RDS Show Jumping Forum

The Royal Dublin Society hosted a Show Jumping Forum on January 25 in the RDS Concert Hall. With key objectives and guest speakers, the Forum highlighted some very real issues for the sport and for its development into the future

The Royal Dublin Society hosted a Show Jumping Forum on Tuesday the 25th of January in the RDS Concert Hall. The Forum had three main objectives; firstly to determine what part show jumping can play in the economic and social development of the country, secondly to determine if modern show jumping is a participant rather than a spectator sport. The third objective of the day was to clarify the role of the RDS in developing professional show jumping on the basis that it can be funded by a paying audience.

Commenting on the Show Jumping forum Mr Michael Duffy, RDS Chief Executive said “The Forum has highlighted some very real issues for the sport and for its development into the future. It is evident that there are key issues which need to be addressed to increase its appeal to spectators, and many of the excellent suggestions made at the Forum will be considered by the Society over the coming months. The RDS is committed to staging an International show jumping event of the highest standard and to its support of Irish breeders and producers”.

Guest speakers at the Forum included Mr Fintan Drury, Chairman of Platinum One
Marketing and Mr Michael O’ Hagan, Chief Executive of Irish Thoroughbred Marketing. Mr Volker Wulff, Managing Director and founder of Engarde Marketing, the organisation behind the FEI World Cup™ Jumping Finals in Leipzig in 2002 and Kuala Lumpur in 2006, in addition to a host of other International show jumping and Mr Carsten Rotermund, Head of the German National Federation Service Department and organiser of the Bundeschampionate; the German National Championships for young horses also made presentations.

Mr Fintan Drury looked at Show Jumping from the perspective of other successful, professional sports and identified a number of its weaknesses as a spectator sport. He said it was not compulsive, that it was largely predictable, too technical, and was not accessible enough for the general public. He also added that it lacks charismatic personalities. He put forward a series of suggestions as to how to broaden its appeal; he suggested that it needs faster outcomes and more excitement to avoid predictability. He recommended adding new challenges for both the horse and rider, to add more drama; the dramatic action he asserted
was largely confined to the Puissance. He suggested more head-to-heads which may entail a reformatting of the current competition structures. He identified other sports such as tennis and darts that had fallen in popularity and how through effective marketing and new competitive formats they had experienced resurgence.

Mr Wulff in turn gave an account of the difficulties he had encountered running foreign International show jumping events in respect of maintaining and growing spectator numbers. He highlighted the importance for the organiser to decide firstly whether it is a participant or spectator event, and if for the spectator, he offered solutions in terms of more entertainment displays and shorter competition formats.

Carsten Rotermund provided an overview of the successful Bundeschampionate and its strong connections with German breeders and producers. He explained how professional riders who must be licensed through their local Riding Club also help to build relationships and keep the sport popular and vibrant among the non-professional equestrian public. He lso outlined the brand strengths of the Bundeschampionate, which is restricted solely to German bred horses, and referred to it as a ‘guarantee and a mark of quality’ for potential buyers.

The Forum was attended by approximately eighty key individuals and stakeholders in the sport of showjumping. They were given the opportunity to air their views at both a break out group session and an open forum discussion. Attendees were also asked, through the use of a questionnaire, for their individual views on a number of important issues for the RDS. The questionnaire covered the four year old qualifiers and whether or not they should be run on the same day as the other horse qualifiers? It questioned whether five year olds should be tested against the clock at such an early stage of development, and sought to establish in the interest of correct training practices, effective horsemanship and indeed saleability the four and five year horses should be permitted to compete in snaffle bridle only. Mr Rotermund’s in his contribution to the Forum had previously touched on some of these areas and informed those present how the corresponding events and rule are executed and apply in Germany. He was pointed out that in Germany young horse training and
development is very much governed by and based on the national federation’s ‘Principles of Riding’ which is essentially the principles of classical horsemanship, applied in a clear, logical and thorough method to ensures that the horse receives a training that is both fair and appropriate to his age and equine nature.

The feedback from the Forum will be collated for consideration by the Equestrian
Committee, who will likely use the information to effect changes and developments at the forthcoming Fáilte Ireland Dublin Horse Show, which will take place from the 3rd to the 7th of August this year.

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