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.
By: Nadia Aslam. Photos by Stefano Grasso/LGCT, Jerroen Willems/Knokke, WDM.
2012 was a turning point for equestrian sport in many ways, Rolex passing over the reins to rival watch maker, 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.
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.
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.
However, in the past year alone – we’ve seen mainstream media attention for our sport 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 new found accessibility.
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 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.
Few competitions in the equestrian arena command the respect and attention that The Longines 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 exquisite locations around the world, including: Mexico City, Monaco, Paris, Doha, and Cascais. Riders competing and their equestrian teammates will have to work hard for their share of the €7.5 million purse. It’s no surprise that 23 Olympic riders, including; Christian Ahlmann, and Ludger Beerbaum, choose The Global Champions Tour in Valkenswaard, as their final stop before Rio.
This year The Longines Global Champions Tour unveils a new development in their growth plans for the sport; The Global Champions League brings 58 riders from different nations together as 10 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, the league victors will walk away with E200,000 adding to the excitement.
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.
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. Patrik Kittel recently spoke out about the disparity in prize money between the disciplines, asking whether it could be due to drama, and a lack of universal rules throughout all equestrian sport.
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 a prize fund of $650,000. 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.
The Dressage World Masters is another competition dedicated to moving the sport forward. They have paid out over 3 million Euros in prize money over the past eight years, and it doesn’t look like they’re planning to slow down anytime soon. Maucca Karki was recently brought onto the WDM team to drive their investment, and development programs. The competition this year acted as a qualification event for the 2016 Rio Olympics, where Isabell Werth from the German Dressage team took home the winning prize at one of their most recent events.