Carcassonne. Horseback riding: not easy to get back in the saddle after a two-month break.

Carcassonne. Horseback riding: not easy to get back in the saddle after a two-month break.

The Ministry of Sports lifted the ban on activities and reception of the public for equestrian clubs on 20 May. The constraints due to the distance imposed and the two months without financial income, however, tarnish the prospects. Visit to the equestrian centre of Cuxac-Cabardès in the Montagne Noire.

They’ve put on weight, they’re tired, but the club’s riders who’ve been back since Wednesday are working on them,” says Valérie Cérandon, red mask on her face, about the fifty or so horses belonging to the La Goutarende Equestrian Club. 11 horses in boarding, financially supported by their owners, have been kept at their competition level by the couple of instructors and managers living on site, Valérie and Olivier Cerandon.

The two months of closure of the riding school have left their mark, and not only on the horses. If the couple of salaried instructors took good care of the sixty or so horses (the hay had been ordered locally) and the maintenance of the equipment, without public and without competitions, the boxes are inexorably empty. And the medium-term prospects are far from making this flagship club of the department neigh with pleasure.

Departmental final cancelled

In April, the club was to host the departmental show jumping final, with all that this represents in terms of revenue: that paid by the federation, but also that from the club’s refreshment bar. The show-jumping competition has been postponed, but on what date? The show-jumping competition has been postponed, but on what date? “We know that there won’t be a competition right away,” says Christophe Tesseyre, the president of the association that runs this club of around 100 members. Two successive storms (October 2018 and 2019) had indeed washed away the sand quarry, resulting in costs that were certainly partly covered by the Fondation de France, but further weakening a structure that, like so many others, strives to offer as many people as possible equestrian activities and second-hand equipment at affordable prices.

A project to provide access to horse riding for people with disabilities, the idea of which had been adopted as part of the Department’s participatory budget (with a possible investment of $60,000 in equipment in return for taking over the running of the activity) is also on hold, “the Department will certainly devote this budget to the social crisis”.

The sports section of the Cuxac-Cabardès secondary school – which is no longer an exception for students from outside the sector – no longer provides the same financial guarantees as it did at one time. Theoretical lessons were nevertheless provided during the confinement. On the other hand, practice remains banned, even at a time when the school is gradually reopening. As for the life of the centre, “100% activity remains difficult to imagine,” continues Christophe Tesseyre.In the quarry, 9 people plus the instructor are allowed, one direction of traffic must be respected within the enclosure of the site, the equipment is disinfected, the changing rooms are closed, a distance of 10 m between riders is required… So for the moment, only independent riders are allowed from the preparation for gallop 4, for a maximum of 2 hours so as not to have too many people at a time in a place where we usually meet, help each other to equip the horses, feed them, which is what makes all the charm of the life of an equestrian club.The instructors even keep an hourly attendance register, “just in case” it would be necessary to trace the contacts of a Covid case. In short, a return to the activity a little restricted, like breathing behind a mask.

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