Carl Hester: Accurate representation is essential *H&H Plus*


  • It is about time big organisations employed good journalists and picture editors to make sure imagery and captions supporting messages are accurate and reflect the content.

    It is good H&H has taken the lead on improving the situation, but with the ever-increasing pressure to present ethical training, it’s unhelpful to see a horse with its nose way behind the vertical when talking about the correct outline being forward and open.

    I’m surprised, too, that one can still see on other major websites, for example, a photo of a horse in passage when the copy is talking about piaffe.

    And don’t get me going about those “arty” no-hat photos which do no good at all.

    The equestrian media needs specialist expertise to ensure correctness and accuracy in the way our sport is presented.

    I know the normal processes of publishing often mean that writers don’t approve the pictures that are used with their words, but if that’s the case the person choosing the pictures needs the appropriate knowledge. The image of the sport needs to be kept up-to-date and clean, and for people to learn they need to see pictures of the right way of going so they realise what is correct.

    Professional photographers tend to take lots of photos, so it is less a matter of getting the right shot than choosing the right shot. It involves attention to detail from a good eye, not rocket science.

    ‘Nonsense’ selection criteria?

    The subject led me to think about the recent election of Jose Alfonso Rodriguez as the chair of the FEI’s Disciplinary Tribunal. Mr Rodriguez is a young lawyer, who has spent the majority of his career at FIFA, football’s governing body. This has provoked a lot of discussion.

    While some argue that the chair need not necessarily be an expert in the complexities of our sport, and he may bring a new perspective, the fly in the ointment is that the FEI Statutes require all Tribunal members to have appropriate knowledge and experience of equestrian sport.

    Mr Rodriguez said in his application, “My background has no direct relation to equestrian sport,” and that he has “recreational equestrian experience only”. Doesn’t this make a nonsense of the FEI’s selection criteria?

    While there are plenty of reasons why an independent chair, unbiased with no “friends” in the horse world and a host of experience in areas such as safeguarding of minors, could be considered a constructive move, it would only work if the Tribunal was effectively a committee or presided over by more than one judge. But currently only the most serious cases are decided by a panel of three; often they’re heard by just one.

    Our sport is about the horse, and the welfare of the horse is paramount. Can someone with no real equestrian background understand what is abuse and what is mismanagement? Or the complexities of doping cases involving understanding of horse management, vet practice and the effect of substances?

    We need accurate representation of our sport in media channels, but I’m also wondering how riders — and the horse — will receive accurate representation when things turn murky, as these days they can do.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 5 December 2019

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