We have all started to accept the new normal with open arms. Some of the major horse races are back on track. Let’s take a close look.
Following the suspension of sports around mid-March, the world witnessed a collective pause. The good news is that now
equine sports is coming come on track.
The sport, which has otherwise been sidelined in comparison to other popular ones, has proved its uniqueness during these trying times. While most sports require human contact, they have been limited from play. Contrary to that, equine sports require less of human interaction, and more of the horse and its rider, which has been a boon. Also, because the animal is immune to the threats of the deadly coronavirus, it has emerged as a plus point for the sport.
The opportunity has grabbed the attention of potential viewers, as horse races are broadcast to remove spectators on track. According to a report: “Sports betting itself is poised to grow exponentially in the near future, with the growth expected to be nearly $140 billion through to 2024.”
British Horseracing Authority chief executive Nick Rust says: “Our focus is obviously on returning safely and protecting all those taking part in closed doors racing, while also ensuring that racing takes place and the risk of transmitting the virus is minimised.” He adds: “We're all passionate about racing, and like the participants and anyone connected with the sport, we've all missed it.”
Since equine activities have been at a complete halt, Mehernosh Patel, Managing Committee Member, Amateur Riders Club, Mumbai, India, says: “These have been testing times for us as we are dealing with humans as well as horses. During the lockdown, it was difficult for us to maintain the daily routine of horses and grooms. It is essential that horses get their daily exercise and we made it possible with extreme care and all the necessary precautions.”
Patel further explained: “Due to the regulations, we were forced to close riding activities at the club. It was a difficult period, but with the committee members taking quick decisions and contributing in various ways, we managed to sail through the phase. Now that regulations have been relaxed, we have resumed outdoor riding activities so that our riders and horses do not lose out on practice time. All riders are made to follow strict rules of social distancing and sanitization. Due to the shortage of staff, each person is doing the job of three and we have to keep the morale high.”
Patel pointed out that the management of the ground during monsoon is a difficult task and needs preparation before and after a ride. If that is neglected, riding activities will come to a halt. He said: “Horses need to be divided into groups as per their qualities like equestrian, polo, normal riding and need to be trained accordingly for which we have appointed professionals. To improve the quality of polo and jumping, newly trained horses have been bought. Continuous monitoring during riding hours ensures safety of riders and horses.”
Owing to the lockdown, a number of equestrian sports were cancelled which disappointed a number of Asain Games finalists too. At the Regional Equestrian League, Mumbai, a National qualifier league for Show Jumping and Dressage had to be put on hold. Yashaan Khambatta and Kaevaan and Zahan Setalvad, who were eager to battle it out for the national title on their home turf, were disappointed.
Yashaan Khambatta, the first Indian ever to have advanced into the final round of show jumping class at the Asian Games 2014, said: “I was looking forward to the REL to move onto the nationals for which I have been training daily at ARC. There have been very few events this year. I am hoping all that ends soon, and I get enough time to prepare for the Asian Games 2022.”
Asian Games 2018 finalist Kaevaan Setalvad shared: “It was thrilling to win the nationals last year at Meerut and I was looking forward to the REL this year. Waiting to go back on the grounds and start training again soon.”
Not just the REL, but the much-celebrated 2020 Kentucky Derby too had to face delay. The event usually happens in May, and has been shifted to September 2020. According to CBS Sport: “The final tune-up races are almost in the books before the 2020 Kentucky Derby sets off on September 5 from the historic Churchill Downs. The 148th Run for the Roses isn’t in its usual spot in May or at the head of the Triple Crown schedule due to the pandemic. However, the 2020 Kentucky Derby field will still boast plenty of talented three-year-olds looking for glory.”
Shyam Mehta, President, ARC, said: “Considering the current situation and the weather, it has been an effort to reopen our outdoor riding facilities, but we did so keeping in mind the health and the lost training time of our members and horses. I am hopeful that the club will be able to host competitive equestrian tournaments once the government permits.”
All’s well that ends well, and we are sure the light at the end of the tunnel will soon be seen.