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Beginner Novice SPINOFF: Image of the Sport?

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  • Beginner Novice SPINOFF: Image of the Sport?

    Every single time I bring up the subject of the sport's image, several folks leap at me for one reason or another. I then argue that it's a real issue--then I get poo-poo'ed by those who just...what? Don't want to believe it? Think I'm a nutcase?

    But read these snippets from Denny's Beginner-Novice affordability thread. THIS is what I mean. Eventing DOES have an image problem in some quarters. And that that image can interfere, not only with the growth of the sport, but also with garnering support (like sponsorship) for the sport. I know full well, from speaking with others, that that just doesn't matter to some folks--even that there are some folks both inside and outside USEA, who think the sport doesn't need growth if it comes at the cost of certain things they prefer.

    So I ask again, as a quasi-poll, quasi-research question: Do these (the impressions implied below) MATTER to you? Do you think USEA would do well to invest some funds in changing these impressions? Do you think these thing inhibit growth significantly enough to require being addressed? (I ask the last question because while the expense certainly is perhaps the major factor, this one--image, combined with education--is something somewhat more doable than making the sport less expensive.

    Originally posted by LookinSouth View Post
    As ridiculous as this seems it is so true! I had NO idea that competitive lower level eventing existed until a friend of mine told me about it. Why? Because I had only ridden at h/j and pleasure type barns and no one knew anything about eventing nor spoke of it.

    Based on what I saw and read around me I pretty much thought eventing was for those crazy people that like to gallop over 4ft solid fences Needless to say at that time I wasn't even going to consider looking into eventing as a possible discipline for myself and my horse.
    Get those stories out there. And more publicity showing lower cross country jumps wouldn't hurt either. Those big jumps are really scary!
    I was also intrigued to read in Denny's thread how at least one person stated USEA's purpose as "to promote the sport." What does that mean to you? (I'm wanting to get a feel for opinions on this, along with why and who--what type of eventers, not "who" by name--stands where on it all.)
    Sportponies Unlimited
    Athletic Thoroughbred crosses for the highly motivated, smaller rider.

  • #2
    There are some intersting points to consider for our sports "image" and then how to grow it.

    If you read the "Hahah" thread, you will get some idea of what we need to contend with. I'm sure there are plenty of opportunites to get more competitors involved in eventing from other disciplines (like the hunters and jumpers) if we weren't percieved as the sport that "gallops" or "goes fast" (and out of control)

    Yes there are those riders that go too fast and/or out of control for the level (at all levels, including advanced) but the image or thought we need to get out there is that we do it for the love of riding across the country, not in a ring (well for one out of three phases anyway). The opportunity for freedom, experiencing the thrill of going up and down hill, through water and over natural obstacles seems to have a more natural connection with our horses (and of course there is that adrenaline fix)

    From teaching many "low level" students at home and at clinics, most just want to learn how to get around and have the satisfaction of spending a day with their horse and friends. Most have a common goal of just completing, and if they get a $1.50 ribbon at the end of the day it is just icing on the cake (but we come for the cake, not the icing)

    Comment


    • #3
      "U-Mass" knows better than most, because for many years, he and his family ran one of the great destination events in Area One, now, sadly, gone, like so very many privately owned and operated events.
      This preservation of strong local events must become one of the totally urgent challenges our sport will face as the US population climbs from 300,000,000 in 2008 to the projected 400,000,000 by 2050.
      http://www.tamarackhill.com/

      Comment


      • #4
        I think there is an undeniable link from "image" to that of "growth" within any sport. Every sport requires growth of some sport, people leave or stop participating for a variety of reasons. Growth doesnt just mean getting larger it also means replacing those people that have decided they cant afford it, dont have the time, their priorities have changed or they have found something else.

        When I see the stats thrown about how the USEA membership is primarily made from Nov to BN it makes me wonder about representation at the high levels of the sport and if those levels are getting the support they need.

        I would think all levels of the sport should be targeted for growth, we need solid programs for the new people in the sport as well as the rising elite.

