Known for it’s picturesque beach and colourful courses under swaying palm trees, the Mediterranean Equestrian Tour in Oliva, Spain, gathers thousands of showjumping horses and riders every spring and autumn. For German show director Bettina Pöhls, no day at work is the same.
Text and photo Madeleine D. Bergsjø
Taking up most of the small beach town of Oliva, together with the Beach and Golf Resort, Centro Ecuestre Oliva Nova welcomes thousands of horses, riders, grooms, trainers, owners and spectators for three weeks at a time. The first tour runs in January and goes on for three months to kickstart the outdoor season in spring, and then starts up again for another three months of intensive showjumping in the autumn.
After her university studies, the MET Oliva show director Bettina Pöhls started working in the real estate business. At the time, the owner of the real estate company she worked for also organised horse shows in Germany, which luckily allowed her to combine her passion for equestrian sports with her profession.
Now, she has worked as a project manager organising international horse shows for more than 20 years and many other equestrian events such as foal auctions and stallion presentations. Her previous job as an agent for equestrian tours in Spain led to the beginning of her history with the Mediterranean Equestrian Tour, going back to 2012.
For a tour like ours, many other adjustments have also been brought upon us over the last years, first due to the Covid-19 pandemic and then last year due to the EHV-1 outbreak – but I am proud to say we have managed to overcome these challenges and come out stronger on the other side.”Bettina Pöhls
MET Oliva is ten years this year! How and why did it start, and how has it developed over the years?
“Since the first edition of MET, the infrastructure at the venue has developed tremendously, with huge improvements made every year to make it optimal for horses, grooms and riders. We constantly invest in really good surfaces in all our rings, and in 2019 we built a covered arena for potentially rainy days. Last year we made further upgrades to our stabling facilities to make sure we meet all the latest biosecurity measures from the FEI that were introduced after the EHV-1 outbreak. Last but not least, over the years we have worked a lot on our hospitality areas so that they offer our clients comfort and are to their taste – such as The Club, Ocean’s, the Sushi Corner and the Central Aura Lounge.”
As the director of a show like this, what does your everyday life look like?
“No day here is the same. Usually, I’m in the office early in the morning, and from there on it’s a mix of working from my desk, attending meetings, answering calls and being around at the show grounds. It’s long days, and I’m normally never not available for our clients attending the tour, so it’s definitely not an 8 to 4 job.”
What are the best and most challenging parts about running a tour like this?
“The best part of this job is of course, when everything is running smooth, and horses, grooms and riders are happy with what we are doing here in Oliva.”
“The most challenging part is that we are working with a sport where animals are athletes. It’s very important to remember that no matter what, the interests of the horses must come first – in everything we do here and in all the decisions we make.”
“Furthermore, our sport is also no longer just a sport; it’s an industry. The sport is getting increasingly regulated and adjusted to all the regulations and rules, for example, the CSI invitation system, which is a challenge as a tour organiser. For a tour like ours, many other adjustments have also been brought upon us over the last years, first due to the Covid-19 pandemic and then last year due to the EHV-1 outbreak – but I am proud to say we have managed to overcome these challenges and come out stronger on the other side.”
What are your best memories from the MET?
How has the Spring MET been so far?
“It’s been a good season so far; we have had some of the world’s best riders preparing here for 2022, such as world no. one Peder Fredricson, Olympic Champion Steve Guerdat, and other top names like Edwina Tops-Alexander, Scott Brash and Malin Baryard-Johnsson, and many, many more. It’s fantastic to see so many good riders choose our venue, contributing to top sport.
How many horses, riders and grooms have been part of these last months?
“Only for the three weeks of MET II in February, we had approximately 1000 horses, 302 riders and 280 grooms from 37 different countries visiting.
How many people work at or with the MET?
“At the Centro Ecuestre Oliva Nova we have around 75 members of staff, and on top comes all the officials for the tours such as judges, stewards, course designers, speakers, vets, etc., as well as the staff for the different restaurants on the venue.
And now that the Spring MET is over, what does the rest of the year look like for you?
“2022 will be an exciting year for us, as we not only run the Spring and Autumn MET but also will be organising the FEI European Jumping Championships for Young Riders, Juniors & Children. We really look forward to hosting a Continental Championship here in Oliva Nova and put our venue on the map for the future generation of the sport.”
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