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The Grand Prix of Riding- Give Everyone a Shot at Becoming a Grand Prix Rider

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  • The Grand Prix of Riding- Give Everyone a Shot at Becoming a Grand Prix Rider

    I have been thinking a lot lately about our sport, the future of the sport, and how we as a country might go about developing and recognizing the best rider talent we have. The aim, of course, is for us to filed winning Nations Cup Teams, Olympic Teams, WEG trams and so on for generations to come. Yet I feel that much of our greatest talent is largely unrecognized and undiscovered, due to the huge financial component of this business.

    Imagine if there were 1000 talented riders out there, all with aspirations of the grand prix arena. Now imagine that some authority figure told these riders that the only ones who would be allowed to pursue these dreams would be the ones with red hair. Imagine how small that group would become. This is effectively what we have done in making such a "big business" out of equestrian competition- we have limited the pool of those who can participate to a fragment of what it really could be. What we have in front of us is not an accurate representation of what real talent is out there.

    The top levels of the sport are, sadly, only available to the the top of the income bracket. Whether the rider is from a wealthy family, has a wealthy sponsor, or forms a syndicate, the harsh reality is that the best horses in the business are owned by someone who has the means to purchase, develop, compete, and finance them. Someone has to pay for it.

    As a result, some terrific talent goes completely undiscovered. This, of course, is nothing new to talk about. It is nothing that others have not said. And there are programs in place to help with this- the Emerging Athletes Program, the Ronnie Mutch Scholarship, and so on. However, all of these opportunities are limited to riders under the age of 21- kids really, who are still dependent on their parents financial support. What about the young pros who are great riders, who have ridden hundreds of horses in pursuit of their careers? People who still hunger for the grand prix arena, yet are not blessed with those financial backers so necessary to make the enterprise work?

    I have an idea. Wouldn't it be interesting to offer a Grand Pris of Riding...an event solely created to showcase rider talent, regardless of what horse the rider shows up with, with the end prize being an amount of money sufficient enough to finance one year of grand prix riding? Or perhaps, on another side of the coin, wouldn't it be something if the owner of a young, up and coming grand prix horse would offer a year's ride (or however much time) on that horse, finances paid, to the rider who wins this event?

    The Grand Prix of Riding would be open to anyone. On any horse. Regardless of age. There would be sections for each fence height- come and show what you are capable of. No fence height section would be weighted more heavily than any other. The group would start out with huge numbers and be whittled down over several "trials." As the group got smaller, it could even go so far as to include horse trades- riders from a lower section would have to successfully ride horses from the higher section, to prove they had what it took to ride at the level they aspired to. In the end, the best rider would win.

    If $1M can be put together for the Pfizer Grand Prix, and the CN International Grand Prix, and if $100K can be put together for the Hunter Derby Finals, surely money (or an appropriate horse, but really I think a financial reward would be best) could be put together for something like this. If we say over and over that what we want is the best riders representing our country, then something must be done to level the playing field. So- show up! Bring whatever you have, including all your big dreams and big goals. Put your riding where your mouth is. Sure, those who have had years of top tier coaches and top tier horses would have some advantage. That's how life is- there is always going to be someone who has had more than someone else. But, let's give everyone a fair shot at becoming a grand prix rider. Let's open up the playing field and let the poor kids have a shot too.

    What do you all think? The questions of who would put up this money, and who would judge the event, and all the logistics are questions I have not answered yet. But, I do think that it is worth pursuing something like this. This is just an idea that has been churning about in my head, namely how to get hold of the talented riders who are undermounted, and give them a chance to develop into the champions they might one day become.

  • #2
    I like the idea, but I think it should be on borrowed horses, similiar to IHSA/ AIEC events, and at one set height (say 4'6)
    "Disapproval of the way other people run their businesses and treat their horses is the meat and drink of the hunter-jumper industry."
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    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      The only question is who is going to lend out horses capable of that level? Those tend to be some valuable animals....the crux of the problem. But, sure, if it was a perfect world, that would be terrific.

