What is the future of driving at the World Equestrian Games? *H&H VIP*

  • Calls to include singles driving at Bromont’s World Equestrian Games (WEG) in 2018 have been voiced as part of a wider discussion on the future of the sport.

    Following the FEI Sports Forum (27-28 April), the chairman of the Canadian Driving Committee, Simon Rosenman, petitioned the FEI to incorporate one-horse drivers in a bid to tackle affordability issues when WEG is held outside Europe.

    Currently, only four-in-hand teams are included, but costs to transport five horses, two carriages and equipment from Europe are prohibitive — for WEG 2010 in Kentucky they were estimated at around £70,000 per driver.

    Simon said: “While it has been said the four-in-hand driving is the top of our sport, 2018 is mentioned as unaffordable for many driving nations. Single horses offer a possibility spectators can relate to and will do more to promote growth in the sport, especially in the years leading to these games.”

    The prohibitive cost of European drivers travelling to Kentucky prompted the reintroduction of the FEI European Championships in 2011 after a 32-year hiatus.

    Bettina de Rham, FEI director of driving, reining and vaulting, said that despite the expense, there was still a strong feeling that four-in-hand driving should remain as the showcase for the discipline.

    “Four-in-hand driving is very popular with spectators and media alike, thanks to its exciting format and show of horsemanship,” she said.

    British team chef d’equipe Zoe Morgan said expense was likely to prove a barrier to sending a team to Bromont. “We will be going through the selection procedures, but realistically it’s unlikely,” she said.

    The proposed format changes for four-in-hand driving at WEG have been broadly welcomed by competitors, who see the marketability of the sport needs to be better.

    “People keep thinking about expense but you need to think about what’s good for the public and sport with the horse teams,” said reigning world champion Boyd Exell.

    Zoe acknowledged the sport had already undergone massive changes since its development in the early 1970s, and that continued progress was necessary.

    “You need spectators to attract sponsors to fund better quality of horses — anything that attracts spectators has to be a good thing,” she said.

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    Proposals to make more of the dressage and cones phases are already being absorbed at national level, with Lowther trialling adaptions to its cones format.

    “We’re not a spectator sport; in national competition the budget is run on entry fees alone,” said George Bowman, whose son, also called George, runs Lowther.

    “If you can get people then everything follows,” he added. “Cameras follow, trade stands do a good trade. Having a crowd brings the best out of horse and man.”

    Ref: H&H 30 July, 2015