A recent post on Facebook revealed a lot of disquiet among some competitors having to travel several hours to get to a show centre offering a test at their level. Of course, when the prize money is often dire, this is a bone of contention.
We really need to think, however, about the reasons why show centres have closed. It can simply be lack of funding and not making enough money to make the show viable, or the lure of selling off for development.
Two people I consider to know very well have both run show centres and say there is not enough money in it to make it workable. Organisers very often have to start the day at 4am prepping arenas, sorting times, making sure everyone gets to the right place at the right time.
During the show, there are continuous chores, with the amount of horse droppings trampled into arenas, the wear and tear, the litter, the people that have reversed into the post-and-rail fencing — rendering the showground into a bombsite.
Then the show organisers and volunteers are out late at night clearing up — if not, an arena surface has a short life span and will cost tens of thousands to replace.
So although it may seem unfair, there is very little prize money. It really does boil down to the fact that we do it for love of the sport, not for financial reward. All our shows need our support to keep open.
In the USA, all competitors are now encouraged to fill out a feedback questionnaire at shows. If we had this in the UK, these could be handed in to each region’s regional development officer to ensure any complaints are dealt with and maybe a rating introduced to ensure standards stay high.
This could be combined with the opportunity to praise the good. Volunteers, don’t forget, need our respect.
A last hurrah?
The nationals start today. Will this really be the last hurrah at Stoneleigh, now HS2 — which is set to cut through the park — has been postponed?
With four days of top-class dressage ahead, one of the highlights could be Christoph Hess’ son as test rider for the young horse classes. This will be really interesting if he’s anything like his father.
A reminder for all those competing — do check out the sponsors of your classes. You don’t have to be the winner to send an email or letter of thanks, and showing appreciation could make the difference in ensuring continued support for our sport.
I’ll be contesting the LeMieux grand prix with my former team horse Nip Tuck. Having missed out last year, I’m looking forward to riding at the nationals again. These days Nip Tuck enjoys a varied life. Having taken up jumping, this and hacking ensures his mind stays active and fit, as well as his body. Although he has jumping bloodlines, we definitely made the right choice of dressage for him as a career!
With the Europeans behind us, I don’t need to go on about what might have been, but who’d have thought that scores of 78, 76 and 74% would not have brought home a medal? Our horses’ performances were still very strong, and we can look forward to next year’s Olympics.
Ref Horse & Hound; 12 September 2019