The HITS-On-The-Hudson horse show series was issued a cease-and-desist order from the state of New York, according to the Daily Freeman newspaper.
The order, issued June 30, warned HITS organizers they could be fined up to $1,000 daily if the first week of shows, the Vermont Summer Special, scheduled for July 1-5 in Saugerties, New York, took place.
New York has experienced the biggest and deadliest COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, and Ulster County, where the HITS showground is located, is in Phase 3 as of June 23, but the state health department is requiring all “non-essential” businesses to cease “in-person services.” Horse shows are considered non-essential businesses, according to the Daily Freeman.
“Consequently, by operating the aforementioned horse show, HITS, Inc. will be in violation of Department of Health regulation and an Executive Order related to the COVID-19 state of emergency,” the letter stated.
Show management could’ve faced civil penalties, and the state could seek an injunction from the State Supreme Court to compel compliance if the horse show continued.
Saugerties Town Supervisor Fred Costello told the Daily Freeman on July 1 that the state issued additional guidance to allow HITS to run with 25 competitors per day after some pushback, but that HITS President Tom Struzzieri opted to cancel.
“I think the pushback came because there are a number of horse shows happening in New York as we speak, including one in Westchester County, in Saratoga and in western New York,” Costello told the Daily Freeman.
In a video sent out to competitors, Struzzieri confirmed the horse show has been canceled for the remainder of the week.
“It’s unfortunate New York State has arbitrarily decided that horse shows in Saugerties, but not in other parts of the state, can’t run,” he said. “That’s my battle to fight though and not yours. The rest of this week’s horse show is not going to happen, but we’re working diligently to do a schedule that would allow for us to do some of those feature classes on Monday and give the riders a bit of a paycheck and march on.”
Ulster County government officials posted on their Facebook page on July 1 that they would be monitoring the showground should the competition continue.
“In response to concerns from the public, the Ulster County Health Department will be conducting spot checks to ensure that HITS in Saugerties will be staying within the 25 person gathering limit established by New York State. In addition, the Health Department will also be interviewing patrons at the campgrounds to ensure that participants are adhering to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent Executive Order mandating quarantine for travelers from certain States,” a post read.
HITS Saugerties is scheduled to run five more weeks of shows, including two weeks of the Vermont Summer Series, which was combined after that show series canceled due to COVID-19. The cease-and-desist order only covers the first week of the show.
Struzzieri said the state has given HITS “100 percent guarantee” that they can resume competition on July 6.
“We’re positive we can do a very safe horse show for you if you come. We’ve practiced it,” he said.