      Comment


      • #4
        The corporate sponsership is in return for all sorts of advertising opportunities...what would this type competition offer them in return for their million? Any TV contracts? magazine covers? Feature articles with their name clearly visible?

        And where would you have it? Who would provide the ring, jumps, stabling, judging?

        How would these on a shoestring riders transport their horses? If it's a draw on strange ones, who would provide 40 or so 4'+ horses to have their names drawn out of a hat?

        Not dissing the idea, solve these problems to make it feasible.
        When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

        The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Findeight- all the points you raise are valid concerns. So, what if there was a corporate sponsorship attached to the event? And perhaps magazine coverage. Heck, there are enough big businesses involved at the top levels of the sport (and I am referring here not only to the equestrian businesses but also to the various corporations represented by so many of the horse show set) that perhaps it is time for someone to give something back to the sport?

          If the event had no entry fee- just a basic fee for stabling and feed, then it would possibly be more financially feasible for the riders to get there. Perhaps the riders who were really struggling would have to raise money in their home towns to get enough $ to get there- these hard working types could do that. After all, they would have a real valid competition that they could promote in their fund raising instead of simply "please give me money because I want to be a grand prix rider." I think local businesses would help support riders who needed to raise money to get there.

          The event could be held somewhere in the middle of the country. Of course some will have an easier time getting there (those who live in that town especially). It is impossible to make a completely fair and level playing field. But, this would be much more of a chance for these riders than anything else that is out there.

          There would need to be promotion of the event, and interest would have to be raised among the equestrian community so businesses could see the value in helping finance such a thing. Magazine coverage, webcast coverage, and perhaps even a reality tv type thing (I hate that phrase "reality tv" but it is the best I can come up with) that follows the winner through their "one year big chance" could be of interest to some tv networks in the same way that "Road to the Maclay" was.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by NCE View Post
            I have been thinking a lot lately about our sport, the future of the sport, and how we as a country might go about developing and recognizing the best rider talent we have. The aim, of course, is for us to filed winning Nations Cup Teams, Olympic Teams, WEG trams and so on for generations to come. Yet I feel that much of our greatest talent is largely unrecognized and undiscovered, due to the huge financial component of this business.

            Imagine if there were 1000 talented riders out there, all with aspirations of the grand prix arena. Now imagine that some authority figure told these riders that the only ones who would be allowed to pursue these dreams would be the ones with red hair. Imagine how small that group would become. This is effectively what we have done in making such a "big business" out of equestrian competition- we have limited the pool of those who can participate to a fragment of what it really could be. What we have in front of us is not an accurate representation of what real talent is out there.

            The top levels of the sport are, sadly, only available to the the top of the income bracket. Whether the rider is from a wealthy family, has a wealthy sponsor, or forms a syndicate, the harsh reality is that the best horses in the business are owned by someone who has the means to purchase, develop, compete, and finance them. Someone has to pay for it.

            As a result, some terrific talent goes completely undiscovered. This, of course, is nothing new to talk about. It is nothing that others have not said. And there are programs in place to help with this- the Emerging Athletes Program, the Ronnie Mutch Scholarship, and so on. However, all of these opportunities are limited to riders under the age of 21- kids really, who are still dependent on their parents financial support. What about the young pros who are great riders, who have ridden hundreds of horses in pursuit of their careers? People who still hunger for the grand prix arena, yet are not blessed with those financial backers so necessary to make the enterprise work?

            I have an idea. Wouldn't it be interesting to offer a Grand Pris of Riding...an event solely created to showcase rider talent, regardless of what horse the rider shows up with, with the end prize being an amount of money sufficient enough to finance one year of grand prix riding? Or perhaps, on another side of the coin, wouldn't it be something if the owner of a young, up and coming grand prix horse would offer a year's ride (or however much time) on that horse, finances paid, to the rider who wins this event?

            The Grand Prix of Riding would be open to anyone. On any horse. Regardless of age. There would be sections for each fence height- come and show what you are capable of. No fence height section would be weighted more heavily than any other. The group would start out with huge numbers and be whittled down over several "trials." As the group got smaller, it could even go so far as to include horse trades- riders from a lower section would have to successfully ride horses from the higher section, to prove they had what it took to ride at the level they aspired to. In the end, the best rider would win.

