Second blow for Badminton as Covid-19 hammers the horse world

Piggy French and Vanir Kamira on their way to winning the Badminton Horse Trials.
Piggy French and Vanir Kamira on their way to winning the Badminton Horse Trials in 2019. © Mike Bain

The Badminton Horse Trials which was to be held “behind closed doors” in Britain in May has now been cancelled altogether because of the “unacceptable” level of operational and public health risk posed by the event.

It will be the second year in succession that the event, scheduled this year for May 5 to 9, has been called off because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Organisers said that it was “with great disappointment and regret” that the 2021 event, including the BE90 and BE100 Championships on May 4 and 5, is unable to go ahead. “Despite the encouraging Government announcements and rollout of the vaccine, the situation still remains fragile and unpredictable at this time.”

Following consultation between Badminton, Public Health England and South Gloucestershire Council it has been deemed that because of the scale and location of the horse trials, on the Duke of Beaufort’s estate in Gloucestershire, “it is not possible to secure the surrounding area in the proximity of the event site”.

“The health and safety of all those involved in the event and the local community remains Badminton’s priority and the level of operational and public health risk posed by the Horse Trials was agreed by all concerned to be unacceptable,” organisers said in a statement.

Badminton Director Jane Tuckwell said the announcement of last October to run behind closed doors was with the optimism that it would be possible. “The decision that we are not in a position to continue to plan to run the event at the beginning of May has not been taken without significant thought and consideration,” she said.

“I am sorry that the 2021 event has become unworkable despite our best efforts, but I am so grateful to all those that have offered support and encouragement over the past few months.”

The Duke of Beaufort said everyone on the estate was “desperately disappointed to have to cancel for the second year in a row as it is so much a feature of the year here”.

“But I am confident that the 2022 event will be very much part of the spirit of optimism we will all once again be feeling by then.”

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s Horse of the Year show, which was to have run in Hastings from March 9 to 14, has been cancelled, in a decision organisers have described as “heartbreaking”.

“This is not a decision we have made lightly, particularly when the majority of our expense has already been incurred, however, we feel it is the right thing to do for our riders, stakeholders, exhibitors and spectators,” the organisers said.

Rest assured we already have 2022 firmly in our sights and will come back bigger and better than ever.”

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