Last week we welcomed back horse showing in a new era. Our local hunter jumper association is having its first horse show after 12 weeks of quarantine at Tryon International Equestrian Center. Although some things remain the same, there are many things that you will find different.
With everyone eager to get back to the horse show, it was nice to see how patient people were with each other. Upon arrival at the show grounds, expect to be stopped at the entrance and funneled into one of two lines - horse trailers or standard vehicles. Once you get to the front of the line, Have your windows rolled down as everyone in your vehicle will have their temperature taken with a no-contact thermometer.
Once cleared by the temperature takers, they will confirm that everyone has a mask; if not, they were happy to supply one for you. Upon leaving the temperature area, drivers are then funneled into the stabling area, with employees directing traffic and setting up staging to avoid traffic mayhem.
Parking your trailer in the stabling area is prohibited. In the past, you could be a bit leisurely while unloading your horses and equipment and set up your area. In the era of keeping everyone socially distant, that is no longer permitted. I observed everyone unloading horses and putting them directly into stalls with their owners and grooms standing ready with stalls already bedded down.
Once the horses were unloaded, grooms, riders & owners helped unload the equipment off the rig into a pile in front of their assigned area. Once unloaded, the driver of the rig was directed out of the facility to trailer parking. Clients and staff were left to start setting up the barn while allowing for the next trailer to come in and begin the process.
Tiec having multiple barns that contain many stalls makes for very congested stabling areas; however, the folks directing traffic were doing a great job of getting everyone in and out promptly with as little mayhem as possible.You will notice in the barns, and across the facility, there are signs reminding you to wash your hands, observe social distancing, and wear a mask. Additionally, you will see gallon pump containers of hand sanitizing stations in the barns, bathrooms & rings.
Ringside seating has all been removed where possible or roped off to discourage exhibitors from hanging out. It seems so strange to show up at a horse show and see the stadium roped off.
Elsewhere on the grounds, the schooling areas are well organized with a paddock master limiting the number of riders in the ring schooling, while other riders waited outside in the warm-up area at an appropriate distance away for their turn to school the fences.Riders from the same barns are allowed to congregate, but riders with other barn are discouraged from hanging out together with or without masks.
Riders who were in the irons were permitted to go mask free, while exhibitors, trainers, grooms, and show staff on the ground wore masks. I saw a larger variety of stylish face-covering gear. They were ranging from standard hospital style N95 masks to bandanas and even a few face gaiters/ sleeves. A quick look around the grounds told you who was handy with a sewing machine or had a streak of creative flair.
This week's rated show at TIEC is mostly the same with a few changes, all the seating on the viewing areas has been adjusted to be 6' apart with the chairs being zip-tied to the railing to discourage relocation, there are several employees encouraging masks to be worn if they see that a masked has slipped or been displaced. Additionally there is even more hand sanitizer available across the show grounds. Another small change is ticketed warm up, it is now a true ticketed warm up scheduled by height, no one is allowed to be in the ring on foot. Coaching can only take place from the side of the ring. The jumps can only be adjusted & rails picked up by the designated jump crew member. Schooling ring jumps are sanitized often and there is an employee offering gloves and / or hand sanitizer before the jumps can be adjusted. It's very clear management is trying very hard to keep up with everyone and keep everything as sanitized as possible.
In general, everyone seemed to be trying to be socially distant while enjoying the new normal and just happy to be outside with horse show friends, albeit a little further apart than we are used to.
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