US Federation Hopes to Allow Limited Number of Spectators at Horse Shows by Mid-May

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April 7, 2021

The United States Equestrian Federation said Wednesday it is “optimistic” a limited number of spectators will be allowed at horse shows by mid-May as well over 100 million Americans–about one-third of the population–have received at least one coronavirus vaccination.

As more individuals across the country are getting vaccinated, USEF President Thomas F.X. O’Mara and CEO William J. Moroney said in a statement, hope is increasing of getting closer to life returning to normal.

“However, the threats posed by the numerous virus variants, coupled with the increase in COVID cases in many of the states that have recently lifted restrictions, remind us that now is not the time to let our guard down. We must remain vigilant and continue to engage in the practices proven to reduce the risk of virus transmission (mask-wearing, social distancing, and frequent hand-washing).

“To this end, the current USEF COVID-19 Action Plan remains in place for all USEF licensed competitions. However, we are optimistic that we will be able to permit a limited number of spectators at USEF licensed competitions by mid-May.”

Most horse shows around the world have been without spectators since the middle of March, 2020, and much of Europe has faced tougher lockdowns in the past two months as a result of an outbreak of Equine Herpes Virus EHV-1.

The United States, led by Wellington, Florida competitions, have staged weekly competitions since late May, including the winter-long Global Dressage and Winter Equestrian Festivals, all without spectators. Thousands of horses along with riders, grooms, owners, veterinarians and officials and show ground staff have maintained competitions without a coronavirus-enforced break and VIP pavilions at both dressage and jumping at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center have been open though with reduced seating.

However, horse shows in the U.S. are less dependent on spectators with costs covered mostly by entry fees of competitors. But revenue from vendors at show grounds is also significant and many depend on spectators.

The USEF said it is regularly consulting with the federation’s chief medical officer and national public health organizations while staying up to date on the COVID status in each state.

The USEF COVID-19 Action Plan protocols apply unilaterally to all USEF licensed competitions, regardless of location. The only exceptions are where state, county, or local government and health authorities or a particular competition organizer have more stringent requirements and those take precedence.