Friday, July 24, 2020

a tale of two press releases

Happy Friday, guys! Usually at the end of a long summer week, all any of us want to write or read about are cute light hearted pictures of cats or something. Today tho.... I'm gonna ask you to read haha. Words, sentences, and entire paragraphs -- the whole shebang. Kinda sorry... Kinda.

But like.... Probably like most normal (?) people these days, I tend to start my mornings by casually scrolling the news and my various favorite feeds while resisting getting out of bed until the last possible moment.

you want Mikey pics? you'll get Mikey pics <3
The Eventing Nation post copied below caught my eye and snapped me out of my morning stupor for 2 main reasons, tho.

1) Another major event has been stricken from the calendar. An event not scheduled until November, which.... further affirms my fears that we may very well be facing another wave of restrictions, cancellations, and lockdowns.

2) This isn't just some tedious little press release that glosses over the surface with threadbare copy and all the expected pleasantries. No.... It's actually.... kinda scathing. Maybe I'm reading through the lens of my own perceptions but.... The OJC seems pissed to be cancelling, and lays the blame squarely at the feet of our massively dysfunctional state of social discourse and the politicization of basic mitigation efforts.

"Hope is not a success strategy." Indeed. 

he's obsessed with charlie's stall haha
I also appreciated just how detailed they are in outlining exactly why an event like this is untenable given what we know today, and whatever confidence (or lack thereof) we may have for where we'll be in four months time.

So. Ok. Yes, please read all of the OJC press release. Even if you're not into horse showing or don't particularly care about Ocala.

Next, after the OJC press release, I'm also copying a second press release published by The Equiery from the Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) Board of Directors.

They are announcing that since their typical venues are not available at present due to state and local Covid-related restrictions, and because they still have obligations to their sponsors, they will be moving their horse shows down to Florida.

And, more to the point, their show dates are within weeks of the very same OJC 3 Day event that just cancelled via the below scathing press release.

and naturally takes his supervisory role very seriously
In my head, the fact that these two press releases exist in the same day and time, reflecting the such similar events (note: both have FEI classes!) and parameters regarding funding, spectatorship, competitors, location, all of the things....  And that they come to the exact opposite conclusions.... Idk. It's a real head scratcher.

I also really wonder about the leadership of governing associations that sanction these events -- the USEF and FEI, among others. What are their thoughts? Or are they really ok with these major events behaving as "every man for himself" vs having comprehensive guidance??

Honestly, at the end of the day, it's impossible to know what will happen. Will OJC ultimately be proven to have cancelled unnecessarily with too conservative a world view? Will the WIHS go through all this rigamarole of relocating and securing all the details for the event, only to have to cancel at the last minute anyway?

Who knows. I know where my money lies tho.... It's just all very curious. But ya know. Maybe I'm making too big a deal out of some Friday press releases haha... What do you think?

"y'all are crazy, i'm outta here!" - Mikey, probably
Press Release #1: From Eventing Nation, the Ocala Jockey Club released the following statement announcing the cancellation of this year's 2020 Ocala Jockey Club 3-Day Event. I know it's a long read, but I highly encourage you to get through the whole thing.

