Liverpool International Horse Show 2020 Cancelled

Liverpool International Horse Show 2020 Cancelled

2020’s end-of-year festivities will now change for many, following the announcement that the Liverpool International Horse Show, set to take place between 31st December – 3rd January, is amongst the latest equestrian events to be cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic

As one of the most prestigious events in the equestrian calendar, the Liverpool International Horse Show never fails to impress, playing host to a wide programme of competitions and performances from world-class riders, as well as an extensive shopping village and an exciting schedule of unrivalled entertainment for the whole family

 

“We were fortunate enough to have been selected as the official surface supplier for last year’s show,” says Equestrian Surfaces Head of Sales, Alex Goldsack. “It was an honour to have been involved – it turned out to be very beneficial for us as a business, and we all had a great time. The whole team is really saddened by the news that this year’s show will no longer be going ahead.” 

 

According to the official statement released by event organisers last week, the Bolesworth Events team have been working closely with the M&S Bank Arena, the home of LIHS, to model a series of scenarios which would allow the indoor show to go ahead amidst the current challenging circumstances. 

“With the health and safety, as well as the welfare of the equestrian community at the heart of our decision making, we must act responsibly,” the statement summarised. “As a result, given the commercial implications and current Government guidance regarding social distancing and mass gatherings, it is clear an event of this scale poses far too great a risk to host in what has already been a challenging year.” 

 

Whilst the full-scale indoor event will not be going ahead, Bolesworth Events are currently working on putting together a show which could safely be carried out behind closed doors

Managing Director of Bolesworth Events, Nina Barbour, said: 

“In order to support our riders and partners, we are exploring the feasibility to develop a 2* International Show, which will strictly be behind closed doors in line with current Government guidelines, for competitors only, on the same dates as originally planned for the Liverpool Show (31st December 2020 – 3rd January 2021). 

“As with all our events this year, we are keen to support the UK equestrian industry back into competition at the top level and it feels only right we continue this work and support our elite riders as they prepare for Tokyo 2021. We aim to better understand the viability of running this event by the start of October, with further information released as soon as possible. 

“We wish everyone well in these uncertain times, and look forward to welcoming you all to a truly incredible show in 2021.” 

 

Visit the LIHS website to read Bolesworth Events’ full cancellation statement, and sign up to the newsletter to stay up to date with the latest news and announcements. 

Crazy Horsey World Records

Crazy Horsey World Records

Fancy yourself an equestrian whizz? How many of these top horsey world records do you have in your knowledge bank?

 

World’s smallest horse

From Missouri (USA), Thumbelina, the smallest horse ever recorded, measured in at a mere 4hh (44.5cm). Sadly, she passed away in 2018.

The smallest horse currently living is Polish superstar Bombel. Measuring 5.2hh (56.7cm), the little appaloosa lives with his owner, Katarzyna Zielinska, and often visits children’s hospitals to bring a smile to young patients.

 

World’s tallest horse

The tallest (and heaviest) horse on record was a shire gelding named Sampson (later renamed Mammoth). Bred by Thomas Clever of Toddington Mills, Bedfordshire, Sampson was foaled in 1846 and measured 21.2hh (2.19m, 7ft 2.5 inches), weighing in at 1,524kg (3,359lbs).

The tallest horse still around today is Big Jake at Smokey Hollow Farms in Poynette, Wisconsin (USA), whose last recorded measurement (taken in 2010) was 20hh 2.75 inches (2.1m, 5ft 10.75 inches).

  

The longest horse tail

Kansas mare JJS Summer Breeze currently holds the world record for the longest tail. When last measured in 2007, her flowing locks reached extreme lengths of 12ft 6in (381cm)!

Image credit: Guinness World Records (https://bit.ly/3h7RRFt)

World’s oldest horse

Foaled in 1760 and bred by Edward Robinson of Woolston, Lancashire, Old Billy lived to the ripe old age of 62 years, and still retains the world record of longest-lived horse to this day!

The oldest recorded thoroughbred racehorse was Tango Duke. Foaled in 1935 and owned by Carmen J. Koper of Barongarook, Victoria (Australia), the chestnut gelding lived to be 42 years old and passed away on 25th January, 1978.

