Endurance GB announces cancellation of FEI Kings Forest Spring Ride as Coronavirus measures tighten in UK

Following strong recommendations issued on Friday 13th March by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) and a meeting of Endurance GB’s board, the decision has been taken to cancel the FEI King’s Forest Spring Ride set to take place over the weekend of 10th-12th April.

The popular King’s Forest Competition held over forestry tracks and open farmland near Bury St Edmonds in Suffolk, is the first big event of the Endurance GB calendar and is viewed by riders as a springboard for the season. Renowned for its superb going when the rest of the country may be suffering under wetter conditions, the ride draws entries from across the UK and last year celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Both national and international classes had been scheduled up to FEI 2* 120km and in addition, organiser Dianne Luke had been aiming to accommodate a request by British and French riders for an FEI 3* 160km class following the cancellation of the Grand Parquet Endurance CEI 3* Fontainebleau Ride scheduled for a fortnight’s time.

Dianne Luke said: “I am just devastated as we had worked so hard to stage an event of a high standard despite financial constraints this season. We had a good number of entries across all classes coming in and were excited at the prospect of helping our riders by staging an additional FEI 3* class.

“Given the circumstances however, and in the light of the FEI recommendations, we had no choice but to cancel the whole event. I just feel so sorry for the riders who were looking forward to competing, but I am glad that the decision has been taken now, for the sake of all concerned.”

Dianne and husband Paul run the event with the help of around 70 volunteers over the two days as vet writers, stewards, covering road crossings and checkpoints. In addition, some 20 FEI officials were set to have attended the event, some of whom were set to travel from countries currently subject to travel restrictions and border closures. Next month’s contest had been set to provide the basis for research by Dr David Marlin into the horse’s changing body shape during competition.

The FEI King’s Forest Summer ride, set to be staged 26th-28th June, will feature an FEI 160km 3* class as well as the National and Young Rider Championships. It will be the final qualifier before the World Championships in Pisa in September and has been chosen as the selection ride for Team GB.

The high-profile event, which offers a change of course each time, has previously been described as being of Championship level by FEI Chief Vet Goran Åkerström.

Esther Young, Endurance GB Operations Director said: “In relation to other fixtures over the coming weeks, we have been contacting ride organisers to discuss the position at each ride and review options. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and where possible will look at rescheduling rather than cancelling rides altogether.”

Riders, crew and volunteers are all being asked not to attend a competition or training event if they are feeling unwell, with cold-type symptoms and a temperature.

“We are asking everyone involved with the sport and attending rides to follow all government guidance in terms of washing hands and not touching your face as well as practical social distancing.”

Endurance GB Chair, Phil Nunnerley, said: “We regret the cancellation of next month’s King’s Forest FEI Ride as it is one of the flagship events in the Endurance GB calendar. I would like to thank Dianne Luke and her husband Paul for their efforts in working to hold what would certainly have been another successful spring ride. In addition I must pay tribute to our whole team, fellow board members and ride organisers who are working very hard to deal with this unprecedented situation and thank all our members for their patience as we work through the implications of the changing national picture and the challenges Coronavirus presents.

“As we review and monitor the impact on the sport we will provide regular updates in relation to the latest advice and keep you as members in touch and involved in the decision-making process. Our shared priority as a sport and community will remain to protect and safeguard the welfare and interests of everyone involved.”