An elitist sport, the horse world already feels quite unachievable to many. Yet national and international organizations seem to have little care about this. So, what can be done to start changing this?
We should be hung my acknowledging organizations and programs which have been developed with aims in the right direction. This includes IHSA and IEA. This also includes National federations which have created a few programs to help equestrians of all levels and background (well, sort of). This includes USEF and the Dutch Equestrian Federation (who has funding through government programs). However, this organizations tend to touch the surface of the problem and never seem to address the root of the cause: unattainable prices for horses and competitions.
How can a national federation dictate the price of a horse? Of course, this is not possible, yet shouldn’t there a be a limit? An equine at the Olympic level may cost several millions, but is a quarter of a million really a feasible price for a horse that will jump in children’s classes? Perhaps we should address why we need these really expensive equines in the first place: extremely technical classes/tests/courses.
The truth is that no matter how talented the rider, the horse has a limit (just like riders as a matter of fact). So how can we level out the playing field? How can we create more equal opportunities for those who can’t get the best bred horse or even pay for fees to get to competitions. We can start big on the international field: competitions on horses which are not your own.
If you know anything about the FEI, you may have heard about the world equestrian challenge which happens in various countries yearly. Yes, this may be a step in the right direction, but the approach is flawed. It is only open to riders from under developed countries, there is little competition, and animal welfare is not always put in the forefront. In last years final competition in Bulgaria, the riders rode on horses with extremely Ill fitting saddles and there was one instance of a horse becoming lame mid competition after the rider took a long distance. Sure, things happen like that sometimes, but this also could have been prevented (e.g. more throughout vet examinations and limiting the maximum age of the horse).
Ok back to the point: make competitions on non owned horses for riders with NO FEI experience (not just under 1.35m). In last years world challenge final, most of the riders jumped at least 1.30m in international shows and there were instances of riders having experience at competitions like WEF and CHIO Aachen. No, my point isn’t that we should cancel the FEI World Challenge, but we should build on it.
When it comes to national federations, I would say let the billionaires pay their own fees and focus on those in need. Those talented young riders who may not have the horse but do with what they have. Right now, the wealthy have pretty much taken over the sport. Just look at the US show jumping team, soon, all teams just might look like that.