        Image is perception, its an individual thing but often driven best by extensive and these days expensive marketing. I dont think there are any short cuts here, if you want to change the image to something better then you have to pay for it or wait a long time.

        The bigger issue is probably one you allude to is what do we want the image to portray?. The high side or the novice side. As with everyone I expect, I come across people in all walks of life that dont know what eventing is. Even the other day at a western barn with 10 horses the owner new nothing about the sport or how it was organized. "Is that the Olympic competition I see?" was one quote.

        Yes there are going to be those "inside" that dont want to change the image or care. But for me it comes down to the leadership of sport and how in touch they are with their membership and whats going to drive that membership in years ahead.

        Image will mean more people come, but also means a lot of other things

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Originally posted by denny View Post
          This preservation of strong local events must become one of the totally urgent challenges our sport will face as the US population climbs from 300,000,000 in 2008 to the projected 400,000,000 by 2050.
          I coudn't agree with you more. I think a real, solid push should be made to localize press releases, for example. To set up a system wherein, regardless of event organizers abilities--since they are already overloaded with work--USEA has a way to get the winners' (and other eventers) stories in the local press (specifically: a human interest type story before each event, and winners' stories or a news-type report afterward). My proposed solution is a "local liaison" network. Other sports do it. Even here, folks have written about their favorite eventers, big name and small. Why not corral that enthusiasm and put it to good use getting positive images and stories distributed locally and A LOT? I'd bet that even event photographers would pitch in a nice, dramatic, happy, pretty picture to go along with the story--after all, they'd benefit from the local exposure, too, wouldn't they?
          Sportponies Unlimited
          Athletic Thoroughbred crosses for the highly motivated, smaller rider.

          Comment


          • #6
            Yesterday...

            was the first time ANYONE in the horse world in which I live was interested in the fact that we're going to be first-time eventers next week.

            I attended a well-run hunter pace in the exclusive Caloosa equestrian subdivision in NW Palm Beach County. They had a beautiful, but small, course of SOLID FENCES--can you believe it? There were rolltops, tires, logs, brush box, a real planted hedge, zig-zag fence, pipe organ, coops, barrels, telephone poles stacked, a bank, and a pile of stacked logs. There was even a start "box" and finish "line". What a great little course--not open to anyone but residents, except for this event and their little hunter shows. I'll definitely go back to their hunter shows if its going to be held in their field over these solids.

            And there were kids there jumping 18" over these little solid obstacles having a blast. In fact, two little girls "volunteered" on their pony's to reset a ground line that had become dislodged when another competitor reported it. They said, "Oooh, let's canter." And of course I said, "Let's gallop." Their mothers laughed. While we all watched from the side, the 2 little girls cantered out, and the one on the shortest horse got off and fixed the pole, while the other little girl held her pony. Then they cantered back. While we adults made bets as to whether they were going to jump something on the way back. Of course, they planned on jumping a log, but one chickened out b/c she didn't want to get in trouble. Tooo cuuuute.

            Anyway, everyone I've ever talked to at our barn (admittedly primarily a reining barn), at hunter shows, and even at the Christina Schlusemeyer clinic held 2 weeks ago in Plantation, says, "Eventing? Where do you do that?" No one has ever said, "Why?" or "Aren't you scared of those fences?" or anything of that nature. I think down here it's a real lack of knowledge. I always have to explain about the 3-phases and everyone acts like they've never heard of it.

            Up at Caloosa yesterday, at least everyone had heard of eventing, and wished us good luck next week as well as complimenting me on my boy.

            Maybe in other parts of the country there's a more pervasive "knowledge" about eventing and accordingly, a negative image?

            But for a positive image, a video of those 2 little girls cantering out, fixing the pole and cantering back and sneaking a jump over a little log, would have been great eventing publicity (even though it wasn't an event).
            T3DE 2010 Pact Group
            Barefoot Eventers Clique
            http://i18.photobucket.com/albums/b1...2lkxcbn110.jpg

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Image is perception, its an individual thing but often driven best by extensive and these days expensive marketing.
              Not necessarily. Not if you are willing to think outside the box and maximize resources you already possess (instead of having to buy). There is no rule that marketing has to be expensive. Many an internet upstart has proven that.
              Sportponies Unlimited
              Athletic Thoroughbred crosses for the highly motivated, smaller rider.