            If $1M can be put together for the Pfizer Grand Prix, and the CN International Grand Prix, and if $100K can be put together for the Hunter Derby Finals, surely money (or an appropriate horse, but really I think a financial reward would be best) could be put together for something like this. If we say over and over that what we want is the best riders representing our country, then something must be done to level the playing field. So- show up! Bring whatever you have, including all your big dreams and big goals. Put your riding where your mouth is. Sure, those who have had years of top tier coaches and top tier horses would have some advantage. That's how life is- there is always going to be someone who has had more than someone else. But, let's give everyone a fair shot at becoming a grand prix rider. Let's open up the playing field and let the poor kids have a shot too.

            What do you all think? The questions of who would put up this money, and who would judge the event, and all the logistics are questions I have not answered yet. But, I do think that it is worth pursuing something like this. This is just an idea that has been churning about in my head, namely how to get hold of the talented riders who are undermounted, and give them a chance to develop into the champions they might one day become.
            We have a very similar system in the Netherlands. There are certain shows (shows are pretty cheap here) where you qualify for try-outs. Once in those try-outs, you can qualify for top-notch instruction. Then, if you are really good, you will become of the Dutch Talent team and get money and special training (even media training is provided). Unfortunately, who wins the shows and who goes the money to? The people who already have the nice horses and the professional parents. I don't think there were any that did not have parents or family members already in the bizz.
            However, many people did get better training and have been developing nicely.
            Still, there are riders who do make it. Even without the money. Where there is a will, there is a way. If you can't get rides in the U.S. (because showing is so expensive), have someone fix you up with a European stable. Much easier to show in Germany.
            I think Dancingqueen has offered before to write a letter of recommendation to Schockemohle for someone on this forum. Ultimately the world is unfair and only a very select few make it to the top. That said, I do like your plan and I wish we could find a way to make it work.

            Comment


            • #7
              This sounds like something for me! With the Winter Olympics finishing up, I've been thinking about Olympians and how desperately I wanted to ride in the Olympics when I was a kid. Now I know better, It will never happen unless I win the lotto. I was born into a non-horsey, middle class family. Any horses I wanted I had to buy and feed myself. So what did I do? I bought the duds off the track or auction horses, had some pretty rough rides and learned as I went along how to train even difficult horses, but still, at 28, with a decent paying job, still no grand prix horses in my future. I can barely afford to pay board at a place with an indoor and take weekly lessons to go to one or two week long shows per year! What a hobby!
              What I lack in preparedness I make up for in enthusiasm

              Comment


              • #8
                This sounds like Emerging Athletes...

                With the exception that EA is aimed at the WRONG AGE GROUP. I really don't understand why it's not aimed at the 20-something, already thru college, thinking about or planning going pro, and a little attention like that would go a long ways. Instead they pour money toward kids that A.) haven't went to college yet, B.) might and might not become professionals, C.) might not even continue riding after college, and D.) the top tier ones STILL are the ones with 6 digit horses and BBBNNNTTT's at their beckon call.
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                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  GrandPrixJump- absolutely, I agree. Why not have something like EA for the older ones too? What about the pros who are 20s-30s who are doing well, riding at the highest level they can, and just need that one horse to make a name for themselves? Aren't they, theoretically, closer to the goal of becoming international show jumpers than a bunch of teenagers? At least the older ones have experience, and have some maturity that comes with years.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    How can you truly judge the talent of a rider with no knowledge of the horse?

                    You cant.

                    Use borrowed horses?

                    Who will supply all the nice horses you are going to use. Who is going to fund the care of the nice horses, provide stabling, food, who will be the overseer of all the nice horses? Equipment? Farrier? Vet? It's not just "a million dollars in prize money!!!" its a couple million in supplying all the great horses and their needs.

                    4'6"?

