Brian Walker: WEG has made us a laughing stock *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    There is often turmoil surrounding the World Equestrian Games (WEG), whether it’s lack of hotels, poor conditions or infrastructure, bad management or weather — the list goes on. Was Tryon the straw that broke the camel’s back?

    Any championship should represent our sport at the highest level. It should pave the way for future sponsors, and create aspirations for young riders and product developers. Done well, any big event should also help motivate current horse owners and generate new ones.

    Showjumping struggles enough in the eyes of the general public — they either don’t consider it real sport or they think it’s only for the super-elite — and now our showcase event has made us a laughing stock.

    The burden of WEG

    WEG is a tremendous financial burden with little reward to organisers. The Tryon venue has been a quasi-construction zone since it was first created, and required a huge amount of building pre-WEG in only a two-year span.

    Organisers tried to blame weather and lack of time for the failures, but that seemed only to shift the weight off their back.

    Vendors, who paid a lot of money to be there, may as well have set some of their booths in the middle of a lake.

    Endurance riders, teams and supporters, who have trained countless hours for their shot at being world champion, had their shot taken away after the fiasco of that event.

    But let’s not point fingers solely at the management group; the FEI also needs to be held accountable for not ensuring that every aspect of WEG was up to the highest standard.

    Championships should feel special, there needs to be atmosphere, and for that you need spectators. There were not many in Tryon, a rural, blue-collar part of North Carolina far away from any real suburbia. That, combined with poor scheduling and few hotels in proximity to the venue, meant poor attendance.

    A few evening classes would have helped fill those stands. The shows in Tryon normally have the grand prix on a Saturday night and there is always a packed house — more spectators than any other show I’ve seen in America.

    Quest for a real championship

    One saving grace was that the sport itself was world class. Top riders, grooms, vets,and team members all showed up and gave it their very best, even in less then ideal circumstances.

    The next step needs to be a discussion as to how we can develop WEG into a real world championship event that represents every reach of equestrianism in our sport. One thing’s for sure, changing venues every four years will surely only lead to its extinction.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 18 October 2018