Show jumper Richard Spooner made some waves on social media this morning, creating a crowdfunding page looking to raise money for the purchase price of a top prospect.
Funders donate money to Spooner via the website to help raise the purchase price fo a jumper prospect. Funders will not have any actual ownership of the horse—Richard and Kaylen Spooner will be listed as owners and pay all supporting expenses. But funders will get an inside look at the selection process and the horse's career.
We caught up with Richard to ask about the plan.
Chronicle: Why did you choose to go the crowdfunding route?
Spooner: I put together syndicates to purchase and support Robinson and Cristallo in the 90s and now, with social media and the internet, I thought this might be a new way for our sport to raise money for horses.
It’s a trend in the music and entertainment industry and political campaigns, new company funding. It’s not as though I’m inventing anything; it’s simply a new application of that for our industry. It’s a proven platform.
Kaylen and I gave it a lot of thought and decided ‘Let’s give it a try and see if it works out and is feasible for our sport.’ We just started last night and already we have quite a few donors, so word travels fast.
Chronicle: What’s the appeal for those funding?
Spooner: It’s very similar to a syndication, but instead the people funding aren’t getting the liability of long-term ownership of a horse. They can still become part of the process of finding and buying a top horse, so they can have the fun and enjoyment, without the responsibility. They don’t get vet bills! It’s a one-time deal.
The goal is to try and get a large group of people who are like-minded, that love show jumping and want to be part of a future horse hopefully at the top level of the sport—five-star grand prix and Nations Cup and championship level. This way, they can do that without spending any money that they don’t readily have available and without being on the hook for future expenses unless they choose to.
I’ve already had some past Olympic and World Championship riders who have contributed to my cause, so that has meant a lot to me that other top riders are behind what I’m trying to do. It’s going to be interesting and a lot of fun.
Chronicle: How did you choose the goal amount?
Spooner: The idea is that we didn’t want to set the bar too low or too high. [$500,000 is] an amount with which you can legitimately go out and buy a high-level, international grand prix horse prospect that still needs training and development, but it’s certainly a very legitimate amount of capital.
I’ve been working as an agent, buying horses in Europe for people in the States, over the last few years and I have a good feel for the market. That’s the amount that we should be able to get a quality horse for the future.
Chronicle: Do you have a horse in mind for this purchase?
Spooner: No, not yet. The horse is out there somewhere!
Ideally we’d find a 7-year-old because I’d like to have the horse at a level where it can be showing at 1.35-meters and not be that far from the top level. The five-star shows should be just a year or two off so that the members who helped fund this venture can—while it’s not instantaneous gratification—see the horse’s progress in the near future.
Chronicle: What does the 2014 plan for Cristallo look like?
Spooner: Cristallo is doing great. He’s fit and he’s going to Hong Kong for the Gucci Masters in a few weeks. He’s happy and ready to go. He’s 16, but he feels about half his age.
I don’t think that at this point in Cristallo’s career that the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games is something we’d look to do. If he were to get on a streak and [U.S. Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland] needed him, of course I would be there, but that’s not really the goal for this year. We’re looking to the future.
Interestingly, the Jan. 27 American Horses In Sport issue of The Chronicle of the Horse has a Between Rounds column written by show jumper McLain Ward which discusses in detail the formidable challenges today's riders face in being able to find the support to purchase horses.