The Hickstead Derby came and went today. To be honest, although I received a leaflet through the post from a while ago, it had pretty much slipped my mind. Not that there was any chance of reminders – you don’t see it mentioned on freeview, the radio, the papers, even on the road-side (well unless you are within 5 miles of Hickstead itself or you read specialist magazines). A combination of poor media coverage and consequent lack of appeal to the public, meant the venue didn’t even secure a sponsor for this year. It wouldn’t have gone ahead had it not been for the anonymous donation of a showjumping enthusiast. This is a particular disappointment considering Team GB won gold for SJ last year – why aren’t we still riding high (scuse the pun) on that wave of success? The sport continues to shrink back so that it’s appeal is limited to pure enthusiasts attracting lower level sponsors related to equestrianism, such as horse worming manufacturers and the like. Back in its heyday (and before the ban on tobacco sponsorship) many blue-chip PLCs were attracted to show-jumping when the BBC provided good coverage in response to higher viewing figures.
Out of all the equestrian sports, Show-jumping should carry the most appeal as it is easy to follow the scoring system, it is ‘on the edge of your seat’ viewing and it is highly dangerous. The riders all talk with normal and often northern accents, so there isn’t the class alienation that you get in eventing – many of them have larger than life personalities too.
It is encouraging that Jennifer Saunders is an ambassador for British Showjumping and I hope that she can help pull in the punters. I see no reason why companies such as Red Bull, who are known for backing dangerous and high octane sports, shouldn’t be on the sponsor list of an event like Hickstead, or at least a top rider. SJ guys and gals have far more guts and nerve than F1’s Vettel and Webber, for example, and don’t need the glamour and money to sustain their commitment to strive to be the best spanning decades (although I’m sure the money would come in handy, them horses are quite expensive to look after).
Check out a video of this year’s winner of the Derby, Phillip Miller – an incredibly, understated and highly talented bloke who has produced horses from 3 year olds to top level showjumpers. This video shows how talented he is when jumping a horse he has produced who looks incredibly difficult to ride but nethertheless he works with the horse’s strengths to get results over ‘poo in your pants’ fences.
As Daisy Bunn states in her blog on photographing naked showjumpers ‘so many of them have nearly non-existent collar bones having taken so many tumbles!’
I think Vettel still has his collarbone intact doesn’t he?
Come on Red Bull back the real men and women….
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