USA Opening Horse Shows to Limited Spectators With 100 Days to Olympics, Patchwork of Lockdowns Across Globe

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Palm Beach International Equestrian Center pre-pandemic, that will host the U.S. Olympic dressage selection competition. The US Equestrian Federation has announced that spectators will be allowed, but still with masks and social distancing. Photo: Courtesy PBIEC

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

The United States Equestrian Federation announced Wednesday horse shows can have hundreds of spectators beginning May 3. The news came with 100 days to go to the Olympics and a patchwork of lockdowns around the globe designed to limit surges in the 13th month of coronavirus.

The USEF said that the growing number of Americans fully vaccinated–more than 75 million people or almost 23 of the U.S. population, according to the CDC–the decision had been made permit a limited number of spectators effective May 3.

Outdoor venues will be allowed a maximum of 40% of ticketed spectator capacity for competitions that operate with a ticketed gate or a maximum of 400 spectators for competitions that do not ticket spectators, whichever is greater. Indoor venues will be limited to 30% or 300 spectators.

The head-to-head competition of Olympic dressage hopefuls at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center in Wellington, Florida June 8-12 and a CDI3* in Temecula, California the first week of May would among shows to benefit from eased restrictions. PBIEC that includes the Global Dressage Festival has staged weekly shows almost non-stop since last May, including Global and the Winter Equestrian Festival with several thousand horses from around the world throughout the winter.

Other dressage event later in the year include the North American Youth Championships at Traverse City, Michigan, the long established Dressage at Devon on Main Line Philadelphia that is dependent on spectators, and World Cup events in Ocala, Florida; Tryon, North Carolina and Thermal, California.

Sponsors, participants, competition staff, support personnel, volunteers and service providers are not included in the spectator capacity numbers so the number of people at the show grounds would be considerably higher.

“We will continue to carefully monitor conditions and regularly consult with health authorities with the goal of being able to provide additional updates in the coming weeks and months that will further ease restrictions without endangering the health and safety of competitors,” said Dr. Mark Hart, USEF Chief Medical Officer.

The USEF decision was a bright spot for equestrian sports coming after 13 months of Covid-19 restrictions and a deadly outbreak of equine herpes virus in Europe in February that led to horse shows closed in at least 10 European nations until this week.

Tokyo and some other areas were among cities with newly imposed restrictions, announced at the same time as the latest poll found that 70 per cent of Japanese surveyed by Kyodo news wanted the Games canceled or delayed for the second time. The Japanese organizers and government and the International Olympic Committee have already ruled out any foreign visitors for the Games starting in late July.

Of about 60 dressage competitions around the world that could serve as qualifiers for the Olympics from now to the end of June at least 20 have been canceled. The latest premier show to announce it won’t be held this year was Wiesbaden, Germany in May.