Reading the Horse & Hound letters page has sent my blood pressure rocketing and finally I put (digital) pen to paper and wrote to the editor who kindly published it as their letter of the week (26 April 17) with a bit of editing for space reasons.
Here’s the unedited version for your reading pleasure…
I’ve read the letters page of Horse&Hound with rising levels of frustration over the past fortnight. First we had a reader bemoaning the drop in sartorial standards as fewer people wear tweed to spectate at equestrian events and then this week a reader complaining about the new app replacing paper programs at Belton Horse Trials.
I struggle to see how looking down at a phone screen is any different to looking down at a paper program in terms of missing the action but that’s beside the point.
Equestrian sport is struggling to attract new audiences and fighting for its place in the Olympics.
Our sport might look healthy on the surface but dig a bit deeper and you’ll see the 20 year decline in Pony Club membership, the equestrian businesses across the country battling increased legislation and business rate hikes plus the increasing difficulty of getting terrestrial television coverage.
The health of the entire equestrian industry depends on a strong sport to showcase equestrianism to the wider world. We should applaud innovations like the Belton app for helping to drive our sport into the future. We need to welcome new people in to watch and participate without requiring them to dress up in arcane costumes. The alternative is to cling to tradition and consign our sport to museums and the occasional appearance in Downton Abbey. Don’t just take my word on the matter, Lord Sebastian Coe said it far more succinctly at the SportAccord presentation in Aarhus last week; “Innovate or die”.
MD, Blacktype Digital & Founder of the Equine Business Association
What do you all think? Should we be looking for ways to innovate with technology and dress codes, or stick to tradition? Let me know in the comments below, or get in touch if you want to respond directly.