 

The biggest horse race

The race in Jhui Doloon Khudag, Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia), held on 10th August, 2013, attracted some 4,249 runners. Achieved by the Federation of Mongolian Horse Racing Sport and Trainers during an event organised by Mr M. Enkhbold (President of FMHRST) and Mr P. Sergelen (Secretary General of FMHRST), the race covered a distance of 18km (11.18 miles). The fastest time achieved was 24 minutes and 30.42 seconds, and the ages of riders ranged from 7 years old to 79 years old.

 

The record jumping height of a miniature horse

Miniature horse Castrawes Paleface Orion, measuring 9.3hh, achieved a world record after clearing 1.08m during a national show held by the Independent Miniature Horse Registry (IMHR) in Australia back in 2015.

 

World’s fastest racehorses

Winning Brew, a two-year-old filly, reached record-breaking speeds of 43.97mph in a two-furlong race in the USA back in 2008, whilst Stone of Folca holds the world record for fastest racehorse over five furlongs, winning the Epsom Dash in 2021 in 53.69 seconds!

 

The first ever horse race

Whilst horsemanship was an important part of the Hittite culture of Anatolia (Turkey) from around 1400 BC, the earliest known horse race officially recorded took place as part of the 33rd ancient Olympic Games of 648 BC, held in Greece.

The earliest race recorded in England was held in approximately 210 AD at Netherby, Cumbria.

 

Oldest winning racehorse

Born on 5th April, 1983, Al Jabal, a pure-bred chestnut gelding ridden by Brian Boulton and owned by Andrea Boulton (UK), was 19 years old when he won the Three Horseshoes Handicap Stakes (6 furlongs) on 9th June, 2002, at Barbury Castle in Wiltshire.

 

The highest fence jumped

The highest jump, as officially recorded by the FEI, is measured at 8ft 1.25 inches (2.47m) and was achieved by Huaso ex-Faithful, ridden by Captain Alberto Larraguibel Morales at Vina del Mar, Santiago (Chile) on 5th February, 1949.

Jumpers making an attempt for this record will need to clear 2.49m to qualify!

Image credit: International Museum of the Horse, Kentucky Horse Park (http://imh.org/)

World’s largest rocking horse

The largest rocking horse ever built was created by Gao Ming in China, and measures up at 41ft x 14ft x 26ft (12m x 4m x 8m).

 

World’s oldest horse stables

Discovered in 1999 by a joint German-Egyptian archaeological team headed by Edgar Pusch from Germany, the world’s oldest horse stables were uncovered in the ancient city of Piramesse, in the Nile Delta, Egypt, and are believed to have been established by the Egyptian pharaoh, Ramses II (1304-1237 BC).

The stables are also believed to be the largest in the world, spanning approximately 17,000m2 (182,986ft2), with the capacity to house 460 horses. Also comprising a courtyard and horse-bathing pool, the stables were built on a slant to allow the urine to drain away and be used as fertilizer.

 

Oldest horse twins

Born in 1982, Tiff and Griff are identical Cremello males measuring 11.2hh, and are now owned by the Veteran Horse Society in Cardigan, North Pembrokeshire. The pair have spent their entire lives together and have retired to the Veteran Horse Society having spent a lot of their early years giving children rides at London Zoo.

 

Largest collection of stick horses

Dan Cavanah of Florida (USA) holds the record for the largest collection of stick horses, totalling 460! Dan first began collecting in 1990 after a friend bought him a stick horse for his birthday as a joke.

Did you know…

Stick horses are often referred to as hobby horses, but the two are actually distinctly different objects.

The word ‘hobby’, meaning interest or pastime, is derived from the name ‘hobby horse’.

 

Most expensive horse (at auction)

Bidding on a (then unnamed) two-year-old thoroughbred colt who had yet to even race reached record figures in an auction held at Calder Race Course in Florida (USA) on 28th February, 2006. Since named Forestry, in reference to the colt’s pedigree, it was bought through an agent named Demi O’Byrne (Ireland), who paid $16 million (then £9.1 million) for the horse.

