As surreal as it may sound, there’s only six weeks to go before the start of the much-heralded RHASS Showcase and the opportunity for Scottish equestrians to come together again to compete at a major event

Sadly, if the Showcase's mantra ‘Arrive – Compete – Depart’ is followed, there won’t be opportunities for the social buzz normally experienced at the Royal Highland. Needless to say, the frustration of the organisers to reach this stage can only be matched by that of exhibitors who have witnessed the cancellation of most agricultural shows announced during the early part of the season.

It hasn’t been the luck of such shows that the Scottish Government should be so generous as it has been to the Showcase.

Contrary to RHASS chairman's comment: “We have been energised by the positive responses we’ve seen to the Showcase so far”, I have heard and read much comment to the contrary particularly about the irresponsible nature attributed to the Government funding awarded to RHASS and serious questions surrounding the staging of any event this year.

It is clear that not all show-goers approve of public funds being spent in this way when there is so much need evident throughout the country and especially when agriculture has been one of the industries that has done relatively well over the past 12 months. All that notwithstanding, it is time to put the questions to one side and support the Showcase as best as we can to avoid the 'flop' which some cynics are already predicting.

Without going into the validity of the hype and claims supporting the boast of a 'world-class' event, this may apply to the wider agricultural community, however it would be difficult to substantiate the same claim within the equestrian disciplines at Ingliston. No doubt show jumping will be able to provide daily entertainment as part of the live streaming, but not even the greatest enthusiast could describe the competition as world class.

The general public won't necessarily be aware of this so, hopefully, it will prove popular with them. However, it won't fool the 'world' audience which is used to viewing top class international show jumping on line.

It can be only assumed that the introduction of arena eventing has been brought in on Sunday to fill the entertainment gap and it is a real treat for those enthusiasts to participate in the Countryside Area, which has been designated as one of three competition arenas to comply with the Track and Trace elements of the Covid-19 regulations.

The Countryside Area will also accommodate the popular working hunter competitions, whose riders will be praying for good weather as the luxury of competing on the all-weather surface has been given over to the show jumping 'Field of Play Bubble' (as it's called in ScotGov speak) for the duration of the show. The Countryside Area has great potential for the staging of these classes in the future and will surely attract a very vocal demand of directors in the years ahead.

As predicted in last month's column, the traditional Royal Highland showing schedule has witnessed some changes, including losses in order to fit the Showcase timetable. This has inevitably fed the social media warriors with much ammunition, however it is yet another case of 'empty vessels' making much noise and only time will tell whether or not they can resist entering despite protestations.

This largely uninformed band of complainers will have even more to say after the event as, I suspect, very few exhibitors will have taken the time or effort to read the Royal Highland Showcase 2021 Covid Guidance Handbook and almost none of them will have taken the trouble to acquire a copy of the Showing Council's Blueprint on Guidance for the Resumption of Showing in Scotland, which is readily available via the its website.This is clearly a personal responsibility for everyone involved with the Showcase and not an option.

In general, it has become a feature of the Covid-19 pandemic that some amazing results have resulted when people have joined forces to optimum effect. A good example rests with work completed by the Showing Council as a result of competitive showing being suspended from March 18, 2020, in England.

It is the first time that I can recall that various equestrian societies involved within the showing industry – some 18 member bodies – have seriously worked together to produce the council's 'Blueprint' which was felt essential to assist the industry with the easing of restrictions.

Significantly, the council worked with Government towards the resumption of showing when it was considered safe and responsible to do so, and in so doing provided individual show organisers guidelines which had been formally approved, on which their shows could be run alongside local Covid-19 restrictions.

As previously mentioned in this column, horsescotland had been working closely with the Scottish Government throughout the pandemic on the resumption of equestrian sport north of the Border and produced its own structured guidelines which don't cover the showing disciplines. Thanks to the work of energetic education and development manager, Fiona Rawson, horsescotland has now applied Scottish Covid-19 regulations to the Showing Council's 'Blueprint' to produce a bespoke document pertaining to Scotland and a must-read for everyone involved in showing in Scotland, be they exhibitor or organiser.

It has been horsescotland's close working relationship with sportscotland that enables it to produce updates according to the latest Scottish Government information on Covid-19 recovery.

As the Covid-19 compass swings towards a more familiar direction for shows in Scotland, one can only hope that the spirit of Covid guidelines and regulations will be upheld by show goers throughout the country.

Surely, the daily Covid-19 horror stories played out on TV and in the press over the past year will remain sufficiently real in our memories, that guards will be maintained throughout the season and perhaps in the years ahead. As the scientific specialists tell us, Covid-19 is unlikely to go away for the foreseeable future.

As the vaccination programme moves on a pace, Track and Trace remains a valuable weapon in the armoury against the Covid-19 virus, so on-line entries are likely to remain with exhibitors and competitors for much of the year – if not forever.

Late entries are currently unacceptable due to Covid-19 regulations but really don't suit organisers at the best of times. That's symptomatic of a lazy, cheap-skate competitor who wants the best of all worlds by avoiding pre-show/event entry – perhaps Covid-19 will banish this selfish habit forever and the really old 'normal' will return when all entries could be printed in a catalogue.

If nothing else comes out of this pandemic, pre-show entries would be one good thing.