US Federation Holds Online Webinar Outlining Steps for Resuming Horse Shows Next Month

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Horses being hacked out this week in the sprawling Equestrian Preserve of horse farms in Wellington, Florida. © 2020 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

May 4, 2020

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

An extensive outline of recommendations for staging and participating in horse shows set to resume in parts of the United States June 1 were presented in an online webinar Monday organized by the U.S. Equestrian Federation to deal with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

For a lineup of jumper/hunter competitions organized for Wellington, Florida beginning June 3, the trainer, groom and one family member–for a total of three–will be allowed to join the competitor at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.

Michael Stone, president of Equestrian Sport Productions that organizes the Wellington shows, and John Madden, trainer and who introduced himself as best known as husband of Beezie Madden, stressed that the equestrian community will get only one chance to handle correctly the resumption of competitions that have been suspended in the most of the world since mid-March.

“We have to be really good citizens,” said John, “to our staff, our clients and organizers and governments. We have to be sensitive to never be a burdeb, but to be part of the solution. As trainers we’re the frontline leaders.”

Bill Moroney, USEF chief executive officer, said that an action plan on resuming competitions where allowed by state and local governments would be published by the end of the week, but that it would be flexible document to be updated and altered based on experience.

Among the issues, he said, was the role and participation of officials, including dressage judges and scribes who were typically seated next to one another.

The online discussion dealt only with national competitions. The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) is responsible for internationally recognized competitions.

The liability waiver competitors have signed in the past to safeguard the federation and organizers from lawsuits such as an in the event of a riding accident has been amended to to cover the risk of contracting the virus.

Dr. Mark Hart, USEF team physician and chair of the FEI medical committee, said the pandemic could be here for the next 12 to 24 months.

The goal for horse shows, he said, was to “start simple and build up slowly.”

While the federation could not enforce wearing of face masks, he said, “we strongly advise” organizers recommend them.

Michael Stone said everyone at the show grounds will be asked to wear masks as “the respectful thing to do.”

Extra staff will be on hand to spray disinfectant on warmup jumps as well as clean other equipment and surfaces throughout the show grounds.

Social distancing “monitors” will seek to insure steps recommended by the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Controls as well as state and local governments are followed, he said.

Bill Moroney said one of his biggest concerns was behavior back in the barn where riders, grooms, owners and family members congregate, relax and have a good time and forget the recommendations.

Entrance to Equestrian Village where the Global Dressage Festival is staged in Wellington, Florida. © 2020 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Meantime, the Winter Equestrian Festival of jumpers and hunters in Wellington, Florida will be expanded to 13 weeks next year from the standard 12 weeks, the organizers announced in a move designed to help offset negative impacts of the coronavirus.

WEF plans to offer competitions every week from Jan. 6 through April 4.

“The mandated COVID-19 cancellation of the last two weeks of the 2020 WEF was very hard on all of our stakeholders,” said Michael Stone, of ESP that organizes and manages WEF and the Global Dressage Festival at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.

“We are very cognizant of the hardships created by the abbreviated schedule and also keenly aware of the difficulties everyone is facing as the pandemic continues. We wanted to find a way to add value back to our competitors, sponsors, vendors, and VIP tableholders and feel that we can best accomplish this by being able to offer more with an additional week on the WEF schedule in 2021.”

No extension of 12 weeks of dressage competition over winter was announced.

Equine Canada, meantime, published a return to business operations framework “in anticipation of the conclusion” of the coronavirus pandemic.

“The goal of the framework is to provide guidelines that minimize the risk to participants and continue to limit the transmission of COVID-19 during the process of returning to pre-pandemic activity levels,” the federation said in releasing the document.