Elitism, own it or move away from it?

I am absolutely gutted to hear about the giraffe cam will have to be pulled because of assholes. What else can I say? April has left such an impact on thousands of people, and the park is beginning to realize it cannot even function anymore because any observation of April taking a misstep sends the public into an uncontrollable frenzy.

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“We are well aware, long before the first email that April had a small twist of her leg today which has her favoring it. This is not unheard of in such long legged animals. Dr Tim was on site and all is well.

We appreciate concern but the bogging down of email servers and other platforms is the exact reason the giraffe cam will need be pulled.

While we appreciate the concern, it is interfering with normal park operations and preparation for opening; at a period when our resource of time is limited and cannot be hindered. Please allow our team to do as they are trained to do – we have their care covered!”

ouch. This will happen to us.

I have been mulling this over for months, and months, and months. I listen to people like John Madden, respected people, who seem to be driven to gain more sponsorship, more acceptance, more television coverage, more support from the every day folk to cheer our sport on, to support equestrians into the Olympic Games (most do not) and I think it is a bad idea. The human race keeps taking small steps away from animals. Away from captivity, away from ownership, and more and more people who struggle to feed their families have zero compassion to our lives with animals. The technology will actually harm us, not help us, and we really need to think about the ramifications of inviting a non-horsey group into our world. This is not the right time to argue about Show Jumping riders having to wear jackets versus rugby shirts. This is not the right time to worry about attracting more sponsors like Red Bull. I use this company as an example but I don’t see Red Bull sponsoring a Grand Prix in Miami, when they are happy to enough to be supporting PBR. Nor have I ever seen a Gucci banner on the side of a rodeo event.

We need to pay attention to the public, we need to acknowledge that a giraffe cam can be removed, or a circus be shut down, or Facebook can ban the sale of animals if they want to, (this last one even hard for me to acknowledge) because if we don’t, one day our children will not have this luxury of riding horses.

I am gutted about the giraffe cam, because I look at the highest level of equestrian sport and think yes, absolutely, the same can happen to us. Instead, we, as horse people, live with our own blinkers on, and cannot understand why anyone would NOT want to have a pony bring up a child, when it could possibly be the best thing that ever happened to a child. I see it in the city, I see it in the country, I see it in the suburbs. We need to be really careful how we introduce horses into the general public, and so far, we are not getting it quite right. I do love the GCT, but it seems to be heading in a less accessible direction, and if the show managers in Europe gain ground on globalizing entry fees, we really will see talented riders slip off the radar. What then?

Longines and Rolex. If you recognize those two names, you know they are title sponsors, necessary sponsors to a large portion of the highest Equestrian Sport. How many of you own a Longines or Rolex watch? Really think about that for a minute. And then ask, how many people in the general public own a Longines or Rolex watch or accessory? When I look at how the LGCT entices sponsors? And who are they? Mercedes, Longines, Gucci, and Hermes. Great. Yes, sure it is lovely the entire beach is open for people to walk up and watch for free, but if you want to sit at a table, be prepared to spend anywhere from $7,000- $15k for you and your friends to eat and watch for the week.

Exclusive brand exposure on a global scale…

Be associated with a dynamic, world class sport that reaches tens of millions of people across the world. Show jumping is an Olympic sport with a passionate and growing audience spanning high net worth individuals, and middle and upper income families. Exceptional networking opportunities are accessible through our sponsorship and VIP packages bringing your company to the audience you need to reach.

I have to question reaching tens of millions of people across the world, but ok.

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I was really uncomfortable when I listened to the FEI forum this year in Lausanne, Switzerland about dress code. The idea of stripping away the jacket and tie to replace with actual athletic clothing was really hard to envision. So we want our Grand Prix riders to look like Polo players? Or cross-country riders?  So ALL jumping or sport riders look the same? But maybe with a name on the back of a shirt??  What about the dressage riders? Take away the shadbelly? And if we do this, more of the public will associate with our top show jumpers and be willing to sponsor more events? I don’t think so. The word ELITE is so closely tied into Grand Prix show jumping, or Dressage, you cannot separate the two anymore. A google click to Elite Show Jumping will produce several pages of references you won’t want to sort through. Syndications often INCLUDE the word ELITE into their own business.

Elite is becoming a dirty word, yet it is everywhere in the horse world.

Elite Horse Ownership

Elite Trailers

Elite Equestrian

Elite Eventing

It is even in names of boarding facilities.

Yes, of course the public views us all as Elitist. How can anyone blame them?

I personally think there is only one way to get the general public even remotely interested in Equestrian Sport. More Wagering.

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I am a born equestrian with countless generations of horse women behind me. I chose to marry someone who prefers that I leave all my horse clothing in the car before I enter the house. If I asked him to name a single famous Equestrian, he would seriously struggle. However,  if he were able to easily place a bet on McLain Ward winning the World Cup Final, and walked away with a little play money in his pocket to buy beer, he might remember McLain Ward’s name for a few months. Ask him to name a player on a baseball team, he could name all of them, without hesitation.  As a tight horse community, we have watched what the wagering effect has had on the general public, have we not? The Triple Crown is easy to understand to loads of people. Why? Because you can win money betting on a winner. Do you really think the Triple Crown would be as interesting if no money was able to be won by Joe Schmo?

I am not talking about the little wagers behind the scenes on Grand Prix Sunday, I am talking about real life wagering online, or Vegas, with bookies, or betting windows beside the Tiki Hut, or surrounding the George Morris arena in Tryon, so as the locals come out of the diner they can place a $2 bet on Kent Farrington to win that night.  Betting websites dedicated to Show Jumping events (outside of the U.K. lol). Active, accessible, and cheap. This might have more of an effect than wearing a rugby shirt and worrying about a brand name on the breeches. (Or maybe that is just my viewpoint.)

I have to come back to the Giraffe cam. Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably have seen or heard about the comments, the concerns, the outcry that April did not give birth in a timely fashion. And once the baby was born, the utter rage that ensued when the Animal Park asked for $5 (only $5 made people explode in anger) for the baby naming competition (which would directly benefit Giraffe conservancy and other charities, maybe even to fight activists, who knows?), and hopefully you considered the impact on ALL animals we have in our world. We are not living in a blessed universe, we are living in a confusing, and chaotic, often mean-spirited world, where a high percentage of humans look another being in the eye and think HIM VERSUS ME. The more this percentage increases, the less likely the general public will have sympathy toward animals participating in the Olympic Games, and this will greatly change many of our lives, or the lives of our children, so just pause for a second, and imagine life outside the horse bubble. Because if you don’t someone else will, and gain an advantage.

Maybe we should be spending less time worrying about what clothes to wear in the ring, and worry more about important factors to help sport, like education. If the general public wants to join in on the fun, they will find us, but hopefully it won’t become a case of “Be Careful What You Wish For”

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