British Dressage announced today a new Coronavirus Operation Plan setting out a phased return to events and competitions, dealing with the short, medium and long term implications of this crisis. This includes a cancellation or postponing of further major competitions, including the Le Mieux National Championships which were due to take place at Somerford Park in September.
The plan provides an overview of how the organisation intends to manage the process at each stage. This is split into three distinct phases; Response, Resumption and Recovery, to summarise how BD aims to meet the challenges presented by the pandemic as the situation continues to evolve. To read a detailed outline of the plan, click here.
While BD acknowledge that it is not possible to predict specific timescales for when these different stages can be implemented, they express their intention to be ready to start riding and training as soon as it is safe to do so. However, with social distancing restrictions likely to remain in place post-lockdown, opportunities to run a ‘normal’ calendar of events, even when sport is able to resume, will be limited.
BD state that flexibility will be the key, with a gradual return to action, which will inevitably be low key and small scale to begin with, as it remains unclear when larger gatherings at shows and championships will be permitted. This is certainly looking unlikely in the short to medium term. The organisation’s focus will therefore be on getting activity up and running at local level initially, building up to regional level, within any limits on capacity or travel and fully compliant with all social distancing measures.
Major Events Cancelled
The following major national and international dressage events and competitions that were due to take place during the spring and early summer period have all had to be cancelled:
- British Dressage Young Horse Forum, Myerscough, 27 March
- Petplan Equine Area Festival Championships, Hartpury College, 8 – 12 April
- NAF Five Star Winter Dressage Championships, Hartpury College, 9 – 12 April
- British Dressage National Judges Convention, Addington, 14 April
- Keysoe Premier League, 24 – 26 April
- Senior Inter Regionals & Para Home International, Keysoe, 2 – 3 May
- Addington Premier League, 8 – 10 May
- Royal Windsor Horse Show, 13 – 17 May
- Somerford Park Premier League, 22 – 24 May
- Wellington Premier League, 3 – 7 June
- Para Festival of Dressage & Gold Semi Finals, Wellington, 3 – 5 June
- Equerry Bolesworth International Horse Show, 9 – 14 June
- Sheepgate Premier League, 19 – 21 June
- Hickstead International, 24 – 27 June
- Hartpury Festival of Dressage & Premier League, 1 – 5 July
- Hickstead Premier League, 8 – 11 July
Further 2020 Major Fixtures Cancelled
BD acknowledge that due to the coronavirus outbreak it will no longer be possible to reschedule and complete the vast majority of competitions due to take place during the summer season. This includes the Premier League series, summer Regionals and summer Area Festivals.
Inevitably, the loss of competition opportunities during the suspension period has had a significant impact on qualification for the rest of the summer season. As a consequence, BD have taken the decision to cancel the new Area Festival Summer Championships, both of which were due to take place in September.
BD state that It is vitally important for everyone involved in the sport that British Dressage is able to stage a strong National Championships in its first year at a new home in Somerford. As BD are already forecasting substantially increased operational overheads in 2020 as part of their plans to develop the show, the decision has been taken to cancel this event for this year and postpone until September 2021 instead, to give the championships the best possible chance of success when spectators will be able to attend.
- The National Championships is a spectator show and is not financially viable without the income from ticket sales, trade stands, hospitality, private boxes and sponsorship.
- With the cancellation of the Premier Leagues and Summer Regionals the opportunity to qualify for this event has already been lost, with rescheduling unrealistic in the timeframe.
- Due to the temporary infrastructure required and number of combinations involved it would not be feasible to run this as a stripped back ‘competitor only’ show at Somerford.
- Alternative options will continue to be explored as to whether it will be feasible to break down elements of these championships into smaller, more manageable one-off shows, staged as competitor only events and live streamed for members.
Resumption of Some Activities
BD revealed a draft outline of resumption of competition activities, with the caveat that these plans are likely to change and evolve as the situation progresses over coming weeks and months.
Winter Championships 2020
- Aim to complete the Winter Championship by splitting it into three smaller competitions; Winter National, Winter Music and Area Festival championships, if numbers permit.
- These would have to be staged before the end of 2020 and are dependent upon the level of restrictions that remain in place, capacity limits and availability of suitable venues / dates.
- This would enable the 2019/20 winter competition season to be brought to conclusion satisfactorily, allow members who had qualified for the Championships to compete at their respective final and provide full recognition for winter sponsors.
Summer Regionals and Area Festivals
- Carry forward already qualified combinations (full and part) for both the summer Regional, National and Area Festival championships over to the winter season, starting on 1 July 2020.
- These qualifications would remain valid up until the end of the winter qualifying period on 31 December 2020, but would not be rolled into a new calendar year in 2021.
- If possible, BD aim to host smaller High Profile Shows or Premier League equivalent competitions for small, middle and big tour riders between August and the end of 2020.
- These will provide additional opportunities to gain selection scores for those international riders who have been unable to travel abroad, as they prepare and campaign for 2021.
