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Is there actually a sport of “Equestrian”?
Or is it really 7 or 8 or 9 sports whose common bond is that they just use the same equipment, the horse, to do their individual equine sport.
Could it be that “equestrian” seems to be in such a mess at the moment because it expects or is expected by others to be or sees itself as being more than it actually can be? Is the dream of one equestrian competition world with participants doing something in many areas, the great crossover dream, a few steps too far away from reality?
And this brings with it great confusion of purpose. There are certainly many areas where a single mindset is useful in the equine sports world – drugs, doping, animal welfare, safety and so on.
But equally, or maybe more-so, there are many present areas where treating equestrian as a single sport produces undesirable and sometimes faintly ludicrous results. Seeing itself (or being made to see itself and I will explain at a later time) as a single sport has in my experience been the generator of a sad hiatus in the development of equine related sports across Australia over much more than the last 5 years.
As a way of explaining, lets take some other Sports that together, because of some common bond, might look a bit like Equestrian. Let’s say the beach/seaside sports, the sports that conduct themselves along the shallow water and beach.
Such sports as Surf Life Saving, Ironman/woman, Kayaking, Windsurfing, Sailing and Surfing. They all use the sand and surf but they don’t unite because of this. They all obey common laws about use of those areas in relation to other people and the environment. They all work under common Drugs and Doping in Sport regimes and they all use roughly similar skills in their sports and they have crossover competitors. But they don’t call themselves the sport of “beaching” or “waving”. They retain their individuality and having a separate National Body for each of their Sports makes sense – it only has to know about one Sport that is conducted uniformly throughout Australia and indeed, throughout the world.
But “equestrian”. It is 7 or 8 or 9 different Sports. Equestrian Australia lists 11: Dressage, Jumping, Eventing, Para-equestrian, FEI World Cup Jumping, Show Horse, Interschool, Carriage Driving, Vaulting, Endurance and Reining.
How can such a bunch of different ways of mixing with a horse be called a single sport? How can a single body think, or be expected, to manage / run / govern / promote / operate / regulate / organize / fund / develop / control all of those, over all of Australia and in International Competition.
I think the answer is that it can’t and that is where the gulf between expectations and performance is occurring. Maybe EA is trying (or again I say, expected to be) all things to all people.
But I do think it has one clear area where it should have single control – Elite Australian representation Internationally.
For the rest, I think it needs to moderate its aims and reshape its operations in one of a number of possible ways.
· It can become a facilitator but not a controller in helping each of the Sports to operate relatively autonomously via their State and National Sports Committees and co-ordinating and being the go-between between the different Sports in areas of common interest and mutual advantage, and/or
· It can become a facilitator and co-ordinator for the States, bringing them to work together on planning and delivering various sports, or
· A mix of these two, or
· It can just set qualification criteria and run Elite Australian representation Internationally and leave the States to work together in their own way, or
· It can just set qualification criteria and run Elite Australian representation Internationally and leave each of the Sports to run themselves individually and ignore or elimininate State Equestrian bodies, or
· It can reshape in some other way.
But it can’t keep trying to run all competition sports for everyone who rides a horse outside of racing.