Joe Trunkfield: ‘How do we protect our sport and promote our horses’ brilliant lives?’


  • Rising showjumping star Joe Trunkfield discusses the power – and dangers – of social media to equestrian sport

    Despite the difference in the set task and routine, one common problem all spheres of equestrianism are experiencing is new rules and regulations being made, in order to protect the image of the sport in the general public’s eye.

    Recently, I was invited to the office of my sporting federation (British Showjumping) to gain further knowledge on the why and how of some of the rules under which we, as professional horsemen and women, compete.

    While I’m one of the first to argue about a lot of the rules that I, and many others, find mind-boggling and think make no sense – especially with the difference in rules nationally and internationally – I now look at things differently. Some of the things I learnt and stats they gave me put a new perspective on the future of our sport.

    As we know, the top end of the sport, from show centres to riders, needs sponsorship support from big companies. With this in mind, it was worrying to learn that in a recent poll, 52% of the British public don’t agree with horses being used for sport.

    We all know how much our horses show clear motivation and desire for the sport, and we provide them with the highest standards of care and devotion, so this is a definite area of concern. Will big companies be comfortable supporting our sport if they could potentially upset 52% of their own customers?

    Another interesting statistic was in reference to a TikTok video of a professional which had been edited and promoted negatively and gone viral. The power of that particular TikTok poster is scary, having 360,000 followers. My local MP was elected with 60,000 votes (a very safe Conservative seat), British Showjumping has approximately 17,000 members. It is clear to see how much damage can be done to our sport with one misinterpreted video going viral.

    Looking forward

    My fears as a producer are that we could be facing rules to accommodate the public eye, rather than to benefit our equine athletes in the sport.

    For instance, the now legal whip is very horse friendly, weighing no more than 160g, being two-fifths padded and smooth. This gives a soft touch and, making more of a noise than other whips, the artificial aid works well if a horse requires extra encouragement beyond
    the leg.

    However, to the general public and camera – and with so many shows being on a live stream – a gentle aid from this persuader creates a much louder sound (in the silence of a high-level competition arena), again giving a bad image to the public.

    It leaves a lot of concern over the future of our sport and what rules will be coming next to accommodate for the dangers of TikTok.

    Our super-grooms work tirelessly and devotedly with their horses, giving them the best of care and the best life. Hopefully, they can be given platforms so 360,000 followers can see their efforts.

    The question is: what can we do to protect our sport and promote the brilliant lives our horses have?

    ● How do you think riders can show the care their horses receive on social media? Write to hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and county, for the chance to have your views published in a future issue of Horse & Hound magazine

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 30 March

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