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'The TBA had to move quickly to ensure the covering season could continue'

Industry figures tell us how they are managing in self-isolation

Claire Sheppard: learning Spanish during lockdown
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Claire Sheppard, chief executive of the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association, tells us about how she is managing – both personally and professionally – with the Europe-wide lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus

How is life at the TBA ticking over?

The TBA Board, committees and team have been busier than ever during the outbreak. Fortunately, we had a number of technologies in place to enable the team to adapt to new working practices with relative ease.

Most of our team are now working from home, with the exception of Alix Jones who continues to oversee membership matters from Stanstead House and handle telephone queries from members.

The office is closed to visitors at the moment, but we're still delivering our membership services and advice, and representing breeders’ interest at industry and government level.

What new measures have you brought in to deal with the coronavirus and the lockdown?

From the outset we had to move very quickly to ensure the safe continuation of the covering season, and this involved a huge collective effort between the TBA and our specialist advisers with government departments.

We produced and published the Protocols for Thoroughbred Breeders as the essential reference documents for the industry during the COVID-19 outbreak.

It is supported by template letters for employees and transporters, health protocol training guidance for employers, advice on government help for businesses, information on the provision of veterinary services and the early implementation of the Weatherbys online horse movement system known as DEMS.

Has the coronavirus crisis caused a lot more work in terms of liaising with government departments and producing guidance?

It has understandably created additional work and re-focused our teams, however we already had good working relationships with several government departments and especially Defra, whose assistance and feedback was instrumental in drawing up the advice.

Producing guidance involved discussions between a number of parties to ensure it was thorough to address any safety concerns, while also dealing with the practicality of implementing measures in a working stud farm environment.

It's through the time and effort of a number of people involved in this process that we were able to deliver such comprehensive guidance in such a short space of time.

On the industry side of things, we're members of the Covid-19 steering group and some of its sub-committees, working on racing and breeding’s response to the outbreak.

We've also been working closely with Weatherbys on various items including the new horse movement system and DNA sampling procedures.

On the veterinary front the TBA, along with our veterinary advisers, have been working closely with BEVA during this time, sharing our protocols and advice.

Where are you with Brexit arrangements? Has Covid-19 meant some of that work has been put on the back burner?

Although Covid-19 will no doubt shape a good deal of our future work, especially throughout 2020, the work on Brexit is also continuing in parallel as the UK Government and EU trade negotiations are currently ongoing.

In terms of the continuation of horse movements to and from the EU after the current transition period ends later this year, the industry Brexit steering group has recently written to the UK Government re-iterating our ambition for future smooth trade and movement arrangements for thoroughbreds.

A key factor in this will be and demonstrating our commitment to high health, welfare and traceability standards among thoroughbred breeding stock and ensuring our equine health standards are on par or better than current and future EU requirements following the introduction of the EU Animal Health Law next April.

We're monitoring all government advice, and are currently continuing to encourage employers of EU citizens who wish to remain in the country to apply for the UK Government’s EU Settlement Scheme in advance of next year’s deadline.

How has the TBA calendar of events in 2020 been affected by the lockdown?

The health and safety of our team and members is our priority and so we've taken the decision to cancel all physical events until September 30.

However, we're working to deliver a series of online events through interactive webinars and video content throughout the summer months to support our members and promote the British bloodstock industry.

The AGM and the associated election of trustees has been postponed and will now take place in the last quarter of the year.

On a personal level, how are you keeping yourself busy during lockdown?

The work demands during this extraordinary time have kept me very busy.

The biggest change to my personal life has been the curtailment of any travel. My job usually involves a lot of time on trains and on the road, and I’m enjoying having more time at home. I did draw up a list of chores but haven’t got round to many of them yet!

I’m usually very active so being kept indoors is a challenge; I continue to run, although it looks likely now that the triathlons I had entered will all be postponed. I've also been gaining some new skills, learning Spanish and even an attempt at cutting my husband’s hair.

Any film, TV or book recommendations to share to get through home confinement?

At the end of a working day my preference is for something entertaining – I’ve been re-watching some comedy classics such as The Thick of It and Twenty Twelve, as well as some guilty pleasures like SAS: Who Dares Wins and Cheer [a Netflix documentary on cheerleading in the US].

What are you most looking forward to when racing returns?

I can’t wait to watch live racing again and the provisional Flat Pattern programme released promises a really exciting new start to the season.

I hope jump racing also returns as scheduled, but more than anything I look forward to when we can get together again – the most enjoyable aspects of my job are the social and other events the TBA holds. I'm looking forward to when its safe for everyone to resume them.


Read more Life in Lockdown Q&As with industry figures

Tomas Janda: 'Lower prices could encourage new buyers to get involved'

Matt Hall: 'Films are a waste of time – I watch festival replays instead'

Tom Goff: 'I've painted two garden seats. God, I sound so middle-aged!'

Simon Sweeting: 'Rightly or wrongly I'm having all my mares covered'

Richard Kent: 'Stud fees and sales house charges will have to come down'

Philippa Mains: 'The industry is a family and we help each other out'

Claire Goodwillie: 'People have realised if you're not online you're invisible'

Tina Rau: 'I'm enjoying post-dinner quarantinis with friends over video call'

Daniel Creighton: 'The market will recover – the only question is when'

Ed Player: 'We're happy to move with the times and embrace online trading'

Patrick Sells: 'Chasemore Farm is effectively operating in a bubble'

Chad Schumer: 'Racing in the US being cancelled is the biggest frustration'

Tom Blain: 'Trade will be down but all we can do is roll with the punches'

Ted Voute: 'We'll need to strengthen the way we showcase young stock'

Simon Kerins: 'We'll embrace any format that will help get horses sold'

Barry Lynch: 'The industry has often bounced back as quickly as it dipped'

Tim Lane: 'Working with horses does you the world of good in these times'

Jerry Horan: 'My sister butchered my haircut. I think it was payback'

Violet Hesketh and Mimi Wadham: 'Social distancing isn't hard - just lonely!'

Henry Beeby: 'Nick Nugent and I have entered a beard growing competition'

Charles O'Neill: 'ITM will be ready to go when the markets open up again'

Freddy Powell: 'We're improving our online sale platform in case it's needed'

Bumble Mitchell: 'Online sales could be tricky for outlying studs like mine'

David Stack: 'I had to give a garda a lesson about the birds and the bees'

Colm Sharkey: 'I've been torturing myself trying to sort out my golf swing'

Rachael Gowland: 'I didn't realise how much I loved racing until I couldn't go'

Sam Hoskins: 'I've been listening to endless Cold War podcasts on my tractor'

Niamh Spiller: 'Video calls are very important to keep everyone motivated'

Jamie Lloyd: 'Staff have had all their own gear labelled, even wheelbarrows'

Micheál Orlandi: 'The stallions are flying and that gives me great hope'

Richard Venn: 'The French are in a good position to get back racing sooner'

Tim Kent: 'It's difficult to plan when we don't know when racing will resume'

Russell Ferris: 'Weatherbys had contingency plans that we activated at once'

Grant and Tom Pritchard-Gordon: 'Inglis Easter has kept us busy since January'

Peter Hockenhull: 'The social side of meeting and chatting to breeders is gone'

Polly Bonnor: 'We've fulfilled every feed order, including all our exports'

Richard Lancaster: 'We're fortunate that some Shadwell staff live on site'

The health and safety of our team and members is our priority and so we've taken the decision to cancel all physical events until September 30
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