              Comment

              • Original Poster

                #8
                Bear with me on this, please. Compare these two images--the first is in use, the second I put together ONLY to make a point (it is not intended to be used):

                http://sportponiesunlimited.com/badexample.jpg
                http://sportponiesunlimited.com/finalversionjpeg.JPG

                To me, the first one looks way, way, way to expensive, serious, upper level. I wish I could have gotten better images of a gray horse clearly doing lower level stuff for the second one, but that was my intent: to show the three phases, but show them as doable and/or familiar--y'know what I mean?
                Sportponies Unlimited
                Athletic Thoroughbred crosses for the highly motivated, smaller rider.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Wow! Great contrasts. Although, I do love the photo of the chestnut jumping the corner jump. Auburn
                  When in Doubt, let your horse do the Thinking!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I cannot imagine any better way to sustain and nurture our sport than by getting more first timers out on a cross country course.

                    Some reasonable percentage of those folks will...
                    come back next time
                    decide they want to lease an event horse
                    decide they want to learn to event with their own horse
                    eventually shoot for recognized BN
                    and...
                    5 years later, be spending all their recreational time and most of their money on a preliminary horse, a prospect (er, husband horse, right), a truck, a trailer, lessons, saddles, clinics, entry fees, road trips to Rolex...hmm...what am I forgetting?

                    Promoting the sexy upper level events is great but I had seen eventing in the Olympics for years and never thought of it as a discipline I could, or would want to, try.

                    Not until I was at a barn with an intro eventing program and intro eventing horses available, and found myself careening around a baby beginner novice course...fell off when my horse tripped (that intro eventing program did not include things like proper position and balance and your bridge and...so hunter 2 point I did, all the way around)...got back on...discovered it didn't "count" and crossed the finish line with a HUGE grin on my face...
                    THEN I thought of it as a sport I might try.
                    The big man -- my lost prince

                    The little brother, now my main man

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      pwynn, you posted those pics while I was writing my tome.
                      Yes.
                      Yes.
                      Sexy is great for NBC ads and getting corporate sponsorship, but "hey, I can try that" is what will actually make this sport grow.
                      The big man -- my lost prince

                      The little brother, now my main man

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by pwynnnorman View Post
                        Not necessarily. Not if you are willing to think outside the box and maximize resources you already possess (instead of having to buy). There is no rule that marketing has to be expensive. Many an internet upstart has proven that.
                        Yes and I agree in part but we are not dealing with something thats new, eventing has been around for a long time and the participation rates at RShows last year shows it cant even be considered as fledgling.

                        We are talking about changing or adapting the "image" of sport here mainly, for the betterment of the growth of the sport. One that will give the best chance the sport prospers for another century.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by pwynnnorman View Post
                          To me, the first one looks way, way, way to expensive, serious, upper level. I wish I could have gotten better images of a gray horse clearly doing lower level stuff for the second one, but that was my intent: to show the three phases, but show them as doable and/or familiar--y'know what I mean?
                          Yep. I love the "Cross country is our game" ad that the USEA runs now, with Sara Davis, I think, jumping a pretty big skinny. HOWEVER, as much as I admire it, I can see it as being intimidating to anyone wondering if they could event, except for that small fraction of envelope-pushers who latch on and know from day one that they want to do the upper levels.

                          Even substituting just your left-hand image, of the rider's smile, for Sara's intense, focused expression, would change the overall impression.
                          SportHorseRiders.com
                          Taco Blog
                          *T3DE 2010 Pact*

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Y'know what irritates me the most about this subject? The "eventing is an extreme sport" thing. It isn't an extreme sport at the lower levels--the levels most people enjoy most directly. We shoot ourselves in the foot by equating it with that type of sport, don't you think?

