Renowned US trainer Jimmy Wofford believes that eventing will have to leave the Olympic Games in the future, as he envisages the sport being compromised too far by the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) demands and venue choices.
“My personal view is that one day we’ll have to leave the Games. But we’ll hear screams of rage from the pro riders,” said three-time Olympian Mr Wofford, 71, acknowledging that much of the funding of professionals is tied up with the Games through national performance schemes.
“But we must consider horse welfare first in all deliberations, pro riders second. We’re not at the point yet when the Olympics compromise us so much we should leave. But I can foresee that point.”
Mr Wofford made the remarks during his talk at the International Eventing Forum at Hartpury, Glos, on 1 February.
He used modifications in the sport since the 1924 Olympics as a framework for discussing current proposals for change in response to the IOC’s 2020 Agenda to produce “attractive, modern, TV- and spectator-friendly sports”.
Mr Wofford spoke in favour of teams of three rather than four, contrary to the popular view expressed by riders and British Eventing (BE) (news, 4 February).
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“Teams of three would have a salutary effect on the pace of cross-country,” he said, explaining that there is more pressure to complete the course and be able to trot up the next day with teams of three. “Riders will put the handbrake on.”
Mr Wofford said that there are three areas television would like to see change: clothing — “Riders look like Phantom of the Opera” — scoring and the sport’s name. This is being hotly debated, with BE in favour of “equestrian triathlon”, a name leading course-designer Mike Etherington-Smith opposes (news, 4 February).
“All this is up for future debate. But, I hope you agree, we are the sport that brings man and horse closest together,” Mr Wofford said.
Ref: H&H 11/2/16