                    There are plenty of VERY VERY talented riders who have never gotten to ride a 4'6" horse because they haven't had the MONEY to pursue the sport at that level. If I was an investor and I owned a 4'6" horse, I'd want the best possible rider on it. Not some person I didn't know. The rider would have had to prove to me of their riding capability in one capacity or another before I let them touch my 4'6" horse.

                    ANYONE Can Enter?

                    If you had people riding horses they had never ridden, over a fence height they had never even looked at, with no entry qualifications? You'd have some hurt horses and riders.

                    Conclusion

                    People, I work my bootay off and don't have the money for the level I want to compete at, actually have not had money to compete in two years. Yet - I worked 100 a week as a working student this summer. Why because I want it. I'm hungry. I want the best possible education I can have for my riding so I can help my future horses to be the best possible horses that they can be, sound, healthy, and happy. And so that my clients will have the most knowledge available to them as well.

                    It's a money sport. I am talented and I hope to make it to the top of the sport. It is going to take a lot of time, effort, work, determination, blood, sweat, and tears ... and hopefully some nice people to give me a hand.

                    Is it fair? No.
                    Is it reality? Yes.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      the real answer to our problems is barka

                      where is barka? barka will make all of us grand prix riders and find us the GP horses for $1.00 and the world will be fair



                      sorry.

                      op, yeah, it would be nice if things were that easy. but then the world would be fair. and is the world fair? no. it would be nice if someone could throw me a 100k hunter, but I am fine with my inexpensive OTTB.
                      (|--Sarah--|)

                      Blitz <3 & Leap of Faith <3

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Interesting idea but I don't see how it would work. I do have to say though that I haven't been all too impressed with the riding in the first 2 WEG trials. I mean of course the regular big names all ride great like Beezie, McLain, Mario, etc but I also saw a lot of riders mounted on very nice horses making the type of errors you'd expect to see in the Children's/AA Jumpers. I saw a lot of riders chasing horses to big, square oxers from like 5 strides out, leaning up the neck and hoping for the best 2 or 3 strides out, and the horses not only didn't spit them out or have a rail, they tolerated being forced to jump from way too far away AND cleared the jump.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Ditto on some of the WEG trials rides- one in particular bothered me landing on the horses back hard after every fence.

                          Anyway- I think the problem with the idea is that many of the natural talents we want to capture aren't just missing the right horse. They are missing a lot of training that goes with it. I don't care how good you are at 3', if thats all you've ever jumped, you need a heck of a lot more than a GP horse to get around the GP. You need a lot of training, miles in the ring, and years. I doubt there is a way to identify those natural talents that aren't getting enough show experience and saddle time to develop their skills at 3' or 3'6".

                          Here's my equally implausible idea... What if we held something like the collegiate fair... for young pros. An intercollegiate or NCAA team hosts, each young pro gets a flat class and a course of 3'6". They also get an interview. Then we get some top riders to step up and offer these young pros 3-6 month working student gigs. Maybe if we're lucky and it gets lots of support, the top 10 riders get a working student gig, and all the connections that come with doing a good job there.

                          I think the only way to not loose the natural talents very early on is to have some sort of public riding school program with scholarships for kids who can't afford it, and sponsorships so the schools can have nice enough horses for kids to get 3'6" and 4' experience.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by colleen9 View Post
                            The rider would have had to prove to me of their riding capability in one capacity or another before I let them touch my 4'6" horse.


                            People, I work my bootay off and don't have the money for the level I want to compete at, actually have not had money to compete in two years. Yet - I worked 100 a week as a working student this summer. Why because I want it. I'm hungry. I want the best possible education I can have for my riding so I can help my future horses to be the best possible horses that they can be, sound, healthy, and happy. And so that my clients will have the most knowledge available to them as well.

                            It's a money sport. I am talented and I hope to make it to the top of the sport. It is going to take a lot of time, effort, work, determination, blood, sweat, and tears ... and hopefully some nice people to give me a hand.

                            Is it fair? No.
                            Is it reality? Yes.

                            This is 2 of the biggest problems here now:

                            A.) Anyone with a decent horse is gonna hand them to Margie, Kyle King, Norman, McLain Ward, Etc. That will just continue the decline of numbers of talented riders for future Olympics, World Cups, Etc. Yes the horses cost too much today. But we are CAUSING a major decline in our sport...

