By Tom Best

Just as I have an aversion to the term 'bucket list', I have a growing dislike of the latest term which seems to be slipping off the tongue on every possible occasion, that of 'new normal.'

History has shown that 'normal' doesn't last indefinitely but part of the evolutionary process, so why it is being heralded at this point in time is beyond me although I suspect that it may be part of post-Covid-19 conditioning by the politicians.

Things will be different during the coming months and years as the world comes to terms with this virus, however some of the changes we will experience within the equestrian world may well come as a result of the coronavirus and not because of it.

As acknowledged by the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, and proven time after time, necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention. We all know that it takes a problem to initiate some creative thinking for its resolution and there has been lots of it within the horse community during the past four months.

It would appear that much of it has been shared among societies and member bodies however the need has been highlighted for the equestrian industry to work co-operatively and speak with one voice. Yet again I have to question if too may 'big' personalities and enlarged egos get in the way of the greater good for all – but that's one for another day.

One answer to meetings during the lock-down period has seen the rise in use of the internet platform 'Zoom', which basically brings people together where they can be seen and heard more or less at the same time. No-one would argue that they are better than the real thing but they are an excellent substitute particularly when travel restrictions were in operations and large gatherings from multiple households are still in place.

They are cheap to run, in some ways create more of a focus on points made, save on travelling time and crucially reduce travel costs, especially when nation-wide meetings are the norm. A good chair person is still essential and polite participation a must.

Just as working from home now has its attractions for firms/organisations, for both practical and financial reasons remote meetings could well be the way ahead for many societies.

Interestingly, the current regulations minimalising contact at shows has brought about a new focus to the on-line entry system which has been around for many years now but not extensively adopted for reasons both traditional and cost. It may not obviate all uses of a secretary on the day, but it certainly helps the timetable as it takes away the unpredictability of entries on the day. It also reduces the demand of voluntary hours on which shows are becoming increasingly dependent but which are notoriously in short supply.

Along with the provision of your own competition number, which will have been allocated but not issued, on-line entries may well become standard across the board in the coming years. Perhaps an issue in the past for some, I am confident it will be embraced as one of the spin-offs of Covid-19 and not because of it.

There's no doubt that we have all missed social interaction during these trying times – and that was one of the of the key elements I took from The SF coverage of the Royal Highland Show. It was obvious that the famous kist parties have been more greatly missed than the champions.

To this end, I feel that our various societies have made a brilliant effort to bring everyone together as best as possible through the many aspects of the modern media platforms. Websites have become key to disseminating information, maintaining interest and engaging equestrians who may have been observing Scottish Government guidelines by keeping out of the saddle and staying at home.

Their role during the current easing of lock-down has become even more important.

While I doubt if the 'on-line' or 'virtual' show will ever manage to better the real thing, there is no question that some people have taken them to heart as they provide some compensation for the absence of live events.

Despite the theories surrounding our love of horses, it does highlight the human need for competition within equestrianism, a driver for the few rather than the many but significant nonetheless and one which is being extensively addressed within Scotland.

Unlike Sport Wales, where equestrian interests are not structured as they are in Scotland, Scottish equestrians are being well represented by horsescotland which is playing a key role by pushing for things to open up as well as inform current thinking on Covid-19 strategy within Sport Scotland.

This came home to me while listening to a recent podcast on the British Showjumping (BS) website when the BS chief executive, Iain Graham, was interviewed by sports commentator/personality Adam Cromarty.

Apart from the novelty of listening to two Scottish accents leading a major equestrian discussion, I was taken with several points made by Mr Graham and the balanced view he held on the Scottish Government's approach to equestrian competition in Scotland, bearing in mind that his organisation is desperate to get going at full strength as soon as possible for financial reasons as well as the well-being of the membership.

Far from being confrontational or critical, he provided an informative insight into current practice for the sport both north and south of the Border. Compliance to the regulations set out were important in his view and he threw in an important caveat that competitors and organisers 'don't drop standards'.

I was interested to hear him use the term 'competition fix' in regard to Scottish competitors travelling to southern venues, which opened for competition while Scottish venues remain closed for gatherings of more than 15 people from a maximum of four households.

As we have come to witness on Bournemouth Beach and Soho, in London, following easing of lockdown in England, there will always be those who put themselves before national interest and, sadly, some of our show jumpers fell into that category by going south before travel restrictions were lifted.

Nicola Sturgeon may not have known about it, but all their friends did via the inevitable boast on Facebook – such is the power of communication in this modern age of the Internet.