The health of our competitors, spectators, officials, volunteers and everyone else involved in the Ocala Jockey Club 3-Day Event production is very important to us. We announced on May 24th that we felt confident in OJC’s ability to run the 2020 Event and the accompanying CCI4*-L National Championships as scheduled. We have continued to feel confident in our ability to implement ample and strict social distancing, sanitization, mask and health screening protocols on site. It was clear in March that Covid-19 would not make it possible for OJC to conduct the 2020 Event as the high-profile community and spectator-friendly event of the past four years that has created over $1 million of annual economic impact to the community. Still, OJC heard the desire of competitors and USEF to run the Event as a spectator-free competition-only event.
The 2020 Ocala Jockey Club International 3-Day Event was set to run from November 12th to 15th at the picturesque 950-acre Ocala Jockey Club farm in Reddick, Florida. It was designated as the CCI4*-L National Championships. Additionally, due to the rescheduled Tokyo Olympic Games set to occur in the summer of 2021, the OJC Event was to serve as an important Olympic qualifier. As a number of 4* and 5* events have cancelled across the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic, OJC has recognized the importance of the OJC Event to Team USA and USEF High Performance program and worked diligently to plan the Event. However, with less than four months remaining for the planning of the Event, OJC’s Covid-19 concerns have become significant enough that the hard decision to cancel needed to be made. Ocala Jockey Club wishes to provide competitors sufficient notice in the hope that they will be able to re-route to other events for their qualification requirements.
“We have wished to serve our part in the economic recovery of the community and the competition needs of the eventing sport, however there has been increased concern on OJC’s part regarding the significant increase in community transmission of Covid-19, and a corresponding concern regarding current and continuing insufficient availability of local and national tools to combat such community transmission of this virus,” said Pavla Nygaard, President of the Ocala Jockey Club. “Hope is not a success strategy. We felt responsible to define a strategy that would provide the economic and community benefits to Marion County, the 3-Day Eventing sport and the Thoroughbred Eventing Champion program we have been proud to advance at our Event, but only if we could reliably minimize public health risks.
“While there are current and upcoming equestrian competitions on the calendar at this time, our responsibility is to study trends and project likely impacts on a competition four months in the future. I have read hundreds of articles and scientific studies about the virus’ behavior, transmission, prevention, available therapeutics, screening apps, wearable technology, mitigation effectiveness and otherwise. In addition to USEF and FEI guidelines, I have followed the design, effectiveness and limitations of protocols of major sports such as NFL, NBA, MLB and horse racing. I have spoken to organizers and competitors of other equestrian competitions regarding protocols, compliance and factors affecting decisions of when and how to run. OJC has worked on designing protocols including health and other feasibility metrics that would assist us with pre-event and onsite decisions and processes.
“While most 5* and 4* Eventing competitions around the world have cancelled months ago, until recently we have felt that our strategies were feasible to continue even in a very uncertain environment. However, with recent spikes in infections and changes in the demographics affected, available public health metrics no longer give us the same comfort that the strategies within our control would reliably overcome the elements outside of OJC’s control.”
Some of OJC’s concerns include:
  • While the end of May showed positive trends in declines of new cases, this trend has now reversed for much worse both nationally (almost two million increase in cases) and locally (almost a 12-fold increase in cases). Barring significant changes in mitigation strategies, this trend is expect to continue into fall and winter of 2020 and has prompted many cancellations of in-person college programs, professional sports and even the full remainder of the 2020 Broadway season. While hospitalizations and deaths were trending lower for some time even as cases increased, this trend is also beginning to reverse to concerning levels.
  • The recent changes in the demographic affected by Covid-19 to affect younger adults, including increased hospitalizations, are more likely to impact our multi-day gathering of 700 or more competitors and related staff than we anticipated, even with mostly less risky outdoor activities and the already planned ban on attendance by anyone other than competitors and event staff.
  • Unlike at the end of May when public compliance with public health directives was high, current personal and political divisions regarding basic infection mitigation strategies have been laid bare and are likely to affect our guests’ health and safety during travel or while in the community, aside from our onsite protocols. As the Event is scheduled just 8 days after the upcoming presidential election, which now experts believe could take a week to gather results for, we expect these politically driven divisions to continue to impact health risk mitigation outside of the Event’s control.
  • While major sports leagues and workplaces with significant financial and human resources have designed valuable protocols to mitigate against the effects of the virus, they have still experienced case positives and illness in otherwise healthy athletes.
  • Testing strategies, among other valuable tools available to sports leagues to combat the pandemic, have proven a limitation for other organizations due to lack of availability of diagnostic tests, or key components such as reagents and swabs. Some tests are unreliable or results too late to be useful. There is significant variability of testing availability by state or country, becoming exceedingly challenging to employ as a reliable mitigation tool for the OJC 2020 Event.
  • Our competitors and officials typically arrive not just from Marion County or Florida, but from every corner of the United States as well as internationally from at least three continents. Therefore, some of the Event’s key international delegates would be more vulnerable to travel health risks, travel restrictions or mandatory 14-day quarantines, such as those currently restricting travel for Canadians or Europeans needing to enter the US or return back home.
  • Most competitors are in the less risky young, healthy and fit category. However, they are not an island and a sizeable share of officials, volunteers and OJC employees fall into higher risk categories for COVID-19 health complications. With high community transmission, even strict onsite protocols may not be sufficiently protective.
  • While the scientific community continues to work tirelessly on vaccine candidates and therapeutic options to mitigate against Covid-19, it is now clear that even early vaccine candidates, with expected limited availability in October, would not be available in time to be useful to our stakeholders. While current treatments such as remdesivir and dexamethasone provide some relief to some of the hardest hit patients, there are no therapeutics available yet to rely on as a prevention or mitigation strategy.
  • Our typical staff team is lean and mean, and there is little room to losing key members to illness, travel quarantine or exposure-related isolation. It would be necessary for us to establish a long list of Plan B options for all key personnel, necessitating increased funding. Similarly, there would be increased resources needed for increased sanitation protocols, masks and other PPE, pre-event and at-event testing and/or health screening, any needed contact tracing or isolation if indicated onsite, stabling configurations to allow social distancing, and protocol enforcement personnel.
  • Unlike lower-level competitions which are structured to be compensated solely or mainly from competitor entry fees, FEI level competitions are much heavier on event production expenses. Competitor entries cover a smaller share of the event budget. The OJC event, as other FEI level competitions, relies on non-competition income such as sponsorships, VIP hospitality, spectator and tailgating ticket sales, vendors, and advertising to offset event expenses. Due to social distancing requirements, these non-competition aspects are currently not allowed under USEF Covid-19 mitigation rules. Our conversations with select sponsors and other event organizers point to a clear need to understand supporters’ economic challenges to their support in these times. We understand that everyone has been affected differently in this pandemic, and feel it necessary for our supporters to be able to regroup their own lives and operations. However important this Event may be, we feel that this is not the year to ask people for increased support.
The Ocala Jockey Club has heard from many participants over the years about the importance of this Event. Jennie Jarnstrom, an eventing rider who has competed at OJC Events, wrote to OJC in May: “Just can’t thank you enough for keeping the hope up and motivate us to work towards one of the Greatest Events in the country.” It was for the benefit of tireless and committed competitors like Jennie that we continued to search for ways to produce a safe high-quality level even with restrictions on many activities.
However, as more of us now know those who have been affected by severe illness or death due to Covid-19, the more important it is to recognize our responsibility to take care of each other, even if it means that it is wiser to cancel this Event than to keep pressing on this year. Updates and information about the 2021 Ocala Jockey Club International 3-Day Event will be available in due course at the Event website at www.OJC3de.com. For more information on the Ocala Jockey Club, visit www.ocalajc.com. Best of luck to all staying safe, happy, healthy and successful in 2020. See you in November 2021!

