If you have been following the FEI you know all the changes that are being proposed to keep Eventing in the Olympics. I mean I’m all for riding for the gold (Ok not ME… you know what I mean) but there comes a time when we have to realize that maybe our sport has outlasted its appeal to the olympic masses and that being a professional rider in eventing may be on its last leg.
Now I may get a bunch of hate mail over this but our cultures have changed dramatically in least few years. Everyone wants appeal, shock and awe, and FAST turn arounds to know who has won. That’s why show jumping is such a hugely loved sport to watch around the world. It’s adrenaline pumping, exciting and the race to the victory is relatively short. Don’t get me wrong Eventing has that as well, BUT it’s also drawn out over three days with one VERY boring interlude (Sorry dressage). It’s a sport that you can’t just jump in and easily follow if you really want to know the scoring. Not to mention it’s an excessively expensive event to put on for ANYONE, especially at the upper levels.
I think we have been very bad about broadcasting our sport in a good way to the media as well. Half the time all I see is on Facebook how many horses or riders were injured or killed a crossed various countries events, and if you don’t think the average joe stumbles upon those you’re kidding yourself. I mean it’s super depressing to see, and I love this sport. Imagine what idea it gives to the “normal” person who doesn’t know eventing?
We don’t advertise much on the internet, or television for the regular non-horsey person to draw in new people. I think the only commercials I ever see is for the Triple Crown in racing and Rolex….Really? Thats all we advertise for?! That’s really sad if you think about it. At some point I believe we need to realize that our sport is loosing traction and we are sitting on a steep muddy hill. Once we get sliding down there’s no way to recovery and we are certainly slipping.
Now I want to point out that I said PROFESSIONAL Eventing may be going away. The majority of people I know never compete above novice, much less prelim. Yes there are those with great aspirations to ride a 4* and cruise around Rolex and obviously a good group that gets there BUT how many people have the time or the money to get themselves to Rolex or even qualify for the olympic team?
I have had some of the most fun at low level events and I have seen HUGE turnouts for them. These turn outs are fantastic for the event and everyone involved, but the higher you go up the levels the fewer and fewer participate. We have a course by my house (Whidbey Island Horse Trials) that I watched last year and at the upper level course I think they had 13 or 15 participants, (don’t quote me) where Beginner Novice and Novice had well over 100 participating in EACH category. And this is a course that draws tons of people from all over the western seaboard. When does it become to much to maintain for the event holders as well? Setting up and maintaining an upper level course for just 13 riders? Thats gotta be a hit to the pocket book.
The sport of eventing at FEI level is beginning to forget where the roots of eventing started. It was a military endeavor to test the cavalry mounts and riders to ensure that they were fit for duty. The evaluation was more an endurance ride with the elements of modern eventing thrown in. There was a true purpose to what was being asked. If your horse couldn’t complete the evolution for endurance, courage and responsiveness you were not ready for war.(Here’s a great website for a brief history of eventing) When eventing switched to the short format and began changing to more technical courses it began it’s evolution away from the meat and bones of eventing (Some of the changes are good for the safety of horse and rider and event holders) but at what point do you continue to change the sport just to keep an olympic spot that the majority of people will never meet nor will ever ride at?
Some of the proposed changes are ridiculous just to appease the olympic counsel. (check out the list here ) Some days it’s best to go out with your head held high and realize that we have outlived our stay in the olympic hall. I don’t think eventing will ever go away. I think the lower level events and even events such as Rolex are quite lucrative. But at some point we have to keep the spirit of our sport alive. We have to remember our roots and stop changing it to be “cool and popular” and change it only for the safety and well being of our horses and riders.
My question for those at the upper levels and the FEI counsel….how many sports are NOT in the olympics and yet continue to thrive? Quite a few if I do say so…I think there may be enough interest that upper levels could continue even if we do not have an olympic seat. And maybe JUST maybe it might actually change our sport for the better when we STOP focusing on keeping the olympics, or ensuring all countries can attend as olympic contenders, and start re-focusing on Eventing FOR the sport and make changes that just might make it more enjoyable for everyone while keeping the tradition of eventing alive.
Do you think our sport has a good future?