Due to the ongoing uncertainty over any international events taking place anywhere in Europe before the end of August, important opportunities to gain scores for selection will inevitably be lost for both able bodied and Para riders. Therefore, BD state they are examining the feasibility of staging the following competitions:
- Limited High Profile Shows or Premier League equivalent for small, middle and big tour riders, between August and the end of 2020. This would provide opportunities to gain selection scores for those International riders campaigning into 2021.
- Fixtures will need to be co-ordinated with rescheduled FEI international programme to avoid clashes where possible, as the autumn period could potentially be congested.
- A British National U21 Championship for Ponies, Juniors, Young Riders and Children on Horses, incorporating an Under 25 Grand Prix, to allow those riders at the end of their age category an opportunity to compete alongside their peers.
Quest & Associated Championships 2020
- As with all other championships BD acknowledge that it will be difficult to run these safely within any social distancing restrictions due to the volume of competitors attending. They have therefore had to take the decision to cancel the Quest Championships and Associated Championships scheduled for 2020. However, with smaller numbers attending the Quest Regional competitions it may still be possible to accommodate these shows and run them as individual championship finals instead.
- Quest qualification does not end until 31 August 2020, which provides more time for this to conclude. This will be dependent on whether there are adequate opportunities during the summer to achieve qualification on leader boards and/or if qualification can be extended.
- Providing qualification can be completed satisfactorily, the proposal would be to stage the scheduled eight Quest Regional competitions and crown a champion from each region.
Young Horse & Pony Championship 2020
- Reschedule the Young Horse & Pony qualifiers in the autumn period, if this is a viable option, to ensure that they don’t miss the vital opportunity within their recognised age group.
- In addition, there could be an opportunity to include a seven year old Championship class, which was due to be held at the Premier Leagues and National Championships this year.
- The aim will be to host a semi-final and final as a standalone mini-championship, if possible, subject to complying with any restrictions on numbers that remain in place.
There is still an opportunity to continue with a Summer Championship for Para riders at the end of August, even if under an amended format, providing it is safe to do so. BD state the number of competitors attending Para competitions make it easier to comply with any capacity restrictions and social distancing measures, but additional risks need for this group will need to be taken into account.
The majority of Grade 1 – 3 riders cannot compete without support, so an additional number of supporters per rider will be required compared to able bodied competition.
The loss of all Premier League fixtures has also resulted in the Para Festival of Dressage and Para Gold Semi Final being cancelled for 2020. In addition, the RDA has already cancelled their Summer Championship, which removed any qualification opportunity for the RDA Intellectual Disability Championship, due to run concurrently with the Bronze & Silver Championship at the end of August.
- Current intention is to still host the Bronze & Silver summer championship at Solihull (29 & 30 August), which could potentially incorporate an additional Gold Championship class.
- It is unlikely that the Bishop Burton CPEDI (10–14 August) will be able to go ahead, so Keysoe CPEDI in October would then be the next available international opportunity for Para riders.
British Dressage hope that as of January 2021, resumption of normal activities will be possible, seeing a return to the full calendar of events for the new year.
Here is a summary of British Dressage’s 3 Phase Plan:
- Suspension of all affiliated dressage training and competition activity until 31 May 2020
- Regular updates to guidelines and advice for members, in line with government restrictions
- Individual communications with stakeholder groups to provide support, help and advice
- Task force groups to establish general principles and framework for competition pathways
- Detailed contingency planning for the resumption of training and competition activity
- Review summer fixtures calendar and produce revised schedules for resumption of activity
- Define the social distancing measures that will be required for training and competitions
- Survey organisers and officials to understand who will be ready and available for resumption
- Approved online training and competition activity promoted in advance of physical restart
- Develop concept of training shows and test riding days to facilitate physical return to action
- Cancellation of remaining Premier League fixtures scheduled to take place in June and July
- Remainder of summer season abandoned, including Regionals and Area Festival fixtures
- National Championships and Summer Area Festival Championships postponed until 2021
- BD Youth regional team competitions also cancelled, but Senior HI to remain in place for now
- Review options to stage a split and stripped back Winter and Area Festival Championships
- Allow summer qualifications to be carried over to the winter season, until the end of 2020
- Provide opportunities for small, medium and big tour, young horses, Para and under 21s
- Scope potential to host mini-championships on a region-by-region basis in the autumn
- Quest competitions to continue, with series of eight regional finals in place of national final
- Intention to re-establish a full dressage training and competition calendar for 2021
- Normal qualification period and competition calendar restored from 1 January 2021
- Plan ahead for Winter Championships and Winter Area Festivals ‘behind closed doors’
- Olympic, Paralympic and U21 selection deferred until 2021, with new policies required
- Aim to stage full National Championships and Summer Area Festival Championships
- Training and education programmes restored, including new judge examination system
- Critically assess all costs and operational overheads to get back to break-even level in 2021
- Membership and horse registration recovered to pre-pandemic levels by end of next year
British Dressage May 2020