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Press Release #2: Now, from The Equiery, The Washington International Horse Show Board of Directors announced yesterday (July 23) that the 2020 WIHS will be held at the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center in Tampa, Florida.

For Immediate Release
From the US Equestrian Communications Department
WASHINGTON. July 23, 2020–The Board of Directors and show management teams of the Pennsylvania National Horse Show (PNHS) and Washington International Horse Show (WIHS) presented by MARS Equestrian, are pleased to announce their venue and dates for 2020.
The PNHS and WIHS are committed to providing a safe environment for competitors, families, and staff in the face of the ongoing pandemic, while still meeting the requirements of sponsors and competition schedules. Due to COVID-19 restrictions in place in Harrisburg, Pa., and Washington, D.C., the PA Farm Show Complex & Expo Center and Capital One Arena remain closed and unable to host the PNHS and WIHS, respectively.
Following a comprehensive search for an alternative venue, the PNHS and WIHS Board of Directors have selected the Bob Thomas Equestrian Center in Tampa, Florida, as the best location for this year’s events with the PNHS scheduled Oct. 8-17, followed by WIHS Oct. 20-25, 2020.
The change of venue and dates for these competitions have been approved by the United States Equestrian Federation. However, in line with the FEI regulations, the venue change for the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ – North America League qualifier in Washington is being reviewed by the FEI. A recommendation will be prepared and presented to the FEI Board for a final decision. Additional information regarding this approval will be made as soon as it is available.
Hosting these historic indoor competitions outdoors will be a change from tradition, but in a challenging and uncertain year, each show is dedicated to providing a safe and high-quality competition experience for exhibitors, their families, and sponsors that will be remembered for many years to come.
PNHS and WIHS will continue to work closely with local and state governments along with venue management to monitor the COVID-19 situation in Florida and are prepared to adjust accordingly based on health requirements and guidance from the CDC and USEF.
The Bob Thomas Equestrian Center is a well-established facility having previously hosted the Southeast Medal Finals, World Cup qualifying events, and the World Cup Finals.
Spread over 23 acres, the outdoor venue can facilitate effective social distancing where all USEF COVID-19 protocols will be followed to the fullest extent, including not permitting spectators. It contains multiple competition rings with newly installed, top-quality, all-weather footing, as well as recently updated permanent stabling, newly renovated restrooms, a spacious viewing area, and more.
Both PNHS and WIHS are developing revised show schedules for competition to be held in two arenas with classes running only during the daytime, minimizing the time spent on the competition grounds each day per USEF recommendations.
Changes to qualifying criteria and further venue information will be updated in the coming weeks.
For more information, please visit www.wihs.org.

