Hello, me again, the filler, yes, Karen’s still away – don’t worry, she is back soon. I’m going to talk about money.
There’s been a lot of chat in the media over here in the UK about how equestrianism isn’t Really that posh. In defense of the disciplines – and in a groveling attempt to help secure their future as Olympic sports – enthusiasts from all walks of life (but mostly middle/upper class ones) have come out of the woodwork to write, for example, that you don’t have to be privileged to win equine Olympic medals.
You don’t have to be. It’s true. I’ve banged that drum lightly before. And riders like Charlotte Dujardin proved it in London. Poor girl, she keeps being dragged out to prove the ‘we’re not all posh’ point. But since her bronze-medal winning teammate Laura Bechtolsheimer is the granddaughter of a billionaire, she’ll have to carry on.
Anyway, so about the money. You don’t HAVE to have it to be an Olympic equestrian. But it does help rather, being minted, and I think we’d be blind or foolish to pretend otherwise. I don’t want to dissuade anyone from getting into the sport, but I wouldn’t mind a crack at trying to tweak the system of support, which is impossible if you don’t acknowledge some riders’ need is greater.
There were riders at the 2012 Games who would not have been there had they not bought incredibly talented and frighteningly expensive horses. These people aren’t just rich, they’re rich enough that they can afford to spend stupid amounts of money on an animal that, should it slip over tomorrow, could well be worth zero.
Meanwhile, there are terribly talented rider who were not at London 2012 because they couldn’t afford to turn down the large sums of money offered to them for said horses. That’s a wee bit elitist right there to my mind. But sure, not Everyone in equestrianism is posh.
Where riders in Britain are fortunate is that they can, if they cry blood, sweat and tears and bankrupt themselves getting to the relevant shows to prove their worth with results, get access to World Class funding from our British Equestrian Federation (BEF).
In answer to Jennifer’s comment on my last post, between 2009 and 2013, equestrianism was allocated a little over £13 million – a combination of government and National Lottery funding – which was spent as seen fit by the BEF, divided between eventing, showjumping, dressage and paradressage. The paradressage element of this is key. Our Paralympians have always been successful – they haven’t lost team gold yet – and this success has secured more of the funding than our sports as a whole would otherwise have received.
This £13 million figure is only surpassed in Britain by sports like rowing, cycling, athletics, swimming, sailing and canoeing – again, in which we tend to medal.
To get your mitts on this money as a rider, you need to clamber on to the World Class Programme, which provides funding, training and veterinary support to riders at the top of their game.
It works – did you see how many medals we won? But the argument remains that you need to be good to get funding, whereas talent could do with some funding to get good.
Even to compete on our county showjumping circuit costs thousands of pounds a season. But these are the shows riders need to be seen at, winning, in order to stand a chance of an invite to an international, at which point they have to prove they can cut it with the big boys. If they do, only then will they get backing. That’s flawed, that plan. And if you can’t spot talent worth nurturing before it comes to an international victory – at which point any buffoon can assume that rider’s got something – then I don’t think you deserve to be a team manager or selector.