The British Show Jumping Association (BSJA) has reported a sizeable growth in membership over the past 12 months.

Over 3,000 new members — an increase of 17% on the last two years — have joined the BSJA since December 2005 and marketing manager Jacky Knightley told H&H that ‘intro shows’ — those with 70cm fences — have played a key role in boosting membership. Previously, the minimum height at BSJA-affiliated classes was 90cm.

“Many riders don’t have the confidence to tackle bigger fences,” she said, “but giving people a chance to ride at 70cm helps them to enjoy jumping and, in many cases, progress on to bigger fences.”

But some have criticised the BSJA for “dumbing down”.

Show jumping supremo Graham Fletcher told H&H that he was not a fan of the new classes.

He said: “In my heart I don’t agree with them, but if that’s what the market demands, what can you do? Where do we stop with these things? I’m sure putting poles on the ground for people to trot over would increase BSJA membership.”

But Miss Knightley denied that by running classes with such small fences, the sport was being diluted. “We’re trying to broaden the appeal of show jumping,” she said.

Longwood Equestrian Centre in Essex staged its first intro class this season and proprietor Mrs Lewington said that turnout was high.

She reasoned: “I think people like the idea of jumping an affiliated track, even at a lower level.” But she added that the classes needed to be better promoted.

Membership of the BSJA has averaged 16,500 for the past 10 years and, in an effort to raise the profile of the association, a recruitment plan was launched 12 months ago. Intro shows are a key part of the plan, but Miss Knightley said that a range of other initiatives had been brought in to attract more members.

She explained: “We have special offers for old members who haven’t rejoined for the last few years, as well as discounted rates for non-members and try-before-you-buy schemes.”

What do you think of the BSJA’s recruitment drive? Are intro classes a good idea? Let us know at h&hnews@ipcmedia.com

  • This news report was first published in Horse & Hound (21 December, ’06)