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27 comments:

  1. I have so many thoughts. Mostly about PNHS. Moving that one was NEVER about safety. That was strictly about PA Farm Complex not opening. So, despite things being worse in FL than PA, FL is willing to host and indoors are important (why cancelling for one year would end the world, I don't know... yes, people age out, but... horses are lame, people are injured, stuff happens). USEF doesn't care about safety. I mean, Pony Finals anyone? Indoors are important. Big h/j shows bring money. Especially qualifying season. Let's move to Florida proves it.

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    1. yes, exactly. it was "never about safety." that's exactly my impression as well, and it just.... idk, blows my mind. it's also masssssssively myopic.... like, as far as i can tell, the outcome for FL feels inevitable. i just don't see how some of those big events will actually be able to proceed at this point.... wouldn't mind being wrong on this, but... yea. ugh.

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    2. I agree with Sarah so much that I don't need to start my own comment string, lol.
      Lets move the show to where things are WORSE? OMG this logic is so bad and I hope they come to their senses

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    3. yea.... frankly i lay the responsibility on the governing agencies that license and sanction these shows. bc there's always going to be people or groups that make choices in their own self interest despite the potential community risk. the the funny thing about the WIHS / PNHS press release is how nonchalant they are about making this announcement even as they acknowledge that the FEI hasn't signed on yet... it reads almost like a dare or power move...

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  2. The WIHS press release made my blood BOIL last night. If a show isn't safe to hold where you are, do you REALLY THINK IT'S SMART to move to a place with WORSE infections?? I'm floored.

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    1. it reminds me of a recent article i read about Disney, where they're enacting a new rule about not being allowed to eat or drink while walking. bc apparently people are "drinking" and thus unable to wear their mask while strolling the park.... so to fix this issue, no more walking and eating.

      which like... ok. if you have to make that kind of crazy bizarre difficult-to-enforce rule in order to make an activity "safe," maybe, jusssssst maybe, that activity isn't actually safe.

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  3. I don't really think big national shows should be running. But a couple things to note on the Harrisburg and WA relocation. The events will be outdoors rather than indoors which is more safe. And second the FEI events are still pending for those shows. FEI hasn't granted permission for the relocation as of yet.
    AGAIN, I think it's a terrible idea. Just sharing some facts.

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    1. for sure -- the FEI aspect in particular is very very interesting to me.... like the WIHS press release almost looked like a power move the way they announced it as official even as they acknowledge that they're still pending FEI approval of the plan.... makes me think they're basically daring the FEI like they'll just cancel those sanctioned classes if needed. which... again, it's a very curious (and possibly troubling) posture....

      for the outdoor thing, definitely agreed it's much safer... tho again the OJC release is pretty thorough on why they don't believe that's enough.

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  4. i was floored when i read about the indoors in harrisburg being moved. that is literally 100% money grab and I'm glad PA has put it's foot down on having... you know... a giant indoor event during a pandemic.

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    1. money > life, apparently. i guess if you let the sponsors and the folks who stand to benefit financially make all the choices rather than the governing agencies, this is what you get...

