I’ve just finished reading Carl Hester’s column in this week’s Horse and Hound. And there’s just one question in my head. Why isn’t this man head honcho at British Dressage?
He’s a fabulous ambassador for the sport in this country. A winner who’s articulate, generous, with a love of horses at the heart of what he does. A sense of humour completes the picture and what have you got? A sporting media star, with a vision for how the legacy of the London 2012 could be shaped to inspire young and old to get involved with dressage.
When I was a child, show jumping was regularly shown on TV. And not as some minority interest sport. Harvey Smith and Sanyo Music Centre were household names. Spin on a couple of decades and where is equestrian media coverage? Newspaper? Forget it, unless it’s racing. Magazines? A few glossies, with Horse and Hound for the stalwarts. But even this venerable publication has limited reach. And it has to spread itself pretty thinly across all disciplines including hunting, point-to-point and racing. Horse and Country TV is a step in the right direction, but it’s easy to miss in the yards of satellite channels.
Surely, the only answer, if we want to make the most of our great equestrian teams’ successes, is for the relevent sporting bodies to get ‘out there’ with a co-ordinated media strategy. Why not help showcase and promote the best that we can do, to attract more people in to the sport, whether as riders, supporters, sponsors or owners? What about media friendly events and if we don’t have anything, invent some! Alternatively, the successful riders have got to differentiate themselves and build a (more mainstream) media profile which can be used to draw people in.
Complacency just won’t cut it.
[Editor’s note: Carl, if you’re reading this, I won’t say ‘no’ if you need a rider for one of your Grand Prix horses.]