I’ve decided: 2014 will be exciting. 2013 was the comedown – post-London, excitement fading and new beginnings emerging for all sorts of sports. 2014 sees the climb really begin. We’ll be halfway from London to Rio and, as equestrians, we have the excellent marker of the World Equestrian Games heading our way.
I’ve already outlined some of my personal hopes and dreams for 2014 and beyond, but this week I got thinking about what I’d like for the horse world in general. Let me know what you’d like to see happen within equestrianism during the next 12 months – I’d love to feature some of your ideas!
- Harmony… between equestrians and other road users. This is a big problem in the UK, and has hit the headlines again recently following a court case between a rider and motorist. I’m not a fan of the passive-aggressive safety gear which is currently in favour among many equestrians (for example, hi-vis wear branded to look similar to Police uniforms, and equipment advertising the fact that the rider is wearing a camera). I’d rather that there were better education for non-horsey road users and that riders took the moral high ground as much as possible. Can we all just abide by the “treat others as you’d like to be treated” rule?
- Networking… too few horsey organisations have fully embraced the digital world. There are those who are great – among them, professional riders, media outlets such as TV channels and equestrian magazines, shows and events, plus various equipment brands – but there are many who have been slow to catch on or aren’t even trying. The legacy we so crave and require following storming Olympic performances by Team GB and the constant desire for expansion in other horse sports won’t be possible without grassroots participation, and it’s here that the horse world is failing to join the 20th century, nevermind the 21st. I want to see far better websites, social media usage and communication in general (hands up if you struggle to get a riding school to even answer the phone) among the wider equestrian community. Stop relying on building it and your clients coming, start being proactive and learning how to reach the next generation
- Excellence and equity… 2013 was dominated by prize money rows and drug dramas. 2014 is the Chinese Year of the Horse – with the World Equestrian Games coming up, I think this is a good omen! Let’s make it fun (from grassroots up), fair (play by the rules and please, FEI, implement them correctly) and fantastic. We need to be the best version of ourselves in order to attract new participants. There are already more than enough sports with poor reputations, I for one do not wish equestrian sport to join that list
- Recognition… current members of the equestrian community are undoubtedly believers in horse power – the fact that horses are good for the mind, body and soul – and the rest of the world is starting to catch on. Riding for the Disabled, Equine Assisted Learning and other uses of horses as therapies or learning tools are continuing to gain popularity. This excites me enormously: we live in a modern world where the horse could easily have struggled to be relevant other than for those who can afford to have them for pleasure or sport. The horse has gamely risen to the challenge, reinventing itself and demonstrating many practical applications within our world. No more simply a work, sport or pleasure animal, horses are flourishing in their new jobs. Whilst many people are already aware of this new harnessing of horse power, some are slower to catch on, but it is happening. I hope that science continues to move forward in recognising that horses are an effective tool in treating many human conditions, and that the organisations which provide these opportunities continue to be well-funded and grow further to support and help more people
- Visibility… post-2012 Team GB’s equestrian athletes have gone from strength to strength: Charlotte DuJardin now holds three World Records; Scott Brash ended 2013 as the world’s number one showjumper… knocking teammate Ben Maher off the top spot; William Fox-Pitt had another storming year and Zara Phillips is looking forward to the imminent birth of her first child in part so that she can get back to work and hopefully compete at Worlds. One of the greatest things about being a sports fan in the digital era is the ability to view our sport live online – quality can still be limited, but it’s an easy way for networks to offer this service. The amount of coverage it’s possible to get online – as well as it being uninterrupted by adverts, or having to change channels due to scheduled programmes requiring the use of the channel frequency – is fantastic. It’s also a way for new fans to get involved and see what’s out there. Although some find it tedious due to the repetitive nature of equestrian sport (as in, having to watch horses and riders jump the same course of fences or perform the same routine), I feel equestrianism works well on TV – it’s much easier to see far more of the action, particularly with elements such as cross country, than it is to see in person. Plus it means you don’t have to get wet, muddy and stuck in a queue out of a car park at the end of the day!
Overall, I hope that 2014 moves the equestrian world forwards. The future will not wait for us, but it will welcome us.