical front, I’m staying fit by cycling 15 miles every morning, replacing my normal routine of driving one mile to the newsagent to pick up my Racing Post.

All the small jobs around the house have been, or are getting, done. The garden has never looked so good! Teddy, my miniature dachshund, is now pretty much the centre of my attention at all times. The poor dog is so tired of going for a walk in the woods that he’s started hiding from me whenever I call his name!

I have to say, Netflix has also been a bit of a saviour! I’ve never watched so many boxsets in my life (I’m particularly enjoying ‘Drive to Survive’ at the moment – well worth a watch!). Overall, I’m managing to find plenty of things to keep me entertained, replacing what would have been a busy racing season at York, Chester, Doncaster, and the other northern racetracks I stand at.

So, what of the future for our sport? Racing behind closed doors. Three centralised courses racing a week at a time, perhaps? Lingfield, Wolverhampton and Newcastle helping to create the minimum movement of people and horses? Who knows?

I’ve been asked, ‘when crowds are allowed back on the tracks, will the bookmaking game have changed?’. I wish I knew the answer! When I think about it, there are two trains of thought at the moment. On one hand, it may be that everyone is searching for a bit of a release when lockdown has been lifted, and racing/gambling may be that release for them. On the other hand, I’m very aware that people’s habits will have changed during lockdown, and a day out at the races may not be a part of the new world. Either way, the bookmaking game will be changed dramatically, and your guess is as good as mine when it comes to predicting which way this will swing. I wish I knew!

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll have some answers soon. When I’m not involved with races, I like to travel, and regularly visit my daughter who lives out in Australia. Who knows when we will all be able to visit our favourite foreign lands again? I’m waiting for the news with bated breath, as I imagine many are. For now, I hope everyone is staying safe. Hopefully I’ll see some of you at a northern racecourse sometime soon – come and say hello if you spot me!

SsangYong Blenheim Palace Horse Trials 2020 Cancelled due to COVID-19

SsangYong Blenheim Palace Horse Trials 2020 Cancelled due to COVID-19

Established in 1990, the Blenheim Palace Horse Trials is one of the most prestigious events in the equestrian calendar. Sadly, this year’s event, which was due to take place between 17th – 20th September at the historic landmark, has been cancelled due to the Coronavirus outbreak.

On 27th April, the organising team of the event announced: “Having considered all options, following the government’s latest comments over potential future social distancing restrictions, it is with huge regret that [we] write to advise you that the Organisers – British Eventing and Blenheim Estate, in conjunction with our title sponsor SsangYong Motors UK – have taken the difficult decision not to run the SsangYong Blenheim Palace Horse Trials in 2020.

“Clearly Coronavirus has impacted on everyone’s lives and, whilst we are massively disappointed not to be able to put on the showcase event that we have been planning and preparing, the longer term health and safety of the public, competitors, exhibitors, volunteers, officials and staff; sustainability of the sport and those who support us is paramount.”

Adding that they hope to welcome visitors and competitors back to Blenheim Estate next year, their official statement continued: “We would like to thank all of our competitors, sponsors, exhibitors, officials and volunteers, and all who support us in any way, for [your] understanding and ongoing commitment to the event and sport, and we hope to see you all back at Blenheim in 2021.”

Reflecting on the news, Equestrian Surfaces Head of Sales, Alex Goldsack, said: “It’s very sad. We were involved with the event last year as exhibitors, and sponsors for the road crossings. I was also involved personally, as my daughter rode in the four-star. It’s a stunning event and I know everyone in the eventing world is very sad to hear this news, especially considering it has come so soon before the event was due to take place. I suppose it’s yet another example of the impact of the COVID-19 virus. I hope that we’ll win our battle against it, and that the world will be able to bounce back again soon.”

 

Image source: Blenheim Palace Horse Trials Official Site