Bread and circus…

27 May

Excellence is wonderful.

British dressage rider Phoebe Peters has dominated recent Pony Championship classes,whether in England or the rest of Europe, beating heavily favored riders from  all over.

American dressage rider Charlotte Jorst and her  6-year-old  Dutch stallion  Vitalis have set record  American scores (9.2) in the US qualifiers and look set to take one of the coveted spots for Verden’s World Young Dressage  Horse Championships later this summer. After the Championship success of the amazing, British bred, trained and ridden Farouche, will another long-legged chestnut come out on top?

Austrian show jumper Hugo Simon, a legend unto himself, still at the very top of his sport, looks set to celebrate his 71st birthday in August with no doubt another win over BIG jumps on a demanding course, possibly  riding CT–his successor to  ET, Simon’s partner for unbelievable successes and  a horse that has been cloned and is a legend in its own right. (Who even knows that horse legends have been cloned, outside some of the small world that reads horse sport media??? )

It is excellence that makes spectators become involved and care enough to wonder what the next performance will bring. It may be excellence that helps an athlete to attract attention in the first place, but  it is the always-real possibility of failure that keeps a top athlete in the public eye.

In most sports,  in much of the world, these riders and their horses are champions and are covered as such, favorites of  media coverage. Their success–and failure–is part of everyday print,  TV,radio and the  internet .

US dressage rider Jan Ebeling and his partner, the mare Rafalca, made the US Olympic team for London–and then proved to be the center of a media storm not because of his excellent results before and during the Olympics, but because  his “dancing horse” is part-owned by Ann Romney, wife of GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney.


The past few months, Jan and Rafalca have been competing in CDIs and have received their highest scores ever, even as they are getting ready to be part of the prestigious  U.S. team that will compete at Aachen later this summer.

Where is the media interest now? Where is the acknowledgement that two athletes are in the best form of their lives?

There is always debate on what makes horse sport attractive and whether it is a good idea to make it more like other sports or keep it unique. Should riders dress more like gymnasts or cyclists in spandex?  Should helmets now sprout sponsor decals?. Does it help to make jumping cross-country easier to avoid even the idea that such effort can have an unsuccessful outcome?   How much success is due to better social media manners instead of hours spent riding/thinking/solving problems/getting better?

Horse sport has the added problem that half the available stars do not speak, do not endorse anything and do not give interviews, no matter how photogenic they may be.

Is circus a dirty word or a pinnacle to strive for? Maybe it has to  be both  in order to succeed.


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