 

Biggest racing prize

The Dubai World Cup meeting held at the Meydan Racecourse (Dubai) on 27th March, 2010, holds the world record for the greatest amount of prize money for a single day’s racing, totalling $26.25 million (£17.62 million), while the largest prize fund for a single horse race at the event was set at $10 million (£6.71 million), split between the top six placing horses. The winner’s share of this total was a whopping $6 million (£4 million)!

 

Most mounts & dismounts from a moving horse in one minute

Alessandro Conte managed to mount and dismount from a moving horse 32 times in the course of one minute whilst making his record attempt on the set of Lo Show dei Record in Rome, Italy, on 20th March, 2012. His record is yet to be beaten!

 

Could you be a Guinness World Record holder?

There are still a number of categories yet to be attempted for, including the record for the fastest time to complete 10 showjump fences.

Fancy your chances? Visit the Guinness World Records website to find out more about how you can sign up to make your world record attempt!

 

 

September sees the return of spectators at a number of racing events across England

September sees the return of spectators at a number of racing events across England

Doncaster Racecourse is set to host the first scheduled horseracing pilot event with a crowd present on 9th September as part of the St Leger Festival.

 

Following the work of the Racecourse Association, completed alongside a number of industry partners and member racecourses throughout July and August, a submission made to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) to host pilot events has now been approved, with a number of racing events now scheduled to take place in September.

 

The three pilot events confirmed thus far are:

  • Doncaster Racecourse, St Leger Festival, 9th – 12th September
  • Warwick Racecourse, 21st September
  • Newmarket Racecourse, Cambridgeshire Meeting, 24th – 26th September

 

As well as testing the stringent operating protocols prescribed by the Sports Ground Safety Authority (SGSA), the pilot events will also test stage of the Government’s plan for the return to elite sport.

In order to complete the application, a detailed risk assessment was required from each racecourse, along with an operating plan which covered extensively all health, safety and operational concerns.

Each fixture has been selected to provide a detailed case study for other racecourses to follow, considering factors such as size and ownership of venue, profile of fixture, logistics of essential raceday services (such as catering and betting), and geography.

 

Following the extension of the trials for on-course betting, which began on 18th August, the RCA have today announced that details of betting services for pilot events with crowds are currently being confirmed and will be announced in due course.

 

Chief Executive of the Racecourse Association, David Armstrong, said:

“We are pleased to receive confirmation of our pilot events to welcome back crowds to racecourses and once again thank DCMS for entrusting the sport with this responsibility.

“Racecourses have been working for some time to this end, and we are confident the events selected will provide strong case studies which will be of use to all.

“The disappointment of postponing our last confirmed pilot at Goodwood was felt across the sport, but the learning and behind-the-scenes work have been of great value to others.

“Racing is ready to proceed in a safe manner, and we are looking forward to once again welcoming crowds back to the racecourse.”

 

Details for the commencement of pilot events in Scotland are anticipated, with discussions between Scottish Racing and the Scottish Government still taking place. A delegation led by the British Horseracing Authority and Arena Racing Company have been taking part in similar discussions with the Welsh Government to discuss such events taking place in Wales also.

 

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World-class surfaces for indoor and outdoor arenas, racetracks, gallops and lunge pens

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Providing elite performance and excellent support in fast movements and turns, Cushion Track Racing is tried, tested and recommended by a number of world-renowned riders and racehorse trainers, including Charlie Mann.

 

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Preparing for Four Days of World-Class Competition at Burgham International Horse Trials 2020!

Preparing for Four Days of World-Class Competition at Burgham International Horse Trials 2020

Due to kick things off tomorrow, this year’s Burgham International Horse Trials has received its biggest and most impressive set of entries to date.

Whilst the event may be closed to the public this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, seeing the prestigious event able to go ahead is a welcomed relief for equestrians across the country, who will still be able to watch their favourite riders in action via the H&C+ livestream.