                            B.) It doesn't matter how hard you work to get there, IF you get lucky enough to find a horse capable, you have a choice, either BURN UP this horse in 6 months and HOPE you get noticed, or make the horse last longer, BY NOT COMPETING every weekend. If you use your horse up faster, your GONE in 6 months or so, and everyone goes who was that person that was showing the big bay. If you make your horse last, they only see you about 6 times a year showing at the highest level, so your there ONCE IN A WHILE, while Margie and so forth are there on 3 or more horses EVERY WEEK.

                            I agree it would be difficult, but there isn't anyone willing to step down a former GP horse to give an up and coming shots to show in the MINI's?? That's right, the ALMIGHTY DOLLAR. Up and comings could easily make a name for themselves in the Mini Prix's that leads to a ride for the Grand Prix's.

                            Maybe if there was something like this, people retiring GP horses could donate them to this, for lower level showing. And get a tax writeoff... The rider would be responsible for the care and training, and just get assistance with showing, but they must donate a percentage of prize money back to the program....
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                            Comment


                            • #15
                              In theory, sure it sounds like it would level the playing field. In practice, I don't own high level horses that could compete in it. But even IF I did, I would NEVER loan them out to anyone I didn't know and vet thoroughly. Sorry, too easy to happen, and I'm hesitant to loan out my horses now... and they're not worth all that much. But paying for a lame horse into it's old age is extremely expensive.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                To become a Grand Prix rider...

                                1. Be almost completely fearless. Most riders are not. They cannot mentally handle a rearing horse, a spooky horse, or a bucking horse. Not to mention dealing with a roll over a huge fence in which your horse falls. You need to be able to ride anything and everything that is thrown at you.
                                2. Pray that God gave you brains so that you can go get a great education and a great job making at least six figures (and I'm not talking about just 100,000 unless you have no kids or a husband/wife and live very tightly in all other areas, you need to be able to dish out the money for these shows and the training excluding the purchase price of a great young prospect). Also, pray that you have the brains and the physical ability to ride at that level.
                                3. Find the best trainer possible-Olympic level if possible.
                                4. Ideally, ride EVERY day, multiple horses a day if possible. If you cannot, ride as much as possible and maybe you will get into the High A/O ring.

                                In other words, you have to be very lucky and work your butt off. There are very few freebies in life, and instant gratification doesn't work here.

                                I wish that a program like this could work in the states, but I just don't see how it is possible for some of the reasons that others dished out.

                                For the most part, if a person wants something bad enough, they will find a way even if that means going to Europe or sacrificing having any kind of life outside of horses.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  IMHO...the U.S. will never be as competetive as it could be in international competition so long as we cannot match our most talented riders with our most talented horses... affluent parents purchase the most talented horses available for their kids, regardless of the kids talent or work ethic...then strap them into the saddle and hope for the best. Those saintly equine gems mostly get around and even win regardless of the "package" they are carrying...but not well enough to compete against the horse of equal talent with a rider to match! So, what if our elite riders agreed to each mentor a talented young adult (20 something) for a year...let them "shadow" them, exercise the horses, go to shows, ride warm up classes...maybe a Welcome Stake or Mini-Prix....riders could apply, send a tape, narrrow the field, then attand a try out on a donor horse and let the pro choose the rider he or she thinks has the talent/potential they want to develop....maybe horse show management allows free entries to the "student"....it does not have to cost a lot. The horse needs exercise and to show in warm up classes anyway! What's in it for the elite pro? Good vibes, a cheap assistant, maybe some free entries....thoughts??????

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    its an interesting thread that pops up all the time. You forget about the riders that are talented and don't give enough credit to the parents that give up so much to horse their kids to their best ability. You make out how we overlook talent etc. One forgets that in this sport it is miles and miles in the saddle that make good riders. Not one shot at riding someones GP horse.

