‘You need to put horses back at the centre of our sport, as subject and not as object.’ These were the wise words spoken by Piero D’Inzeo to Eleonora Ottaviani, director of the IJRC, shortly before his death in 2014. D’Inzeo’s comment sprang from a conversation about the situation of jumping today and the business interests which lie at its heart. Anxious about the future, they were discussing possible solutions. ̈I promised him I would find a way, but how exactly was I to achieve this? ̈ says Eleonora Ottaviani, who had numerous perplexities about how to tackle this delicate and weighty topic within the world of jumping.
WHERE TO BEGIN?
Numerous points for reflection stem from this episode, which, we hope, will become reality, if all the main parties in jumping with decision- making powers become conscious of the true values of the sport. The following points, which aim to ‘awaken consciences’, might be a good place to begin. As 2020 looms, the direction the sport has taken, and the ever- more evident evolution of jumping as a branded business, makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to put the sport itself and meritocracy in first place. Business, digital media, political influence and, last but not least, the interests of friends of friends, should be firmly pushed to second place. Meritocracy, pure, true sport, in which horses and riders are at the centre of the interests of federations and other organizing bodies, must become a priority. And yet finding the right balance between Business and Sport should be possible if athletes, sports directors, officials and event organisers make this their principle aim, with the support (why not?) of those sectors of the media whose reporting is independent of economic influence.
Of course, some will point out that it is hard to give up substantial earnings in order to safeguard the ‘purity’ of the sport, in the name of ideals which are too often disregarded; or to protect an ethic which applies to two athletes, horse and rider, rendering equestrian sport unique. And yet, once upon a time all of this was possible, and still is, in many sports. From these considerations, other reflections arise spontaneously. The first is to ask ourselves why we take part in sport in the first place, and to attempt to identify the ideals that a sportsperson should strengthen, and the principles which should inspire. Once the answers have been found, it might be helpful to examine the most acutely endangered aspects of the sport, whilst bearing in mind the reality of the times in which we live. Athletes should endeavour to determine the rules and norms to follow based on respect for official regulations, but also on the basis of moral principles, both collective and individual, which, in our sport, involve both rider and horse.
NOT AN OBJECT
The most logical consequence of the above analysis is the need to awaken consciences and sensitise all parties regarding the principle of the horse as the SUBJECT of our sport and not its object. And here another question comes up: during events, how many managers are seated in the stands amongst the riders, beside the competition ring, or at the edge of the show ground? And how many actually visit the event’s stables to check that they are properly organised, respecting the needs of both horses and grooms? When you look around the ring, you are more likely to spot managers in the VIP enclosures. Many stakeholders need to live in much closer contact with the sport. They need to sit in the stands with the riders and visit events’ stables daily, whilst respecting those who work there, creating fitting and pleasant conditions.
SPORT VS. BUSINESS
Business, media and VIP enclosures should be a complement, not the fulcrum: priority, and maximum attention, must be given to the stables, parking lots for vans, and to adequate space dedicated to practice and competition rings. Ground conditions must be regularly checked, especially in the face of changing weather, and so on and on… Numerous aspects have to be taken into consideration for the creation of a successful event, when the horse is at the centre of the show.
Pope Francis has also spoken out about ‘protecting sport from fixing and commercial interests’, underlining the importance of sport for a nation’s culture and society. His words, too, highlight the conflict between sport and business; but both sides have to make concessions before a meeting point is reached.
When there are contrasting points of view there are only two possibilities: conflict or resolution. Bearing in mind that a resolution is the best solution for all, common sense is needed to find a place of agreement. Statistics demonstrate a clear development of the sport, with an increase in the number of events and the amount of prize money, but development which does take social justice and meritocracy into account cannot be called ‘evolution’, and is merely business.
POINTS CONSIDERED BY THE IJRC
The following are therefore the points which the IJRC raised at the Jumping Consultation Round Table in Lausanne, presented by Kevin Staut (IJRC President), while Michael Duffy brought up the difficulties of young athletes, supported by Eleonora Ottaviani and Pedro Veniss, who was attending the meeting as Representative Chair, Regional Group VI.
• Nations Cup problems
• Invitation System
• Horse welfare (stables and security)
• Directors should live in closer contact with the sport and riders.
• Guidelines for events
• The same Invitation System for all events awarding ranking points
• Regulations making jumping accessible to young and emerging riders.
The topic of contamination raised once again, the spectre of which is a huge worry to professional riders. We hope that the wise words of Piero D’Inzeo are not left hanging in the air but can become concrete realities, thanks to a sensible agreement between all sides.
© IJRC / Cavalli & Cavalieri