I won't let you forget this thread it's too good. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif[/img]
I won't let you forget this thread it's too good. [img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_wink.gif[/img]
I'm not going to let you pass up this thread easily. This is a crossroads in this sport and we need to decide if this is the death rattle of a sport past it's time or one on the brink of a rebirth.
Although I think the formation of this new Marketing and Development Committee is a positive move, I don't share your fear of our sport dying a slow death if we don't do something NOW!
Several of the individuals on your committee have managed to promote the sport just fine without the aid of our Federation or under it's umbrella. I imagine they will continue to promote their OWN enterprizes thus continuing the sponsorship of the sport, on some level.
So, I can't help but think the sport WILL survive.
But do we want to just survive?
There are so many interrelated things like open spaces and agriculture at stake. Remember that the economy of almost every state depends on our sport as an industry that balanced their gross profit and supports tons of subsidiary services.
So yes! perhaps it will survive but as the numbers start to drop there will be less momentum for support from anyone. Lets say there are 52 of the mega-extravanganza shows, will that draw enough when divided up over only four or even ten show grounds?
Yes, there will be people who will still have horses and there will be some who will ride but if we don't change and we lose our position as a major sport in the Olympics will there be new riders three generations from now?
My hope and the reason I put my time where my mouth is, is that we can create a modernization as they did with skating and golf to become more generally a main stream activity.
I was brought up not to argue with my elders, so forgive me for having a difference of opinion.
On the contrary, the shows I have attended over the last ten years are not merely surviving, they are flourishing! Quite a few are sold old long before the entries close, others are so full, the day barely gets done by dusk. The one thing all those shows have in common? They are presented at above average facilities, they are run by top notch management, good jumps, good stabling, the list goes on. In other words, they draw exhibitors.
Sure some of them are at State facilities, (Va, Ky, NC.) but others are used once a year. (Upperville, the Hampton Classic.)
I agree that we want to keep our sport in the Olympic Games. I am pretty confident that, among others, the Germans will never let the IOC delete equestrian!
I would encourage anyone who trys to make Show Jumping on a public parallel with skating and golf. But isn't that what has been going on since the first ESPN broadcast?
It has taken close to thirty years to come this far, what makes anyone think those who got us this far would stop now?
Sure we should encourage those at the local and regional level to aspire. However, the publicity is generated by those at the top of their game.
HEY email me I have a FAB idea.
"Just maybe we will be able to create a system where every little kid in every backyard will have a chance to test their total talent."
I seem to be one of the voices for the less-than-internationally-talented-equipped here, but this quote seems to me to be the bedrock of what should be AHSA-or-whatever's mandate as well as support.
If the focus remains on the upper levels of the sport, the roots will die. They are already dying with the loss of readily available opportunities to enjoy horses, the loss of trails, the loss of small shows for spectators as well as competitors who can't/won't use their entire vacation to go to a horse show.
It would be nice to think that AHSA/FED/Whoever would focus on building the sport as a sport for the public, not just for the wealthy, but you'll pardon my cynicism in pointing out that has not been the case to date.
"If you want a plant to flourish, you must water the roots."
You've got the point. Emmet I don't mind a disagreement about ideas ever. I can understand that everyone does not have the same sense of the health of this sport.
While it is true that some of the shows have an over abundance of entries that is not the whole picture. For example according to press releases there were about 12,000 horses showing on the winter circuits. But, there are almost 2 million horses that show according to the AHC.
And, it is a fact that although some shows are very healthy it only represents 2% of the membership in the Federation, so 98% are left out.
The mission and the little revolution we are part of is to include all these people so that every little child will have the hope that they can develop into a talented rider and have a way to get to the Olympics.
In skating for example for many years you could not be competitive unless you could afford to build your own skating rink at home or you shared one with a group such as a skating club. Then it was elitist and out of the mainstream.
When it became commonplace for every county to build an arena and make it and instructors available to everyone the doors opened and they became mainstream. The skating club was a part but not the whole program. Those arenas were shared with the Hockey playing public. Two sports on ice that grew from a small change of mind.
I think we with horses need to have a think tank where we can bounce new ideas around. If only one out of every 10 ideas proposed will work then we will be on our way. The old system works for us but it leaves out too many people.
How to make this sport inclusive for those who believe that children should go to school? and for those who like to sleep in their own bed at night? and those adults who are employed in the real world? and last but not least those who are not affluent? That is our mission.