 

Making its debut this year, the H&C+ livestream will provide exclusive coverage of Saturday’s and Sunday’s CCI4*-S feature classes, which are set to see a number of equestrian sporting megastars compete, including:

  • Current World Champions, Ros Canter and Allstar B
  • 2018 Badminton CCI5* winners, Jonelle Price and Classic Moet
  • 2017 Burghley CCI5* winners, Oliver Townend and Ballaghmor Class
  • Last year’s Pau CCI5* winners and World Equestrian Games team gold medallists, Tom McEwen and Toledo de Kerser
  • 2018 Burghley CCI5* winners, Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy
  • The winners of last year’s CCI4*-L events at Blenheim, Boekelo, Blair Castle, Bramham and Strzegom
  • William Fox-Pitt’s top two rides, Little Fire and Oratio II
  • Nicola Wilson’s team gold and individual bronze medallist, Bulana
  • 2017 Burgham CCI4*-S winner, Laura Collett’s Mr Bass

… to mention only a few!

 

Following a record number of entries, event organisers have decided to add extra days to the event in order to see all qualifying riders accommodated, so the Burgham International Horse Trials will now be running from 19th-23rd August 2020.

 

Burgham International Horse Trials Event Director, Martyn Johnson, said:

“It’s a real shame that we can’t welcome the public to Burgham this year. It’s going to be a fantastic event, and the incredible quality of the entries proves just how popular Burgham is with the best riders in the world. However, we are delighted to be partnering with H&C+ so that people can see the thrilling competition on display on Saturday and Sunday. It will also be available to watch on demand after the event.”

 

Follow @burghamht on Facebook and Instagram to keep up to date with the latest developments over the course of the event, and tune in to watch on Saturday and Sunday on the H&C+ website.

 

 

Green Light for Mounted Games and Polocrosse!

Green Light for Mounted Games and Polocrosse!

Back in March, the announcements came of cancellations of events across the board when the UK entered a nationwide lockdown triggered by the outbreak of COVID-19.

After a long four-month period (which has felt like a lifetime), we’re now thankfully starting to see the equestrian calendar liven up once more, as events across all disciplines begin to resume for the latter part of the season.

Most recently, mounted games and polocrosse have been given the green light to resume following proposed plans submitted to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), made by British Equestrian.

 

British Equestrian has been working closely alongside the Mounted Games Association of Great Britain, the United Kingdom Polocrosse Association, and The Pony Club, to produce a comprehensive action plan which falls in in line with the Return to Recreational Sport Framework provided by DCMS earlier in July in order to make this move possible.

Completing a series of risk assessments as part of the proposal, each one identifying ways in which the risk of transmission could be minimised, British Equestrian devised plans which would see reduced audiences of live spectators of the events, thereby allowing event organisers to make modifications as necessary to the event itself or the rules of the sports.

Sitting alongside DCMS’s Return to Recreational Sport Framework, British Equestrian has produced a Return to Equestrian Team Sports Action Plan, which provides guidelines on how team sports may resume safely. This includes a standard approach to the management of equestrian team events across England, as well as team training sessions and competitions.

 

British Equestrian’s Head of Participation, David Butler, said: “It’s great news that these sports have been given the go-ahead to resume. We’re very grateful for DCMS’s decision. Participants, officials, volunteers and other stakeholders can now return to the sports they love, happy in the knowledge that everything possible has been done to keep them safe.”

British Equestrian is currently working alongside The British Horseball Association to produce an application for horseball to resume.

 

The Return to Equestrian Team Sports Action Plan is available to read online, as are a number of sport-specific risk assessments.

 

Find out more about live equestrian sports springing back into action, or read our guidance on getting back in the saddle.

 

 

Updates on the British Showjumping National Championship 2020

Updates on the British Showjumping National Championship 2020

Whilst the sad news came on 2nd July of the cancellation of this year’s Horse of the Year Show and Stoneleigh Horse Show at Stoneleigh Park, equestrians and showjumping fans will be pleased to see the recent announcement that the British Showjumping National Championships will still go ahead from 3rd – 11th August 2020.

With British Showjumping officials having sought an alternative permanent show venue for the event, all three championship shows will now be hosted by Nina Barbour and her team at Bolesworth across the nine-day period in early August.

British Showjumping Chief Executive, Iain Graham, said:

“With the number of competitors being reduced and the short window we have been given following UK Government advice in respect of being permitted to run, it would have put an inordinate strain on the financial bearing of the show. Moving it to a permanent venue where the infrastructure is already in place was most definitely the sensible decision, and to have secured such a prestigious venue is something we trust our members will see positively.”

