It’s not unusual to have a short down time after a major event such as the 2018 World Equestrian Games last month in Tryon. Not just the horses and organizers–but spectators too.
Not the riders, though. The jumping sports never skipped a beat, having since moved on to the FEI Nations Cup Finals in Barcelona … and Eventing’s great Dutch “Military” at Boekelo, and China’s show jumping initiative at the famous “Bird’s Nest” Olympic stadium. The SJ World Cup season opened last weekend in Oslo, and Helsinki looms.
Can we discuss empty seats?
The calendar is too full for laid-back discussion about what we just saw, or what it means for the sport. Tryon had challenges but wasn’t “bad” by any means. It did reveal stark questions about direction and governance, and how the sport presents itself as a public spectator event. But then, the big horse events have been doing that for over fifty years now.
Will we ever discuss the spectator angle? As the empty seats baked in the Southern sun, they revealed a chilling undercurrent of apathy toward horse sports in America.
There are reasons for things.
It would do the sport good to give influence to more stakeholders—including the spectator: one of the main stakeholders of all equestrian events, though the easiest to defraud. The spectator doesn’t have a voice in the sport beyond whether they continue paying or bother to like a video on Youtube.
In this column I hope to give a voice to the impressions and concerns of the beleaguered equestrian spectator. Horse sports have a brilliant future if it maintains a connection with the public, and spectator feedback is valuable in the cause of making that happen.