Post EHV, Covid; British equestrian sport moves toward “normal” levels

File image. Photo by Filip Eliasson

It is almost back to normal in the British horse sports world following the recent Equine Herpes Virus (EHV-1) outbreak in Europe.

British Equestrian (BEF) has reported that protocols for horses returning to the UK who might potentially have been impacted by the EHV-1 outbreak in Europe were implemented successfully, and the disease risk in the UK is now nearing normal levels. But the federation recommended the use of health self-certification forms for UK equine gatherings remains in place for the foreseeable future to help manage the risk.

British Equestrian’s Equine Infectious Diseases Action Group (EIDAG) has considered data on the prevalence of EHV-1 diagnosis in the UK over the last three years and concluded that, while EHV-1 remains a persistent and ever-present threat, the mildly increased disease risk level announced on March 18 is now dropping towards the baseline number of cases seen in any other year.

“This is welcome news. We know that EHV is endemic in this country, but the threat posed by the European outbreak was a cause for great concern,” British Equestrian Chief Executive Jim Eyre said.

“I’d like to thank the member bodies and all their riders, owners and grooms, who embraced and followed the protocols so readily and with such commitment. We’re also grateful to the members of the EIDAG – Celia Marr and her team have been a huge support and played an instrumental part in mitigating any risk of the spread of EHV and keeping our collective equine population safe.”

The process of monitoring and laboratory testing, which was imposed on horses that had been in direct contact with EHV-1 outbreaks at competitions in the Iberian peninsula and subsequently across Europe, is going well, the federation said.

While some of the horses currently suspended from competition are still to complete the protocols that will enable them to compete in Britain, all horses that have completed the laboratory testing option detailed in the protocols have thus far shown no active infection.

The EIDAG anticipates that by April 12, it may be possible to remove the current restriction that, to attend UK horse gatherings, horses must have been resident in the country for the last 28 days.

Covid-19 restrictions: Indoor arena use remains restricted

The use of indoor arenas in England remains restricted under the most recent legislation from the Cabinet Office, via the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). It will not be until April 12 that indoor arenas will be allowed to open for use as a single household or bubble.

British Equestrian led a campaign with the British Horse Society, the Pony Club and the Olympic governing bodies, to request clarification following the change in legislation released on March 26 which ordered indoor riding arenas to remain closed except for some exceptions.

“Our previous agreement with government that equestrian indoor venues would be classified as outdoors due to their agricultural and airy nature no longer applies. This is because the classification of what makes a venue ‘indoors’ has been now been determined using section 2 of the Health Act 2006, which relates to smoke-free regulations,” BEF said.

Defra has provided a roadmap in line with the step-by-step process that has been outlined by the government for the use of indoor schools/arenas in England:

  • An indoor structure is classed as a place that is considered to be enclosed, or substantially enclosed for the purpose of smoke-free regulations.
  • A structure would likely be classed as outdoors if more than 50% of the area of its walls are open.

Step 1 – from 29 March

  • An indoor riding arena may be used for the following exceptions:
    • Elite sports people – this is largely restricted to athletes on the World Class Programme at P1 and P2 level
    • An owner of an animal kept at a riding centre
    • Employees of a riding centre in order to care for and exercise horses or provide veterinary services
    • Organised sport and leisure activity for disabled people and children as part of their care is permitted indoors
    • Activities that form part of the core curriculum of formal education or professional/work-related training/development
  • Outside the above exceptions, indoor riding arenas must remain closed until Step 2, which will be no earlier than April 12.

Step 2 – no earlier than April 12

  • Under Step 2, indoor arenas will be allowed to open for use as a single household or bubble. There should be no mixing of households until at least Step 3 (no earlier than May 17). The above exceptions will still apply.

Step 3 – no earlier than May 17

  • At Step 3, the intention is that indoor arenas may be used in line with the wider social contact limits at this stage – a group of six people or two households.




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