I am probably a sucker for punishment, but I recently attended the biannual gathering of the race-planning committee for pointing, which took place earlier this month at Huntingdon.
The committee was formed a few years ago and is responsible for reviewing race conditions, as well as the opportunities for horses and riders coming into the sport. Summing up the committee’s purpose, it involves the reviewing of and advising on potentially the single utmost important ingredient of pointing — if race planning and conditions are wrong, everything else around it starts to fall apart.
There is no getting away from reality, the committee was introduced in response to declining numbers in point-to-pointing — both equine and human. In essence, the “powers that be” recognised action was needed to stem the downturn. The statistics show 51% fewer hunter certificates and 45% fewer riders’ qualification certificates have been registered this season, compared to 10 years ago.
Getting down to the details
Everyone has their opinion on what should or shouldn’t be done to improve uptake in the sport, attract new entrants and ensure that those currently involved continue to return. It was evident from the meeting that the committee members acknowledge and respect those opinions. However, when the discussion gets to the detail of utilising these statistics, it is clear that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.
There are regional variations to consider; the south-east and north-west are experiencing especially difficult times, but Devon and Cornwall, Wales and Wessex continue to receive good levels of support. Plus, there are external factors outside the control of the sport’s governors — not least, action being taken in National Hunt and pony racing to buoy their own participant levels.
There is no overnight or single solution. However, the fact the committee is focusing on this key ingredient means at least there is hope.
Ref Horse & Hound; 20 February 2020