                            Wasn't there a thread at some point that filled in the blanks:
                            "Eventing is ________"? (I can't find it. Anyone?)
                            Sportponies Unlimited
                            Athletic Thoroughbred crosses for the highly motivated, smaller rider.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by pwynnnorman View Post
                              Y'know what irritates me the most about this subject? The "eventing is an extreme sport" thing. It isn't an extreme sport at the lower levels--the levels most people enjoy most directly. We shoot ourselves in the foot by equating it with that type of sport, don't you think?

                              Wasn't there a thread at some point that filled in the blanks:
                              "Eventing is ________"? (I can't find it. Anyone?)
                              Honestly, I get a little swagger in my step when someone says to me, oooh, you eventers are so BRAVE! But you're right, this is not a constructive image to maintain. I am a firm believer that "it takes guts to leave that start box no matter how big the jumps are, " as a fellow COTHer once wrote. BUT, in reality, I am an average adult amateur of middling ability who just happened to grow up riding at Pony Club barns that had good lower-level eventing programs. Not exactly "extreme."

                              I don't remember the Eventing is _____? thread... better start another one!
                              SportHorseRiders.com
                              Taco Blog
                              *T3DE 2010 Pact*

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Well, if I were printing flyers to convince my (lower level HJ) student riders to try eventing, I'd definitely be making copies of option 2.

                                I never would have agreed to try eventing if I hadn't gone to watch and realized that I could just lope around the 2' fences and give it a try. I had no idea that ditches, drops, and water were not included in the local unrecognized BN course. (I know that sounds dumb, but come on! How would I know?) I had no idea there would be other chicken-s**t grown folks out there with me, not just a band of young, fearless PCers bent on achieving 4* greatness. I honestly did not know.

                                I told my eventing friend - "You have to understand. I've watched videos of Rolex and I watched on the Olympic xc course in Atlanta. That's IT. How was I supposed to know what the lower levels looked like???" And that's just for me as a very confident rider who has shown for years, hunted, ridden on trails, etc (and this is back home in MD, where we certainly are not lacking in opportunities to spectate or participate).

                                But, I didn't know, so I didn't even think of trying it. I would be even more cautious if it were my student or my child riding - eventing would be more of a "no way" for them!

                                Having seen it for myself, I know that when I'm ready to shop for a new horse, it will have to have the ability to go do a little BN or N event as well as get around in the HJ ring. It doesn't have to win everything in either venue, but that lower level eventing was the most fun I've ever had.

                                I guess another point is, you need to recruit people into the sport who maybe aren't ready to walk out and go prelim tomorrow. The wide audience of BN and N kids and adults, new to horse sports or new to eventing, is where you need to start - especially if you are going to want some of these people to develop into the future 'big names' of eventing. They have to start somewhere, right? Maybe the next KO'C is out there on a pony in the hunter ring, because mom's too scared to turn her loose with the 'crazy eventers and giant solid fences'. Probably a good idea to get eventing on those radars as accessible and approachable, for those youngsters or less experienced (but SAFE) riders to try.
                                Fun equestrian t-shirts designed by a rider like you:
                                http://skreened.com/laughinglion

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  So many of these replies could have been written by me.
                                  Especially this one.
                                  I had no idea there would be other chicken-s**t grown folks out there with me, not just a band of young, fearless PCers bent on achieving 4* greatness. I honestly did not know.
                                  I'm an adult with a bit of disposable income (not a lot) that I want to spend on riding. And I want a community that I feel would welcome me at their lower levels. I think I see this in eventing.
                                  When I remember the best things about childhood, it's not the ribbons I won or the showring I was in. It was cantering through the woods over brush jumps, and learning to jump on outside courses. We thought we were just having fun, but that's where our riding ability was sharpened.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Lot of BN and N

                                    People seem surprised and even unhappy to hear that most of the sport of eventing is at the BN and N level. Most of the sport of baseball is at the high school or company team level. Most of the sport of bowling is friends going to the lanes, not tournament level.

