“There’s No Business Like Show Business”

The Money and Lifestyle of International Equestrian Circuits

By NADIA ASLAM Photos by WILLEMS/KNOKKE, WDM. Philippa Davin. Therese Alhaug 

HORSESHOW, LIFESTYLE It takes tenacity to become an international rider; you have to put in unwavering effort in the arena, and work your hindquarters off to reach the very top level. For the riders willing to put in that amount of dedication, you’d agree when I say that that they deserve to be paid well for their trouble. In the past few years, we’ve seen the prize money available on the international circuit increase drastically – all thanks to sponsors I hasten to add.

SPONSORSHIP. 2012 was a turning point for equestrian sport in many ways, Rolex passing over the reins to the rival watchmaker, Longines as title sponsor for the FEI World Cup; was an indication of what was to come. Their public rivalry resulted in prize money increasing – and in some cases, doubling.

In the past few years, we’ve seen the prize money available on the international circuit increase drastically – all thanks to sponsors I hasten to add. Photo Philippa Davin.

By early 2013 the FEI and Longines had signed a sponsorship deal for over $130 million to be used within the next ten years, whilst Show Jumping and Dressage command their lion’s share of attention, the commitment encompasses all seven of the FEI’s represented disciplines.

FEI WORLD CLASS PLATFORM. While sponsorship is necessary, none of this would be possible without the Federation Equestre International. Since their inception in 1921, they have played a vital role in making Equestrian sport what it is today, essentially opening up the global playing field and working tirelessly in their efforts.

MEDIA. As a sport, we’ve often been overlooked by mainstream media – you’re more likely to see football, tennis or even golf than you are Show Jumping or Dressage. It’s unfortunate but something we’ve grown accustomed to over the years.

Top class competitions are becoming much more than just horse shows nowadays. One such competition that knows how to combine sport and lifestyle is the Knokke Hippique Summer Circuit. Photo Willems, Knokke.

However, in the past year alone – we’ve seen mainstream media attention for our sports increase in ebbs and flows. Recent articles in The New Yorker and Bloomberg have been a fantastic step forwards. Along with televised equestrian events at the Olympics, and live streaming of other major competitions – equestrianism is gaining popularity thanks to its newfound accessibility.

LIFESTYLE. Horse riders aren’t afraid to put in the work and get a little dirty to achieve their goals, but whilst the arena is one of the busiest places in any show ground, there’s one area that has a little less dust and a little more champagne. The hospitality pavilion at any equestrian event is a must, from live music to three-course meals. What better way to rest up from those canter pirouettes and jump offs! The VIP hospitality area of any show is often abuzz with excitement, frivolity, and possibilities.

The hospitality pavilion at any equestrian event is a must, from live music to three-course meals. Photo Willems, Knokke.

The Global Champions Tour alone has welcomed the likes of Bill Gates, and Bruce Springsteen to their events, and this is another aspect that helps ensure money, and interest flows into the competition. As a rider, you can meet new sponsors, or potential owners, one of the most important areas of business for all professional riders, and not to be overlooked.

SHOW JUMPING. Few competitions in the equestrian arena command the respect and attention that The Global Champions Tour does. The show series was brought to life in 2006 by Jan Tops, a renowned equestrian in his own right; Tops was one of the gold medalists winning members representing the Dutch team at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Show Jumping. His expertise within the discipline, and desire to better the sport resulted in what is now quite probably the most respected Show Jumping series in the world. Horses and riders have to be at the top of their game not only compete at this level – but also to commit to the travel, and work involved in such an extensive circuit. The circuit takes place across fifteen beautiful locations around the world, including: Mexico City, Monaco, Paris, Doha, and Cascais.

Photo Stefano Grasso / LGCT

FEW COMPETITIONS in the equestrian arena command the respect and attention that The Global Champions Tour does. The show series was brought to life in 2006 by Jan Tops, a renowned equestrian in his own right; Tops was one of the gold medalists winning members representing the Dutch team at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Show Jumping. His expertise within the discipline, and desire to better the sport resulted in what is now quite probably the most respected Show Jumping series in the world.

EXCITING DEVELOPMENTS. Three years ago The Global Champions Tour unveiled a new development in their growth plans for the sport; The Global Champions League that brings top riders from different nations together as teams to compete in displays of harmonious teamwork. No mean feat when you consider the competitive environment that is equestrianism! Old rivals become new teammates, and old teammates become fierce rivals! Already a favourite with spectators.

FEW COMPETITIONS in the equestrian arena command the respect and attention that The Global Champions Tour does. Photo Therese Alhaug

KNOKKE HIPPIQUE SUMMER CIRCUIT. Top class competitions are becoming much more than just horse shows nowadays. One such competition that knows how to combine sport and lifestyle is the Knokke Hippique Summer Circuit, held in Knokke, Belgium; the town often referred to as “The St Tropez of the North.” The Knokke Hippique helps add a touch of glamour and luxury to the sometimes monotonous show schedule. Where else would you expect to see riders splitting their time between competition, the beach, and stage performances?

TOP CLASS competitions are becoming much more than just horse shows nowadays. One such competition that knows how to combine sport and lifestyle is the Knokke Hippique Summer Circuit, held in Knokke, Belgium; the town often referred to as “The St Tropez of the North”. The Knokke Hippique helps add a touch of glamour and luxury to the sometimes monotonous show schedule.

DRESSAGE. While Show Jumping has long been the real money maker in terms of prize money, recent interest in Dressage thanks to talented riders such as Charlotte Dujardin has spurred on event sponsorship and attendance. Dressage still has a long way to go if it wants to be able to offer the same level of prize money as its richer cousin Show Jumping. The Adequan Global Dressage Festival is one competition hoping to improve the prize money offerings within dressage. One of the pre-eminent competitions in the world, taking place during the winter season in horse haven; Wellington, Florida. The competition is well known for having a supportive group of sponsors, helping them to boast an incredible amount of prize money. A number of professional dressage riders choose to call Wellington home, and it seems a logical decision when you have this level of competition on your doorstep.

Nadia Aslam
Nadia Aslam

Nadia has been writing for Equestrian publications for over ten years. Her day job as CEO of Competio, an online show series for riders to compete online via video - www.gocompetio.com, provides her access to travel the world; reporting on events and interviewing riders.

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