At the horse show last weekend I had a long chat with a top trainer. She has travelled all over the world to show horses, competed at the World Games, and is an international horse shopper. She knows the show jumping world inside and out and had some insightful comments about the state of the top-level riding community that I thought were worth sharing.
Riders without Horses: a policy discussion
She said that there is a real problem of excellent riders not having quality horses. The Springsteens, Kesslers, Bloombergs, the Royalty (Philips and Casiraghi) are all great riders, but they also have access to strings of the world's best horses.
When these top riders show in the grand prix arenas, the stands are filled with equally talented riders on the sidelines without access to horses that can show at that top level.
At one California show in the past year a top rider had an $11 million string of show jumpers with her to ride and show (and win) on, and while she showed, there were numerous other highly talented trainers and riders on the sideline unmounted.
There aren't clear solutions to this problem, in large part because the actual problem or issue isn't clearly defined. Do we care about expanding the base of competitors? Is it important to deepen the level of horse supply? Is there a duty of top riders with access to talented horses to help expand access to talented horses?
I know this post is more about policy than actual law, but our conversation segued into a topic on which I have prepared a couple draft blog posts.
The trainer said, "I don't know a single sponsored rider that got the sponsorship without having a personal connection to the sponsor."
I recently had a client that was being sued over a sponsorship agreement that had soured.
Not many of us are talented enough to garner a riding sponsorship- but according to the trainer- it doesn't seem to matter how talented we are if we don't also have a personal connection to the sponsor. And how can you have a hope of making it to the top without the financial backing of a big-brand sponsor (or a wealthy family supporting you)?
But if you are sponsored or wish to be, there are contractual clauses you need to consider... and those tips will come in the next blog post!
I don't know if many of you think about the state of the elite riding world- such as Olympic-quality horses and who can buy them; or if you have any experience or thoughts on sponsorship- but if you do, I'd love to hear your comments!