                                    Any healthy sport has to have a solid base of non-professionals who enjoy participating (playing) in their spare time, for fun. These entry level participants are the one who ARE the fans of the professionals. They are the segment responsible for the growth of the sport at all levels.

                                    Let's hear it for BN! I heading UP to that level this year, having started at the unrecognized level of Baby Green and proudly moved up to Advanced Green. And when I told my middle aged hunter friends that they can ride cross country over baby 2' fences, they wanted to try it. And now they want to go to Rolex, and support US eventing. We'll never make it to training level, but our enthusiasm and participation are good for the sport.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by tullio View Post
                                      Well, if I were printing flyers to convince my (lower level HJ) student riders to try eventing, I'd definitely be making copies of option 2.

                                      I never would have agreed to try eventing if I hadn't gone to watch and realized that I could just lope around the 2' fences and give it a try. I had no idea that ditches, drops, and water were not included in the local unrecognized BN course. (I know that sounds dumb, but come on! How would I know?) I had no idea there would be other chicken-s**t grown folks out there with me, not just a band of young, fearless PCers bent on achieving 4* greatness. I honestly did not know.

                                      I told my eventing friend - "You have to understand. I've watched videos of Rolex and I watched on the Olympic xc course in Atlanta. That's IT. How was I supposed to know what the lower levels looked like???" And that's just for me as a very confident rider who has shown for years, hunted, ridden on trails, etc (and this is back home in MD, where we certainly are not lacking in opportunities to spectate or participate).

                                      But, I didn't know, so I didn't even think of trying it. I would be even more cautious if it were my student or my child riding - eventing would be more of a "no way" for them!

                                      Having seen it for myself, I know that when I'm ready to shop for a new horse, it will have to have the ability to go do a little BN or N event as well as get around in the HJ ring. It doesn't have to win everything in either venue, but that lower level eventing was the most fun I've ever had.

                                      I guess another point is, you need to recruit people into the sport who maybe aren't ready to walk out and go prelim tomorrow. The wide audience of BN and N kids and adults, new to horse sports or new to eventing, is where you need to start - especially if you are going to want some of these people to develop into the future 'big names' of eventing. They have to start somewhere, right? Maybe the next KO'C is out there on a pony in the hunter ring, because mom's too scared to turn her loose with the 'crazy eventers and giant solid fences'. Probably a good idea to get eventing on those radars as accessible and approachable, for those youngsters or less experienced (but SAFE) riders to try.
                                      Please go check out the thread about the USEA endorsed "intro to Eventing" clinic ... happily, the group that this clinic targets ARE the folks who would like to "try it" - but need to have quality support bridging what they know and do with what eventing will be like.

                                      Even if the pics of advanced riders jumping the big XC jumps doesn't turn me off or scare me away, those pics DO help shape my perception of what my goals SHOULD be, and affect how I feel about myself as a BN/N rider. It would be interesting to see how lower level eventers and riders from other disciplines would respond if the USEA ads had lower level riders in the pics rather than the BNRs going over jumps that at times do seem to present eventing as an "extreme" sport. JMHO
                                      ~ it no longer matters what level I do, as long as I am doing it..~ with many thanks, to Elizabeth Callahan

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by PatsTicket View Post

                                        Any healthy sport has to have a solid base of non-professionals who enjoy participating (playing) in their spare time, for fun. These entry level participants are the one who ARE the fans of the professionals. They are the segment responsible for the growth of the sport at all levels..
                                        I cant agree with this, thats too general a statement for all sport. Take American football for instance. Very few people play this sport yet its one of the biggest there is from a Professional standpoint.

                                        The transition points made about coming from HJ are an interesting topic in itself though. From a marketing/recruiting/development standpoint there are lots to like about targeting some of the advertising activity in this area as Im sure everyone is aware. (Just like PCs I guess).

                                        This comes back to the topic of where, when and how the sport is presented to the people that are not yet participants. The "image" to these groups still appear from the comments above that the sport requires high courage and nurtures elitism only.

                                        Change the "image" , change the possibility of more transitions from other equine sporting groups.

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