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    2. Wealth over health is what we're calling it around here. That philosophy runs the gamut from large events to school scheduling to the actions of individuals. And it's being promoted from the top of society down...

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    3. 1) catchy phrase, i'm 100% stealing it!
      2) this whole situation is so so so worrying to me, at basically all levels of society. seeing how it's playing out in the horse world in particular is a perfect case study for why overarching guidance and strategy is so critical rather than "every man for himself"....

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    4. I actually think I coined it lol - steal away ;D

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  5. Lots of yikes happening in that WIHS press release. Moving the show to COVID hotspot is a terrible idea!

    I've been closely watching what's happening in Florida, since Global Dressage Festival is a huge source of revenue for my employer. It is not looking great. Florida seems to be completely out of control, and I think it is unlikely GDF will run (or at least start in December). I'd love the winter season to proceed as usual, but it's not worth risking people's lives.

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    1. ughhhhh see this is why it's such an awful terrible situation. like, it kills me that shops like yours are getting so pinched.... i *hate* that this entire community that's dedicated their livelihood to horse sports is facing such an existential threat. i just wish there was some other way for our society to function such that people and organizations don't literally need to choose between livelihoods and.... living. ugh.

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  6. The fact USEF is still running Pony Finals despite USHJA saying 'hey maybe we shouldn't' is really telling on what USEF is thinking about with 'go ahead and horse show' it's all about the $$$$$$$$$

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    1. seriously tho. and like.... it's particularly brazen, too. i think that's why the OJC presser was such a wake up call too... like, no, actually these events are wrong on a couple different levels and we really really REALLY didn't need to get to this place, but here we are and there's no reason to think it's going to get better any time soon....

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  7. It just seems so irresponsible to hold events of this size.

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    1. agreed :( i wish the governing agencies would take a little more responsibility and stop leaving it up to the individuals and organizations with personal stakes and/or biases in the matter....

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  8. That WIHS press release is BONKERS. I read the OJC release on Eventing Nation the other day and was sad but also cheering them on. WIHS is just..what the actual eff.

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    1. yea i really appreciate that the OJC took the time to lay it out like that, bc..... a lot of people aren't really thinking through those details, either bc of stubborn denial or worse...

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  9. The OJC release just says it like it is.

    I'm kind of surprised that they think they'll get enough entries to justify going forward with the show. Are people so invested in winning a championship this year that they are willing to overlook everything going on in those areas? Are the contracts with sponsors so binding that they have to put on a show or they get sued?

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    1. yea idk, the entries thing doesn't really surprise me tbh. individual competitors and professionals have different views and sets of priorities. and maybe it's easier for each individual to think that they can be careful or do what they need to do to be safe.... which is why these sort of choices shouldn't really be left to the individuals imo, when the potential impact extends so far beyond.

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  10. I think it's interesting that some events are making decisions, not necessarily good decisions, mind you, but decisions, while other events are doing nothing. We bought tickets to Breeder's Cup before the world went to hell. They haven't updated their COVID statement since March. Quite frankly, it's unlikely we'll go even if they do run with spectators, but some options would be nice. Preakness actually did an amazing job with that!

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    1. agreed completely. there definitely seems to be a major vacuum when it comes to.... basically everything haha, esp the communication. it's like everyone wants to wait to see what everyone else is doing before they make a choice. definitely makes it frustrating for the ticket buyers and competitors tho to make plans and know what to expect... here's hoping you hear from the Breeders Cup folks soon!

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  11. I get that we're all craving a bit of normality, but I really think holding big horse shows or other events isn't the safest or best use of anyone's time or money right now. I'm actually feeling like some of the organizer's decisions will affect my desire to give them money in the future. Kudos to OJC...while they probably crossed the line from show announcement to Covid PSA, it needed to be done :)

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    1. yea i definitely applaud the OJC for speaking so thoroughly and comprehensively to their thought process and the realities of trying to hold large scale events in this environment. particularly, the points about discussing with other major industries and sports (like nfl, mlb, etc) is notable considering today's breaking news about infection outbreaks among professional baseball players immediately after they began playing. even perfect compliance has limitations, and realistically our society is nowhere near "perfect" at the most fundamental mitigation efforts...

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