The team at Equestrian Surfaces Ltd is proud to be involved with the event, and will be on hand to manage and maintain the surface, ensuring it is kept in pristine condition for the duration of the show.

New showing classes added!

British Showjumping have this week announced the inclusion of the following new showing classes for this year’s National Championships:

  • Pony 1.15m Open Warm Up
  • 60cm Warm Up
  • 80cm Open Warm Up
  • Pony 1m Open/Newcomers

The event features something for everyone, no matter the riding level or ability. Entries are still open – visit the Bolesworth website for more information on the event.

Royal Windsor Goes Virtual (Again) – Virtual Windsor Autumn & Winter Series 2020

Royal Windsor Goes Virtual (Again) – Virtual Windsor Autumn & Winter Series 2020

Following the success of Virtual Windsor this May, Royal Windsor Horse Show organisers have announced the return of the online show as a new series, with virtual events set to take place in Autumn and Winter this year.

Streaming live from 25th – 27th September 2020, the Virtual Windsor Autumn Series will provide riders from all over the world with an online competition platform, showcasing riders in three disciplines as they perform from their own homes. Featuring 22 Showing classes, including new classes for International Pony Club Dressage, Riding for the Disabled Association, and Equitation Jumping, the event will allow free entry to all.

As with May’s event, virtual visitors to the Autumn Series will be able to browse new products and offers in the popular shopping section, and will also be treated to an array of bonus features, including yards tours and online masterclasses with first-class riders. The Autumn Series will also see the launch of a new, specially designed jumping discipline – Equitation Jumping.

Designed to provide an online competition platform for showjumpers across the globe, Equitation Jumping is based on Prix Caprilli, and will involve competitors filming a short test and submitting the footage. The test must include three fences of any kind and at any height, with one stride between each. Judged by professional judge, showjumper and event rider Julian White, riders will be awarded points for their position, use of aids and straightness, as well as for the technique, shape and impulsion of their horse. Open to all, the Equitation Jumping Championship will be taking place on Sunday 27th September.

This event will also mark the anticipated return of Virtual Windsor’s Showing Series. In May’s event, we saw over 4,000 entries from riders around the world, including riders as far away as South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Amateur and professional riders competed, and we even saw an entry from Her Majesty The Queen! September’s event will feature 26 Showing classes covering a huge range, from Hunters and Riding Horses to Show Ponies and Side Saddle, and the Winter Series will include classes dedicated to showcasing international horse breeds, all of which will be free for all to enter.

 

Entries for the Virtual Windsor Autumn Series are set to open in August 2020. Schedules and a full breakdown of the rules for each class can be found on the Virtual Windsor website.

Live Equestrian Sport Resumes as Lockdown is Lifted

Live Equestrian Sport Resumes as Lockdown is Lifted

After the sporting calendar was successfully brought back to life last weekend with live coverage of the Barbury Horse Trials being streamed on Horse & Country TV, this weekend we’re set to see the return of international dressage with the Equine America Rotterdam Hickstead Grand Prix Challenge.

The Barbury Horse Trials kicked off the sporting season with two full days of non-stop action on 11th & 12th July, seeing over 500 entries across BE100, Novice and Intermediate classes, including some top event riders such as Tom McEwen, Harry Meade, Jonelle Price, Tim Price, Aaron Millar and Zara Tindall, amongst others.

This weekend, Horse & Country will be treating dressage fans to seven hours of top-class competition. From 6pm on Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th, viewers will be able to tune into Horse & Country TV and watch 40 top riders, including Charlotte Dujardin, Emile Faurie, Tristan Tucker, Dane Rawlins and Pammy Hutton, perform a Grand Prix test.

With a commitment to creating an opportunity for riders to get back into competition, organisers Dressage at Hickstead, CHIO Rotterdam and Chilli Pepper Productions have included an interactive aspect in this event, which enables viewers to cast their own marks for each test in real time via the Spectator Judging app. The scores will then be collated, and the viewers’ winner will be announced during the programme on Sunday evening.

