The covid19 guidelines have affected sports, including equestrianism. The lack of spectators and social distancing are just two of many issues competitors and organisers have to deal with. Northcote Stud’s Emily Whiteside is perfectly placed to shed light on what showjumping is like under the current circumstances.
NCS hosted a weekend of showjumping on the 5th and 6th of September, including the BSJA Cat 2 and Unaffiliated Jumping. Emily says: ‘We had both junior and senior events on the day, the former group competing first. One thing that stands out immediately is that it’s certainly a lot quieter at the venue!
‘The restrictions mean only the competitors, accompanied by one other person, are allowed to attend on the day. Every rider is given the exact time they’re competing, to the minute, so people come and go throughout the day. It takes precise organising but it’s actually a lot quicker for each rider and horse to complete the course.’
The extra precaution measures have seen Northcote Stud take on extra staff to comply with the regulations ensuring a safe environment for everyone. The checking process starts in the car park with the stewards ensuring riders are on time and social distancing is maintained.
Emily continues: ‘There are only small numbers of people in the warm-up area at any one time as it’s just the rider and their horse. It’s not as busy as usual and also safer. This certainly benefits the less experienced riders. The downside is the riders don’t have their family and friends supporting them at the venue.
‘For the more experienced riders, this isn’t really a problem, as they’re used to competing and just get on with completing their round. Some of the less experienced ones may need a bit of encouragement and advice.’
While all this was happening at Northcote Stud, Emily was competing at Hickstead for the week with her young horses. For rider and horses, it proved to be invaluable experience in the fantastic grass arenas.
Emily says: ‘4yo Daquiri Z took a shine to jumping on grass and loved it, jumping some fabulous rounds in the 4yo classes, finishing in the top 10 from 85 starters on the 3rd day. Fledder Z was the star of the show, jumping two clear rounds in the 5yo qualifiers to earn himself a ticket into the final. He jumped absolutely fabulous in the international arena, very unfortunately knocking the last fence down.
‘It was an incredible experience for these young horses to jump in these rings. Diana BK and Zherindo Warrior also jumped some lovely rounds. They’re now on holiday before getting ready to leave for Spain in November.
‘Our horses benefitted from the training and exercise at Northcote Stud during the lockdown restrictions. We even had riders coming to us as part of their “one exercise a day” during the early stages of that period. Others weren’t always as fortunate. The lack of competition has had an effect on some of the horses' development.’
The current restrictions aren’t ideal, with event days especially requiring extra resources and planning. But, Northcote Stud is doing everything possible within the guidelines to ensure riders and horses can keep practising and enjoying equestrian sports. They’ve even been able to find several positives despite the restrictions.