Being a bit of a dinosaur, social media is something I’ve ignored at my peril. The phenomenal power of the online community hit home when I was commentating for Radio Badminton.

Of course, the competing horses and riders were the stars. But I was gobsmacked to learn that we’d racked up 450,000 listeners.

Somewhat dauntingly, number one cricket pundit Jonathan Agnew appeared in our commentary box during a break for a chat. Jonathan will be commentating on several sports, including ours, in Rio. We agreed how good it is that at last equestrianism is twigging the importance of reaching out to the public.

How lucky we are to have a media-friendly man of his calibre — and with 350,000 Twitter followers — interested in horses. He confesses he’s only just learning to ride, but the fact that his wife does dressage will surely assist. Let’s hope his brilliant broadcasting skills can help keep horse sports in the Olympic Games.

Yes, I learnt so much about the power of virtual and live networking over my two days on Radio Badminton. Main presenter Rupert Bell generously shared his media knowledge too, although I’m sure it was supposed to be the other way round with Carl Hester and I appraising the dressage tests!

When Rupert confirmed we’d had followers from as far afield as Norway and Australia, I went home from Badminton and resolved to start tweeting and promoting my Facebook presence.

I was further encouraged by a friend and fellow recent social media convert. Her efforts, she told me, had produced £500-worth of sponsorship, 70 extra “friends” on Facebook and openings to earn a few thousand pounds over the coming weeks.

So off I went — and nearly fell over when the famous Sharon Osbourne asked to become “friends”. In awe, I pressed the “accept” button… and immediately received a deluge of charity pleas.

Clearly, I needed guidance and have found it in presenter Jenny Rudall. It’s all in the how and the numbers, she explained, pointing me towards standout equestrian social media operations such as Laura Collett’s, who has more than 30,000 Twitter followers.

Meanwhile, Wocket Woy’s online Saturday morning antics often clock up views into the hundreds of thousands.

The trick is to stay current and “on trend”; a 24/7 job unless one recruits help. Another learning curve was whether to be posh and top-end or pink and fluffy. If it’s the latter, although Katie Price needn’t feel threatened, I’ll be changed forever.

Across the board, the circulation of printed consumer magazines is down. H&H still has a very strong magazine readership, but it also has nearly half a million Facebook followers, illustrating the want and need for news, information and knowledge in different mediums, too.

I’m enjoying my new-found digital experience, but I would be sad if print media ever died out. I love Thursdays when the real H&H comes through my letterbox. Long may it continue.

And what does all this have to do with dressage? Well, as anyone running competition horses or with the call-up to compete abroad knows only too well, the monies have to be found.

It’s hard making an equestrian business pay. But to get left behind and fail to be social-media savvy is financial suicide.

A just reward

How wonderful that Carl Hester has been awarded a Fellowship of the British Horse Society (FBHS).

Once the envy of the world, this fabulous qualification is not as well recognised as it once was. So this new association will also help raise its profile.

In Carl’s case, his FBHS is an honorary award. However, it’s the horse world that is honoured to have him.

Ref: Horse & Hound; 16 June 2016