British Dressage Coronavirus Operational Plan - roadmap for resumption of dressage activity unveiled

  • Written By: British Dressage
  • Published: Thu, 07 May 2020 13:00

British Dressage (BD) has today released a detailed operational plan to outline how it intends to manage a phased resumption of sporting activity. The government has detailed their five tests which must be met before any adjustments are made to the current lockdown and any dressage activity will only resume when it is safe to do so. The pandemic is far from over, but with restrictions set to be eased over coming weeks, BD has been planning and preparing for the time when it’s appropriate to recommence riding, training and competing.

The 12-page plan is based on a three-phased approach to manage the short, medium and long term impact of the crisis on the sport; Response Resumption and Recovery. Our operations currently sit in the response phase and once there is easing of the lockdown restrictions we can progress towards resumption in order for training and competition activity to restart. The final stage will be when the sport can fully recover to pre-pandemic levels, but in the meantime it is expected that we will have to operate within public health guidelines and social distancing requirements.

As part of this plan there are four stages for members to follow, as a gradual progression towards the full resumption of activity; Ride, Train, Compete and Qualify, with each step dependent on what government restrictions will allow at that point. Although it is not possible to be prescriptive on the timescales for the implementation of each phase at present, the plan is flexible enough to adapt to the situation as it evolves and will ensure that we are ready to restart as soon as we are given the go ahead.

Our first priority is to actively encourage members to get back riding and start doing individual training again at the earliest opportunity in order to be ‘competition ready’. Once the government makes further concessions around travel and public gatherings, full organised training and competition activity can resume, in line with whatever social distancing, health and hygiene regulations are put in place. The final stage will be when the dressage calendar can be restored to give members clear targets to aim towards and qualify for future shows and championships.

Inevitably the summer season will have a very different look once competition resumes and riders should use competitions as a measure against their training progress, rather than a method of qualification, as championship opportunities will initially be limited as the sport builds back up to full strength. Unfortunately a large part of the qualifying period has been lost during the suspension period, resulting in the difficult decision to abandon the remainder of the 2020 summer season. The following competitions and series have therefore reluctantly been cancelled for this year:

  • All remaining Premier League fixtures
  • Summer Regionals and LeMieux National Championships
  • Petplan Equine Summer Area Festivals and Championships
  • Shearwater Young Horse and Pony qualifiers and semi-finals
  • Para Home International, BD Youth Inter Regional and BD Youth Home International
  • Quest National Championships and Associated Championships

On a more positive note, we still hope to be able to commence the winter qualifying season from 1 July 2020 onwards, providing restrictions have been sufficiently relaxed by that point. In addition, the Board, Senior Management Team and Sport Operations task force groups have identified the following key areas to progress as alternative opportunities for members:

  • Completion of the 2020 Winter Championship by splitting it into three smaller competitions; Winter National, Winter Music and Area Festival championships, if numbers permit.
  • Mechanism to carry over full or part summer qualifications already achieved into the qualification period for the 2021 Winter Championships, from 1 July to 31 December 2020.
  •  Replacement small, medium and big tour competitions at High Profile Shows and / or Premier League equivalent competitions, when restrictions allow.
  • Alternative qualification structure and final for Young Horse and Pony Championships in 2020.
  • One-off Under 25 British National Championships for Ponies, Juniors, Young Riders, Children on Horses and U25 Grand Prix, to take place before the end of the year.
  • Equissage Summer Para Bronze and Silver Championships to continue in August, incorporating a rescheduled Gold Championships, with a revised qualification route.
  • Eight Quest Regional Finals to remain in place as individual championships for each region.
  • Alternative mini-championships for all regions to encourage competition and participation.

BD has also prepared a separate plan to cover Training & Education, which oversees judges, coaches, stewards, youth development and major events, taking a similar three phase approach. Work will continue on the new Judges Education Project to ensure that this vital initiative does not lose any momentum, while further provision has been made for the ongoing CPD and delivery of training programmes, either online or face to face, dependent on the level of restrictions in place.

BD CEO Jason Brautigam commented; “These plans have been developed with considerable uncertainty remaining about what the future will hold, but we believe that the sport is in a strong position to get back underway as soon as government gives the green light. While there are not going to be any ‘quick fix’ solutions, we wanted to provide a clear path forward for our members and give some hope for a return to a ‘new normal’, whatever that might look like.”

“The health and safety of members remains of paramount importance and we appreciate that everyone has different circumstances. Some members may fall into the high risk category, so they still need to be shielded, officials and venues will have to adapt to new conditions in order to comply with social distancing measures, while we may all have to operate within a limited regional capacity for the immediate future to respect any travel restrictions. Getting underway and resuming competition will require a flexible approach, but we will aim to provide all stakeholders with the support they need to adapt and evolve, so we can all play a part in building dressage back to where it should be.”

British Dressage Chairman Linda Whetstone commented; “Everyone at BD has been working hard to manage the crisis, taking the necessary measures to safeguard the future of our sport, protect the health of all involved and ensure the financial stability of British Dressage. We are unfortunately going to be living with the impact of this pandemic for some time to come, nevertheless it is crucial for all concerned that we can facilitate the swift return of training and competition activity, when it is safe to do so. We hope the dressage community will take time to read the details in our operational plan, which is our roadmap out of the crisis, and can be found on the BD website. We are immensely grateful for all of the positive feedback and contributions we have received to date and hope you will continue to support us as we work together to rebuild our sport."

More details will be released in due course as further progress is made and the time frames for delivery and implementation become clearer. The BD Operational Plan and Training & Education Plan can both be read in full online, while we have also provided a top level summary for easy reference.