Stable View Farm’s Enhanced Social Distancing Procedures … a Model for the Future?

The maintenance of a 6′-distance between riders/grooms, officials/staff and volunteers is among Stable View Farms’s Enhanced Social Distancing Procedures. Photo courtesy of Christine Rhodes/Stable View.

As life begins creeping back toward some modicum of normalcy (fingers crossed), there are plenty of questions being raised about how our sport will move forward in the future. How to ensure that we are being responsible and diligent in its reopening — whenever that may be?

In the USEF’s announcement of the extension of their suspension of affiliated competition through May 31, the organization notes that it has been working to formulate a plan:

“Collaborating with competition organizers, affiliate leaders and other industry experts, USEF has been developing competition protocols for safely operating competitions and mitigating the risks associated with COVID-19. Once finalized, we will be providing all competition organizers with these protocols as well as other risk mitigation tools for their use.”

In the meantime, most equestrian venues have taken it upon themselves to create protocols that work for their situation. From social distancing, staggered visitation and sanitation measures to shutting down completely with the exception of essential personnel, best practices can vary widely from area to area.

But what about competition venues? Loosened restrictions in some states have given some a viable option to run schooling shows and open the doors to educational activities in the coming month.

In Aiken, SC, Stable View Farm currently has three schooling shows on the May calendar subject to the state of SC’s restrictions: a Schooling Dressage Show (May 13), Eventing Academy Schooling Day & Show (May 23-24) and a Schooling Hunter/Jumper Show (May 30). The venue’s next Recognized event is its USEA/USEF “Summer” Horse Trials, offering Beginner Novice through Advanced divisions, on June 19-21.

Stable View owner Barry Olliff recognizes the important role that his and other schooling events could play for horses and riders who, by the time USEF/USEA competitions resume, won’t have seen the inside of a start box since mid-March at the earliest. “This is logical — get your horse fit for a warm-up, then go for Recognized a month later,” he says.

But he also wants to keep safety paramount. Assuming his May schooling events go forward (as of Monday, April 27, they have been cleared by the South Carolina Department of Commerce), he and his team have developed a set of competition protocols that they are calling the Stable View Enhanced Social Distancing Procedures. The protocols would be published on Stable View’s website, and acceptance of them would be a condition of attending all events at the venue, both schooling shows and the June H.T.

The Stable View Enhanced Social Distancing Procedures are as follows:

Staff/officials will:

  • communicate via radio
  • agree to a remote thermometer temperature check
  • remain in cars whenever possible
  • observe 6′ distancing when interacting
  • wear masks if interacting closely with riders, officials, other staff, etc.
  • will be required to agree to these guidelines prior to the event

Riders/grooms will be:

  • asked to agree to guidelines upon arrival and emailed in advance
  • asked to agree to a remote thermometer temperature check
  • strongly encouraged to submit their entry online and in advance to limit paper exchange at the show office
  • 6′ distance when interacting with riders, volunteers, staff, or officials
  • stabling Social Distancing, with one way traffic
  • no rider lounges open (only restrooms which will have disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer)
  • asked to limit number of horses/riders in warm-up areas (volunteers will enforce)
  • asked to sanitize warm-up jumps, restroom handles, etc. after they’ve touched these things. Wipes and sanitizer will be provided by Stable View

Volunteers will:

  • check in via a “drive thru”
  • agree to a remote thermometer temperature check
  • communicate via radio
  • remain in their cars when possible
  • 6′ distancing when interacting
  • be required to agree to all guidelines prior to event
  • be provided with a pre-packaged lunch

All/general guidelines:

  • spectators strongly discouraged
  • riders/trainers to remain confined to their groups when possible (at stalls, in warm up areas, etc)
  • no food vendors on site
  • ride times will be scheduled farther apart when possible
  • wipes and sanitizer available around the property
  • no congregating
  • anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms will be asked to go home
  • consider employing extra medical staff on property

“We’ve developed these over the past two weeks and will continue to amend them as we listen to and take advice from medical practitioners, owners, riders and grooms,” he says. “While some might say that they are strict and potentially intrusive, we would say that this is unfortunately necessary in the environment we find ourselves today.”

“Our view is that if the following protocols are followed by everyone on the property that we will have achieved our objective, which is that attending a Stable View event would be safer than going to the grocery store,” Barry says.

Stable View’s protocols offer a thought-provoking proposal for what could become standard best practice for our sport … at least until the world gets back to “normal.”