Wednesday, Jun. 12, 2024

Why PRO?

The founding members of the new Professional Riders Organization explain their goals and objectives.

We recently announced the launch of the Professional Riders Organization, and our reasons for doing so were many. The breadth and diversity of the horsemen involved is extensive, and though PRO has been in development for more than a year, PRO as a reality is still new to many.

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The founding members of the new Professional Riders Organization explain their goals and objectives.

We recently announced the launch of the Professional Riders Organization, and our reasons for doing so were many. The breadth and diversity of the horsemen involved is extensive, and though PRO has been in development for more than a year, PRO as a reality is still new to many.

Craig Thompson

PRO was informally launched in 2008 in a variety of settings: over dinner with our peers, during quiet moments in the warm-up ring at events, through e-mails, text messages, and bits of conversation amongst ourselves. As last year’s spring season progressed, we organized open meetings at The Fork (N.C.), Fair Hill (Md.) and Jersey Fresh (N.J.). These meetings were designed to be inclusive and gather as much information about riders’ needs and wants as possible.

Through the summer we digested the information we had gathered. From our notes and conversations, it became clear that riders wanted and deserved their own advocacy group, and one thread kept re-occurring. Specifically, the U.S. Equestrian Federation does a great job fielding teams for international competition and administering rules; the U.S. Eventing Association does a great job developing the sport at the grassroots level. But neither is focused on the needs of riders who make their livings teaching, training and competing. And while we support the efforts of the USEA’s Professional Horsemen’s Council, particularly as they work toward common sense rule changes, PRO’s interests are broader.

Those needs are as diverse as the riders involved. On one hand, PRO must work to increase spectator attendance and prize money in our sport. On the other, PRO members need better access to essentials, such as retirement and insurance planning. Included in the services PRO offers are access to press services, ongoing improvement of footing at our competitions and a unified voice for professional riders. 

PRO’s priorities have been developed with ongoing input from our members. Those members range from young professionals just starting out in the business to those who have well-established track records in international competition.

They include riders who have won Olympic medals and riders who have yet to compete at the advanced level. For those of us who have been in the business over a longer period of time, it is easy to look back and wish that the road to being a successful professional had been easier.

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For those looking forward to a career in eventing, it is hard not to look ahead and wonder, “How will I achieve the goals I’ve set for myself?” To both groups, PRO offers one very simple observation: We can do better.

PRO was formed by 25 riders who each made a financial commitment to do more than just talk about the shortcomings of our sport. Doing more than just talking means bringing our goals to fruition. To that end, PRO has started working with organizers at the Plantation Field CIC** and CIC***, which will be held in Unionville, Pa., next September. Through the efforts of our members, PRO intends to offer unprecedented prize money in both divisions. Further, PRO is working with Plantation Field to increase spectator attendance at the event.

We don’t expect to get everything just right the first time around, but we are committed to developing a model that can be used at all our best events. For our event organizers, this means helping to lessen the burden of running the quality of events we all want to see. For our riders, this means a top-notch competition where the best horses and riders vie for real prize money. For spectators, this means unparalleled sport coupled with unprecedented amenities.

When we look back on 2009, we will know we have been successful if we have met a few basic goals. First, by the end of the year we hope to have established a broad general membership that spans the distance between professionals on the inside of the sport and fans on the outside. We will take a big step toward doing so at the Rolex Kentucky CCI****, where we will formally launch a membership drive. Second, we have already begun the process of bringing significant prize money and new fans into the sport. Our partnership with Plantation Field will start that process, a process that ultimately will to lead to an ongoing series of events tied together with a common commitment to increased prize money and spectators.

The future of top-level eventing is exciting, and we hope you’ll join us. 

Craig Thompson, Laura VanderVliet, Buck Davidson, Allison Springer and Phillip Dutton


The authors are all professional event riders who have competed at the advanced level.

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