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Split Rock Jumping Tour’s Derek Braun: “It is our responsibility to create a 'new normal'"

Wednesday, 03 June 2020

Photo © Split Rock Jumping Tour "In the end, I have to lead my team to produce a successful and safe event – this falls on my shoulders," Derek Braun says about the return of international competition at Split Rock Jumping Tour following the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo © Split Rock Jumping Tour.


Text © World of Showjumping



Derek Braun, president and founder of the Split Rock Jumping Tour, will be hosting one of USA’s first FEI jumping events since the coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak – CSI2* Lexington International, which will run from June 17 to 21 2020. “For us it was never really an option to cancel, we just kept pushing through,” Braun tells World of Showjumping.

“We were lucky to act early enough, and to make the decision to postpone our dates by exactly one month – our original show dates were planned for May 20-24,” Braun explains. “We have operated as normal in our office, as we would with any new show – as well as planning the guidelines and the new rules to enforce. We are used to doing similar preparations with all our different shows and venues, so we just took it in our stride and tried to do our best to come up with the absolute safest plan possible.”

“The waiting process was a little bit uneasy,” Braun explains about the co-operation with the local authorities. “As we are a group, we have the capacity and structure to execute all guidelines correctly and detailed. I think the local authorities believe we will accomplish what we need to accomplish – successfully and safely.”

“Along the entire process we have been communicating with USEF about whether or not we would be able to continue with a FEI event during this time,” Braun continues. “USEF continuously reassured us that we absolutely – as long as the local government was allowing us to operate – can continue under FEI guidelines.

“We of course take all the advised precautions, but we also go beyond that,” Braun continues to tell about the strict protocols that have to be followed. “We are going to make sure that it is mandatory for everyone on the property to wear masks, except when on horseback. We are going to have hand sanitizers around every single corner and turn, and make sure to enforce all the social distancing guidelines – including for the 40-50 people working at the venue. In Kentucky, people still can’t congregate together in more than groups of ten. Therefore, we have come up with a really effective way that tells us who are already close to each other – like family members. We opted for numbered accreditation passes which at a quick glance will tell who is allowed to be close to who.”

Photo © Split Rock Jumping Tour "We just took it in our stride and tried to do our best to come up with the absolute safest plan possible," Derek Braun, president and founder of the Split Rock Jumping Tour, tells about the process leading up to one of USA’s first FEI jumping events since the coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak. Photo © Split Rock Jumping Tour.

Furthermore, Braun explains that the Split Rock Jumping Tour app that was in full capacity already last year comes in handy in these unprecedented times. “The great thing about our app is that even for spectators at home, and everyone at the event, it takes the worry away about communication at the venue,” Braun explains. “You can view course plans, check orders of go, live results and live scoring, watch rounds immediately after having been in the ring – basically anything that any athlete, groom, exhibitor or spectator would have a question about, the app answers. This will reduce the need of going to the show office and allow people to be more prepared without having to communicate in a close environment with many other people. Our app just makes the whole show experience that much easier and more organized for everyone involved. It has probably been our biggest investment in the past couple of years. However, showjumping is an expensive sport and I believe it is my responsibility to create a product where people are getting what they paid for.” 

During the past weeks, Braun has chosen a very personal way of communicating with his audience – speaking directly on camera on Split Rock Jumping Tour’s social media channels. “I chose to speak directly to all our followers and anyone else watching, because I think it is my personal responsibility,” Braun explains. “In the end, I have to lead my team to produce a successful and safe event – this falls on my shoulders. I wanted to personally reassure everyone that we are doing everything we can to get these events going again so people can get back to their every-day way of life. Everyone knows that I am an outspoken person and I want people to know what to expect – they are going to be taken care of. I hope this sets our events apart.”

“I definitely think there is going to be a 'new normal',” Braun replies when asked how he sees international jumping events in the post-pandemic world. “I think there are going to be less shows for the foreseeable future, and we are all going to have to follow strict guidelines at least through the rest of 2020. I think that the show organizers are responsible for not pushing the boundaries – meaning, not to have a VIP area, not to have spectators, not to have social events and parties – because all this would encourage several people gathering in a small space. It is our responsibility to create a 'new normal', so that people can feel comfortable and safe. At Split Rock Jumping Tour, it falls on our shoulders to set a good example – also towards the authorities and governing bodies. I think for the foreseeable future, people are going to have to accept that some social aspects of showjumping have to be put to the side.”

“Hopefully, that just brings the sport into light that much more. The main focus will be the competition in the show ring, and the socializing is going to have to wait,” Braun concludes.  


No reproduction without written permission, copyright © World of Showjumping


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