Getting Back in the Saddle & Bringing Your Horse Back into Work

Getting Back in the Saddle & Bringing Your Horse Back into Work

During the COVID-19 lockdown, many riders have been forced to reconsider their training schedule due to competitions being cancelled and rescheduled for later in the season or for 2021, or have even had to hang up the reins altogether as a result of training facilities being closed in order to fall in line with social distancing guidelines. Whilst impacting riders’ own mental and physical health, these changes may have also had adverse effects on horses’ levels of fitness, and could likely have led to an increase in weight.

Being out of the saddle can feel strange, especially when the decision not to ride is out of our control. However, just because things are starting to return to normal, with training facilities gradually reopening and competitions resuming for this season, it’s important not to rush straight back in with your original training model.

 

Getting back to riding fit!

We’re all eager to get back in the saddle, but changes to the routine should be introduced as gradually as possible. It’s important to remember that, even if you had the fittest horse in the world prior to lockdown, the lack of training/reduced training schedule you’ve had to adopt in recent months will mean that some conditioning will have been lost. Be mindful that getting your horse back to optimum fitness, from grass to Riding Club-level, will most likely take between six to eight weeks, or could even take longer depending on your horse’s age, weight, breed, and whether or not they have any previous health issues.

If your horse has gained weight whilst being out in the field, this will likely lead to increased strain on joints, tendons, muscles, and the cardiovascular system. As a result, rushing back into a full training schedule of even medium intensity could result in a trip to A&E or a visit from the emergency vet. You should consider your own fitness level, too, and give yourself and your horse plenty of time to get back into a routine. Be sure to have days where training is less rigorous/intense, as well as some days off to give yourself and your horse time to recover from the sudden return to riding. You might also consider walking your horse in-hand occasionally instead of riding every day.

Before you bring your horse back into work, it’s also key to consult your farrier about the condition of their hooves. It may be that your farrier decided to remove the shoes during the lockdown period, so it’s important to ask your farrier for their advice on re-shoeing your horse now that training can resume. Your farrier will also be able to help you with an assessment of your horse’s soundness. If you’re worried about any signs of lameness in your horse, you should contact your vet immediately.

 

Keep an eye out for any changes in their behaviour

As far as being easy to read, horses usually aren’t, and they can hide their pain and discomfort really well. Often the only time we can tell something is wrong is with a subtle change in behaviour, which is why it’s important to keep an eye out for any signs which might indicate your horse is struggling or may be in pain as you bring them back into work. Behavioural changes which can indicate something might be wrong include:

  • Resistance to the bridle
  • Changing leads regularly in canter
  • Bucking or rearing
  • Showing signs of discomfort when putting the saddle on
  • Titling their head
  • Clamping their tail
  • Repeatedly opening and closing their mouth

If you notice your horse exhibiting any of these behaviours, you should contact your vet to discuss these signs straight away.

It’s also important to remember that, like us, our horses have probably been getting restless during lockdown and as a result may be eager to get out and about, but it’s important not to confuse this eagerness with a high fitness level. Their being keen will cause an increase in adrenaline and as such can make the horse appear to be fitter than they actually are. You should be mindful of this when bringing your horse back into work. If your horse is blowing, sweating excessively, or if their respiration rate is higher than it would normally be when conducting a particular activity, it could be a sign that you need to slow things down for the time being until their fitness is back up to standard.

 

Consider your riding surface

The condition of your riding surface plays a key role in affecting your horse’s physical wellbeing, which is why it’s an important factor to consider before returning your horse to work. The warm, dry weather that we have recently been experiencing is likely to have had an impact on the condition of your surface, particularly if it’s a non-waxed riding surface, so irrigation will be key. You may also want to consider having your arena re-levelled prior to strapping on the reins and getting back in the saddle, to ensure your surface is providing the best possible levels of support, cushioning and energy return.

You can find out more about how riding surfaces can impact your horse’s wellbeing here.

 

At Equestrian Surfaces Ltd, we provide comprehensive arena planning, construction, installation and maintenance services for both indoor and outdoor riding arenas. Get in touch with one of our experts today to discuss our services and the various surface options we offer. 

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!