THE Covid-19 pandemic over the past year has led to us all having to make a number of unexpected adjustments to our daily lives to meet the guidelines and to keep ourselves and our loved ones as safe as possible. For those involved in equestrian sport, one notable effect of the Covid-19 restrictions has been that competitions, training events and shows have not been able to take place.
Many of us have become increasingly practiced with programmes like Zoom and Facetime, for maintaining contact with family, friends and colleagues, and there has been a steep increase in the amount of training webinars available online. The past few months have also seen an increase in the amount of online equestrian competitions, including primarily dressage but also some showing classes. These competitions have proved popular and provide a safe alternative whilst face to face events are unable to go ahead.
CAFRE Enniskillen Campus recently hosted an online dressage competition run by second year students undertaking the City and Guilds Level 3 Advanced Technical Extended Diploma. The students organised and hosted the event as part of their Event Management unit. This virtual event attracted 98 entries from all over Ireland, raising over £1,400 for the Air Ambulance NI. The event was facilitated by Jump Time Event Management, an independent online application, which allows competitors to book onto the competition, with prizes donated by a range of industry sponsors.
Competitors entered for their specific test through an online registration process, with full guidelines available regarding the correct riding gear and tack to use for the competition. Full formal competition dress was not required, however, there was a prize for the best turned out horse and rider. The details provided also gave competitors information on how best to record their dressage test and then submit the video. Those who entered, received the test sheets via email or post, with rosettes being sent out following the event.
Over the last few months, there has also been a range of other dressage and showing events, which have given many the opportunity to compete during lockdown. Riders have reported that being able to keep involved with equestrian sport and work towards improvement has helped them to keep focused during this time and has had a positive effect on their mental and physical wellbeing. Some riding coaches have also adapted their practices to offer virtual training sessions, which has allowed teaching to be carried out remotely. Virtual coaching can be done by using pre-recorded rides or via real-time footage streamed directly to the coach. This method has proven very useful for some while in-person lessons have been suspended.
Whether you are competing in an online equestrian event or taking part in a virtual coaching session, you will need to consider how you will record the information and share it with either the judge or coach. There are a range of devices and options available, with the most basic and most accessible being to record with a video camera on a smart phone or tablet. After finishing the recording, the session can be uploaded to a platform such as YouTube. The recording can be shared from there or, alternatively, you can upload to file sharing software, such as Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox or Google Drive. If you are live-streaming during a coaching session, you will need to have a suitable internet connection. A further option for recording riding sessions is to use an auto-follow camera. There are a few of these available on the market, which are promoted towards the equine industry including the Soloshot3, PIXIO and PIXEM. All of these options are used with a wristband that helps the camera to track and focus on the horse and rider through the use of auto-zoom. The cameras also include a free app that allows a user/ coach to watch a live-stream of the video.
Whether it is an online dressage competition, showing competition or a virtual coaching session you are looking to take part in, there is no harm in giving it a go. Over the past year, we have all probably learnt more about using technology than we had ever anticipated and, although this increase in knowledge hasn’t been due to ideal circumstances, there are at least some potential ongoing benefits to having increased our capabilities and knowledge in this area. For those who are feeling a little behind with technology, there is plenty of guidance available and many have reported that once over the initial hurdle of working out how to record and share, they have then found it a lot easier second time round. So if you have been considering giving an online competition a go, we would certainly recommend it as something that others have found to be a fun alternative to take part in, whilst giving a sense of achievement – even if it requires a couple of takes to get your horse to do their best centre line!