When we solve those problems then as a mainstream sport we will achieve the large national sponsors with the really deep pockets. Then exhibitors will not have to pay huge entry fees because the cash is available and further if there are spectators there can be spectator fees for show management. Then it will pay to have improved grounds and facilities which will make it all much more comfortable.
Let's suppose somehow our American Equestrian Games are so well designed that they receive general support, perhaps it would be like the Superbowl and television rights would be so valuable that it alone could subsidize our teams and athletes not just with a part but for all of the expenses so that little kid could afford to be on the team from Hometown USA.
Can we get it done? I don't know but I'm willing to try. If we don't get it done the world will still spin on it's axis and life will go on. There is always probably going to be 2% of the horse owners who will be able to afford to compete. Will that be enough to save open green space in every community? Probably not. Will that generate enough activity in enough states for us to hold on to our seat in the Department of Agriculture? Possibly but I doubt it. Will we be able to have laws passed that benefit us? I don't think the Legislature of any state will be impressed enough to care if we are not an economic factor.
I thought I was gonna get slammed for my post...
If your reply post is truly your mission, count me in - Let me know what we can do to help from out here in grassroots country!
Please think very hard about sending that last comment of yours in to form of a letter to the Chronicle. I never saw a better summation of what is needed to both preserve and expand the presense of the horse and horse sports in America.
We don't always agree but this kind of discussion is what fosters great ideas. She has certainly gone above and beyond the pale in donating her time, energy and talents to our sport! If more people did the same, we would be in great shape.
I agree wholeheartedly that making our sport more spectator friendly will result in better competition venues, lower fees, more value for sponsors and a whole host of other benefits.
Will it provide more opportunities for the local rider with limited resources? I am not convinced it will.
Those who make it in those circumstances are probably (still) going to be those who sacrifice and build careers through sweat equity... who become (poor) working students for the opportunity to train with the best, who figure out creative ways to participate in a sport competing against those for whom the money is not an issue... it is not a totally level playing field, and I seriously doubt it ever will be.
There are countries with federations that provide training and competitive opportunities for talented athletes of limited means. These also tend to be countries with state breeding facilities and a large industry which mutually support each other. We here in the US are not quite that fortunate. In Europe, it is also common for pros to have earned an academic degree (which includes practical exposure and demonstrated proficiency) who can come up through the ranks - it is viewed as a legitmate industry and has all the trappings of one. <end of rant>
There are success stories everywhere of local circuits that offer great competition in quality environments, pony clubs who foster education and provide opportunities for those of more limited means to ride and learn, breed associations who do a great job of obtaining support and sponsorship, and who knows what else.
Wouldn't it be great if all those super ideas could be identified to the Fed, who could publicize them and help make those ideas available to others in distant areas? Beats inventing (or reinventing) the wheel, don't you think?
I am also part of the marketing and development committee. It has been my pleasure and a privilege to work with so many talented and committed individuals who are willing to donate their time and energy to finding SOLUTIONS to the challenges that our sport faces. Anyone can b@tch and moan about all the things they don't like... it is much more valuable (and a lot more fun, actually) to put energy into figuring out how to fix and improve stuff!
Let's keep those ideas and success stories coming...
So, what can the industry and the Federation do to make horses more accessible to the nonhorsey public? I think in particular I would be interested in having the marketing committee consider what might be done to increase awareness/acceptability of equestrian sport amongst non-whites.
Figure skating is a terrific example. For years it was something rich white new englanders did. It was barely shown on TV. No one was interested. Then we had breakout stars, and suddenly figure skating was one of THE sports of the winter olympics. Even better, eventually we had Debi Thomas and Kristi Yamaguchi as national champions - and now look at all the young girls of all colors and backgrounds at the elite level.
Many people (even among those who can afford horses) never have an opening to participate. In this area, a classic entry point into riding is a class offered through the community college. Is this typical? Are there more effective ways? There are all kinds of gymnastic and swimming classes for little kids - what about promoting local urban riding camps? Maybe a booklet about getting your kids started with riding, with listings, is something that the Fed could undertake. I dunno.
Some of the ideas are out of scope of the old AHSA model, but perhaps some are appropriate to the whole-sport mission of the Fed. And any that aren't, but are valuable, can be disseminated so others within the equestrian community can pick them up and run with them.
I must say, though, I live in an area where riding schools are full, local shows are huge and we have been fighting for the land for years.
For goodness sakes, we (with the assistance of the Piedmont Enviromental Council among others)sent Disney running away with it's tail between it's legs! We are represented by a strong Farm Bureau.