                                    It's one of the few sports that take you into your 20"s to get enough experience to compete competitively in the GP's. It is one of the few sports that you need a partner (horse) to get you there. You forget about all the crap horses that the parents have bought along the way as the trainer doesn't really care, except for the commision. The cost of the horses the parents have bought that just didn't work out. Let me tell you it is a very small percentage of riders that truely have seeing eye dogs in this sport.
                                    they don't truely learn to ride and are usually done shortly into university.

                                    I get sick of the pity party that crops up all the time, why me I have no money. I'm sure there are plenty of missed tennis stars etc that can't afford a tennis racket or lessons etc that we miss the talent. It's all relevant when you talk about missed talent, but you forget in this sport you can be competitve into your 60's. The only sport to do that.

                                    So if you are so serious about missed talent and you really feel hard done. One should get an education and persue it later in life. To give credit to so many people who have gone this route, there are many a talented rider who have done just that.

                                    I get so sick of why me, I didn't have this luxury as a child, but I'm giving it to my daughter now. Its a tough sport and takes money, so does the dream of going to university for so many people in life who are more than capable to attend. Life circumstances don't allow it for them either. Life is what you make of it, well all the freebies that you talk about. That's like saying well when I win the lotto and buy all those nice horses I will have made it. Dream on.....

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                                    • #19
                                      What if, instead of just one huge event, you had a few regional level events leading to one final competition. Each region has a an event like this, with sponser to make the entries low or even free. Have all level of classes with the judges choosing the top 5 riders from any ever level at the end of the event. Obviously you would have to narrow the field several times before picking the final 5. The top 5 riders from each region all get an all expenses paid trip to the final national competition. Before this competition the riders get free training and advice from local GP riders for several months. Maybe then, people would be willing to donate 4' to 4'6" horses for the final competition. Under the advisement of Grand Prix riders. Sponsers pay for the event including travel expenses for each regional group of riders/horses. The Final award could be for all expenses paid year of top level training and showing on top level horses. Sponsers for the the final event could maybe even give a monetary award to the regional GP rider who gave their time to the winning rider.

                                      I don't think this would really be that difficult to make happen, I think people are just too lazy to do it. I also think there should be an age restriction of 21. This would steer young hopeful riders towards better riding and training, and maybe take some focus off of showing non-stop. I would want the program to be an incentive to create better horseman all across the board.

                                      And as far as who finds and donates these 4' - 4'6" horses, maybe make that the responsibility of the Grand Prix riders. They have the connections and knowledge to get it done. And it would give them a chance to give back to the sport. Besides that would give them the time to work with thier 5 riders on these horses for the months before the Big Competition.
                                      Celtic Charisma (R.I.P) ~ http://flickr.com/photos/rockandracehorses/2387275281
                                      Proud owner of "The Intoxicated Moose!"
                                      "Hope is not an executable plan" ~ My Mom
                                      I love my Dublin-ator

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                                      • #20
                                        I'm a 20-something Ammy who quit pro-riding and teaching since it wasn't getting me any closer to my upper level goals. I figured that my full time job would better support me riding for myself rather than riding for someone else.

                                        That being said, I would be interested to participate in an Emerging Athletes program for the over 21 group. Participation would be via a membership, perhaps a subset of the USEF, and results (scores, not necessarily placement) with zone, regional, and national finals available by invitation to the top 20 in each division. Eligibility could be based on different factors, average scores, most consistent scores, etc.; hopefully something that would balance those who can afford 20 'AA' shows a year with those who can afford 4 'AA' shows a year. The state and local show organizations could participate by raising scholorships for their riders who participate in the EA-Senior program. At those year-end finals there could be talent scouts out there who can help match up riders to farms looking for talented, but less expensive (or free), riders to train and show horses. Could be a good way to form new partnerships.

                                        Yes, I realize this isn't the "free-ride" program people want in order to be competitive. But lets face it, life costs money, and if you want something you'll work to find ways to acheive those goals. An EA-Senior program could be the motivation and encouragement someone like myself would greatly enjoy while not expecting any freebies.
                                        "Beware the hobby that eats."
                                        Benjamin Franklin

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