23, February, 2022

What a ride, huh? The last two years have been wild. It’s been lonely and traumatic and disruptive. Plans have gone by the wayside, incomes have taken a hit, the way we live and play has changed forever. It’s been beyond hard, but it hasn’t been all bad. In a lot of ways the enforced changes have been good for our sport, and in others, they’ve truly made us appreciate what make it special.

I for one have appreciated turning up to show jumping events knowing exactly when I’ll be riding, instead of having to plot the most complicated multi factorial equation based on how organised each venue is, how many classes are going before me, how many competitors I think will turn up, and what the weather might be doing. Not to mention assessing the state of the yard, how many horses I have to prep, how far away the show is, what time of day I’m travelling and whether or not there will be another accident on the M6. 

I’ve also appreciated going to events and knowing that I’ll be through all three phases in a matter of a couple of hours or less, meaning I can do more than just pop the one horse around a BE80 on any given Saturday and not have to clear the entire day of any other useful or enjoyable function within or outwith the sport. It’s been revolutionary to know approximately when you’ll be showjumping, allowing us single horse competitors to actually plan our warmup to our needs instead of getting to the collecting arena and having Mr Diddly-Squat, the local pro with his team of imported horses and harried grooms to phwoar, phwoar, phwoar his way in front of you leaving your perfectly warmed up Percy to go stone cold dull on the sidelines.

At dressage it’s been amazing to have the Oh-My-God it’s early start times offset by the knowledge that you can then pack up and go home in time for the Sunday Roast, secure in the knowledge that your results will be sent through to you on SMS and your sheets and ribbons mailed to you in the post, rather than still being there as dusk falls while the Brigadier single finger taps their way through the scores of the 40 other competitors that followed you down the centreline. 

Things that I have missed and that are great to see returning include socialising in the lorry park, celebrating and commiserating around the scoreboard and the thrill of the live prizegiving. I miss crowds at events, ringside hospitality, and the roar of the stands at the races. It will be fantastic to celebrate sponsors and owners as they deserve and to trawl the tradestands once again with the masses.

Personally, I hope that we hold on to the improved efficiency that have been forced upon us as we relish the social aspects of our sport, the collective feeling of community, that we have missed so much as the pandemic unfolded and engulfed us.

Here’s to equestrian sports ‘new normal’.

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