It’s been an eye-opener being on the other side of the British Eventing (BE) fence, having taken on the interim CEO role in April. I have learnt so much about the operation of the sport.
It’s easy to think you understand it all as a competitor — and indeed, I’d been on the board since April 2018, so would have had a different insight to many — but the reality is different.
It’s difficult in an interim role to balance “holding the fort” and driving forward change. It was widely known that BE has faced challenges, with the IT project and the call for greater transparency about decision-making. These have made for an interesting few weeks.
It is right that we are challenged. We are a membership organisation and also a governing body. It’s important to balance these responsibilities. It’s also important we don’t listen solely to those who shout loudest.
I have heard it said many times that our sport is complex, and yes, on some levels, it is. But, fundamentally, our aim is simple. We need to facilitate safe, fun sport at venues within reach of our members, with opportunities to progress for those who want to, and appropriate championships to provide challenge for each level.
We also need to remember organisers cannot afford to make a loss and members do not usually have limitless budgets.
There are an overwhelming number of people involved in running this sport — more than I had realised.
The head office team cover large amounts of back-end processing: membership, entries, registrations, managing the fixtures calendar and rule book. Their responsibilities are significant.
Then there are our regional staff — the regional co-ordinators and regional development officers — who help keep the sport alive around the country. Organisers work tirelessly in all weathers to deliver eventing to the membership. Volunteers give their time to enable the sport to happen and officials keep things running smoothly at events.
And then there are owners, grooms, supporters, the families of those competing — all of whom are essential for us to be able to do what we love.
The hours these people put into our sport, often with little thanks, are both significant and necessary to keep eventing alive.
Lucky to be involved
We are privileged to have the chance to compete at some brilliant venues. I was lucky enough to compete at the grassroots championships — as it was called then — at Badminton several years ago.
The thrill of completing the cross-country there is still one of the greatest moments of my life.
The feeling of harmony and understanding you achieve with your horse when jumping a good round across country — whatever your level — surpasses anything I have achieved in other disciplines.
I feel fortunate to have had the opportunities I have and to have made lifelong friends along the way.
Some may say eventing is only a sport, but for those of us living and breathing it, it is so much more. It’s a passion and an addiction. We are so lucky to be involved.
Ref Horse & Hound; 6 June 2019