But here's an idea for you. Why not send talent scouts to some of the local or regional shows? Just like in football, roundball, etc.
I just received a fund-raising letter from USET
it said that they needed 200,000 to 400,000 for each of the next three months
- it spoke of my past support and I cannot remember sending $s - though might have years ago
Did they say what they needed it for?
I'll go reread tonight (I kept as I had not decided how to respond - I'm leaning toward asking for a breakdown of money usage)
From the dressage forum:
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>
Something similar to Iron Chefs, except Iron DQ's where a panelist of a Chermin trainer, rider, and young actress comments are badly dubbed into English:
"Oh how surprising, she has chosen a jeweled browband and a pink saddle pad for her obviously chestnut draft/walking horse cross. The judges will find her taste amusing if not absurd."
"Tee, hee, hee, I would like to wear something similar in my new show North Sea Baywatch."
[img]/infopop/emoticons/icon_biggrin.gif[/img] I bet we could get Iron Dressage broadcast!
I think that most shows could be more specatator-friendly. At one local dressage venue they constantly chastise spectators for sitting too close to the arena because they are afraid the horses will be spooked. Every time I listen to that, I know why American horses are freaked out when asked to compete before Actual Crowds at the Olympics or in Europe.
We can do it! Once we get out of the habit of being cynical and paranoid we can look farther.
One of the secrets of riding a good course is not to look where you are but always at the fence ahead, right?
So glad to have another member of the committee out here, I hope we can encourage the whole committee to join us and use the web for some really good brain storming between all of us.
Well now that almost every state has an equine immunity act we could start to lobby for horse back riding to be part of the gym programs in the schools just as they do skating, swimming and yes even golf.
We can sponsor "Parade Units" and exhibition teams. We can get involved more with the scouts who issue horse badges ans the 4H.
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>But here's an idea for you. Why not send talent scouts to some of the local or regional
shows? Just like in football, roundball, etc.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>
That's a great idea and offer a clinic with a member of the team to some of the High Score winners. Maybe we can have some system which would get us nominations for worthwhile riders who would benefit from the experience. This is a wonderful way to get the Members of the Fed closer to the elite riders.
You know Emmet, in reality old Bert DeNemethy did exactly that. He used to frequently bring young aspiring riders to all the local shows to try out new horses or test the riders on the available horses. While he was there he would watch the jumper classes for other potential talent.
The USET blew their opportunity bigtime. The USET Class should have been a showcase for blossoming riders. Instead of running it like just another medal class the Finals should have real tests of the riders ability to pull together and properly exercise a horse. If it were the "Search for Talent" class then they should have run all the sections and had the Team coaches making the picks they liked or a committee from the Team.
Well I think the program will be a failure unless we are able to get to all the local and regional shows and include them in some sort of qualifying procedure for the American Equestrian Games.
Riding Schools can set aside a day and offer tests as they do in skating at the arenas and offered by the Skating Clubs.
For a $5.00 fee the young rider can be certified with these tests as to their level of knowledge and ability. Those certificates might be the way to qualify for the first leg of eliminations.
Perhaps we can consider rating divisions by the level of difficulty instead of money, that would keep the entry fees down.
The hardest part is knowing where to start first. Should we start at the bottom and work up or because of the current pressures shoudl we start at the top and work down.
<BLOCKQUOTE class="ip-ubbcode-quote"><font size="-1">quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Snowbird:
That's a great idea and offer a clinic with a member of the team to some of the High Score winners. Maybe we can have some system which would get us nominations for worthwhile riders who would benefit from the experience. This is a wonderful way to get the Members of the Fed closer to the
I've seen this kind of prize offered for some dressage and eventing competitions, especially things like young rider competitions. Way better than prize money for everyone involved, IMHO! You're right Snowbird, it would give a lot more meaning to winning a USET medal class - to not only be eligible for a final, but also to get to attend (say) a special clinic.
No one does it better than the mighty Spruce Meadows! They do limit their expertise to Showjumping but wow, do they do it right. It's so exciting to see 45,000 people packing the stands on Saturday or Sunday to watch the big class. How many of those people are actual horse owners? Not the largest percentage that's for sure. Perhaps someone should study the Spruce Meadows model. Yes, it's pretty boring to listen to Mr. Southern give his long speal to the sponsors but look at what he has creatd.....he's allowed and the sponsors appreciate it. They have marketed showjumping to sponsors, fans and the community. Study how they did it and you may have some pretty good answers to your own marketing questions