The Ins & Outs of Competing During COVID-19

by Katherine O. Rizzo As Governor Hogan continues to lift vari-

ous COVID-19 restrictions across Maryland, the horse industry is opening its barn doors… slowly, but surely. Over the past few weeks, the Maryland Horse Council and Te Equiery have been updating members and readers on what activities are allowed and what activities are still closed based on the most current executive or- ders coming from the Governor’s office. As of press time, lesson and boarding barns

have been allowed to re-open, as has the state’s trails system. As is the “new normal” during this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, these activities are to follow state, county and CDC guidelines for social distancing and other COVID-19 safety procedures. Also as of press time, the Governor has not

specifically opened most sports competitions (horse racing without spectators has reopened), however county health departments have been allowed to evaluate these sorts of activities on a case-by-case basis. By the time this issue is printed, several venues in Maryland will have already held schooling shows as well as USEF- sanctioned events. As the competition sector begins to open

again, Te Equiery asked its readers, “do you have any concerns about competing,

hosting com-

petitions and volunteer- ing at competitions during COVID-19?”

The Rules

eration has issued a CO- VID-19 Action Plan

Te US Equestrian Fed- for

Licensed Competitions that any USEF-licensed compe- tition must follow. Many feel USEF’s plan is solid while others think the plan may be going overboard. However, no matter what your opinion of the new rules may be, if you are hosting a USEF- licensed competition,


must abide by them. As more and more shows occur across the

country, the USEF has been updating these policies almost daily. Various disciplines have also been requesting temporary rule changes to help keep competitions contactless and socially distant. “Te USEF has been very responsive and very supportive,” show organizer Carolyn Del Grosso of the Potomac Valley Dressage Association stated. “Tey have been very flex- ible about changing dates and such too.” Gretchen Butts, co-owner of Waredaca in Laytonsville, has also found the USEF help- | 800-244-9580 Butts used the guidelines from USEF and

some guidance from MHC to make a Ware- daca COVID-19 Action Plan to present to the Montgomery County Health Department in order to petition for permission to hold an event in June. “MDA and the state have been great, as have MHC and MHIB,” she said. “Once we got the new date approval from the USEA, we reached out to the [county] health department with a plea for consideration.” Butts did not hear anything for a few weeks and had several state and county officials speaking up on her behalf as well. “I fully support Montgomery

ful in transitioning back to hosting com- petitions. “Tey really stepped up to the plate early on and have been very proactive,” said.

she “Te webinars

they produced were very helpful.” More locally, the

Maryland Department of Agriculture put out a “best practices” guide to assist organizers when hosting livestock competitions. Here in Maryland, horses, and thus horse showing, are considered live- stock under state law. Te majority of these guidelines and tips address the unmounted portion of horse shows with suggestions on how to limit access to competition secretaries, scoring, etc., and how to keep volunteers distant from each other and competitors. Tese MDA guidelines also address the entry numbers per class and suggest how to limit class size in order to keep riders more distant from each other.

County’s decision to be slower

to reopen

but we knew we could hold the event with minimal risks.” Butts received ap-

Competitors report they are eager to return to the show ring, even if it means wearing face masks and staying socially distant from others.

proval one week be- fore the scheduled event and Te Equiery has been receiving word of other compe- titions within various counties earning ap- proval from their local health departments as well.

For links to the

USEF and MDA rules and guidelines, visit

The Organizers With so many restrictions and new rules to

consider, we asked competition organizers, is it worth it? Will you be hosting shows during COVID-19? Te answers we received were mostly “yes”… but with caution. Del Grosso reported that PVDA had to can-

cel all shows thus far for 2020 including the always-popular PVDA Ride For Life. But now that the state is opening up again, PVDA is looking to hold a schooling show to test new protocols before its summer US Dressage Fed- eration competitions. “We have a whole new system in place to bring our volunteer numbers down and do all scoring electronically,” she said. “We will also have plexiglass between the show secretary and the public and have insisted that all paperwork and fees be submitted online before the show day.” Del Grosso is not worried about holding

The USEF mandates temperature checks of all volunteers, judges and organizers at licensed shows. At the June Waredaca Horse Trials, EMTs had two temperature check points on the property and checked every person who came onto the property.

dressage shows during COVID-19 with these, and other protocols in place. “Riding is a natu- rally socially distant sport, especially in dres- sage where there is only one person in the ring at a time,” she added. Loch Moy Farm owner Carolyn Mackintosh

agrees with Del Grosso about horseback riding in general being a socially distant, contactless sport already. Mackintosh hosts several horse trials at her farm in Adamstown. “Eventing is already a socially distant sport,” she comment- ed. Mackintosh also had to cancel all of her spring starter events this year and is looking for county approval for her July FEI event. “It is all about safety first and we plan to hold the event without spectators this year,” she explained. Mackintosh has also worked with course designer Ian Stark of Great Britain to modify the courses this year knowing that many event riders and horses will still be rusty come mid- continued...


Colleen McAleer

Janet Gallay

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