“I’m Here Because I’m Good, Not Because I’m Rich.” Top Riders Speak Out

The show jumping world has been set alight this week, with two related subjects coming under fire.

In less than four weeks, the 2017 Global Champions Tour/League will premiere in Mexico City, Mexico, along with an amended CSI entry invitation system that reduces the number of LGCT invitations among the top ranked riders in the world by half. In plain speak, that means that the sought-after goal of breaking into the Top 30 in the world, where one could then earn an invitation to compete on the prestigious LGCT, now means less for riders who have made competing on the LGCT their goal. Beginning this season, the Top 15 in the world will earn an invitation to LGCT events, with remaining invitations broken down by home riders, and Global Champions League participants. This change has been approved by the FEI and is final. Read more about the European Equestrian Federation’s reaction to the CSI entry invitation amendment at this link. 

This is coupled with a proposed harmonization of entry fees to CSI events, alarming riders around the world who fear that both topics put the sport on a path to becoming more elite, and less accessible. However, the FEI fired back on Wednesday afternoon to clarify that they take no stance on the subject of entry fee harmonization, which was submitted to the FEI by the Alliance of Jumping Organizers. An official statement in response to entry fee harmonization reads: “It is not a proposal from the FEI, but it will be used as part of the discussions that will be facilitated by the FEI at the upcoming Sports Forum in April. The FEI has taken no position on this whatsoever, but the FEI President stated to media this week that he personally is not in favor of this specific proposal.”

Read more about the EEF’s stance on proposed harmonization of entry fees here.

Read on as top riders from around the world weigh in on both topics:

CSI Invitation System

“I must say, I’m not really into the new inviting system for the big shows. If I can get in, then yes. I really want to ride in Hamburg—but I have no horses at the moment. I’m not sure if I’m going to follow [the series] too much since I don’t have much to compete with.”
-Rolf-Göran Bengtsson, Sweden

“I know very little about the new system, other than that it’s the top 15 for the Global rather than the top 30 riders. It may not be the best thing, but it’s the way it is. It’s going to be hard now to get into shows—it’ll be tough.

“I’m on [the Global Champions League] Valkenswaard United again, so I’m looking forward to all the shows.”
-Bertram Allen, Ireland

“For sure I am also concerned that our sport may become a sport only for elite riders. Our sport must be open and accessible for everybody. Not only for rich people, that is for sure. I think we have to find a little bit of balance in between. And that is not so easy.

“I want to say that the Global shows are something we have to admire. Because of what Jan Tops did with his Global tour, we can’t forget that there are now more prize money with other shows, and getting more and more money into our sport. You can win more money at this point. Jan has always been a visionary and in the beginning of his Tour, everyone said it would not work, but it worked out in the end. Now, with the GCL I think he is doing a little bit the same. I think it is good there are coming new things in our sport. I think it’s a new way for our sport, why shouldn’t we try it and see how it is. I think that evolution is good, as long as the sport does not evolve into a sport only for rich people.”
-Pieter Devos, Belgium

“Unfortunately the new format for the Global shows means that I’ve had to change my show schedule for this year, because Top 30 isn’t good enough to get an invitation. As a rider, aiming for Top 30 was a huge goal because it meant entry into the Globals. Now making it Top 15 makes it much more difficult to attain.”
-Conor Swail, Ireland

“I have to say, the Global tour has done a lot of good things for the sport, since they started, it was better for everybody because there better shows, and prize money went up around the world. But the way it’s going now, I’m not sure if this rule is a very good thing for the future of the sport. It used to be extremely hard to be in the Top 30 in the shows because all the riders wanted to be there, and now the Global will take only 30% from the world rankings in descending order and that’s—well, if you don’t have three or four grand prix horses, I don’t think it’s a realistic fact to get into that 30%, I don’t think it’s realistic anymore.”
-Olivier Philippaerts, Belgium

“I think the whole Global Series has been a really good thing. It has made our sport really popular, and able to reach out to more to television and really big sponsors. I think that we should not see it too negative, but on the other side, this now closes up a lot. What it means to be in the Top 30 in the world, or what it means to get there, is really really hard.

“Before, being in the first 30, if you are 45 in the ranking, you still got some Global invitations even if it was just 3 per year, you still got a chance. This is not going to happen anymore. It’s going to get maybe one time down to 30, but I don’t think more than one time.

“It closes up a little bit for people that don’t have the chance to be on a team, or for people who just have one good horse and can’t go to shows enough. But we have to see also that there are so many other shows that people can go to.”
-Janika Sprunger, Switzerland

Entry Fee Harmonization

“I’m not very happy about the harmonization of the entry fees. I think it’s expensive enough, the way it is to compete. Even now, I know a lot of very talented young people who are struggling to make a career. To make a career you need to go to international shows to develop, to learn and to make something for the future. Even now, I know that it is difficult for people to do that, because it is expensive already. If it becomes even more expensive I think it will kill the sport, actually. There will be a lot of riders who will never get a chance. You want the best riders to win, not the most fortunate ones.”
-Peder Fredricson, Sweden

“They should change it the other way, they should make the American system more like the European one. They’re going the wrong way around, aren’t they? It’s going to make everything much more expensive, isn’t it? For me, for the owners, for whoever is paying, it’s just going to be more expensive. It will affect everything.

“You‘ll have to be far more careful what horse you put to shows and if you got a young one that probably needed to go out, but weren’t quite sure if it was good enough for the top, then you probably won’t take him.”
-Michael Whitaker, Great Britain

“Here in Europe, you build horses. For sure for the 4* and 5* it’s not a problem to pay more than the entry, but for the 2* and the 3* it creates the base for young horses. Everybody around the world comes to Europe to buy young horses, but if we make the entries so expensive, for the breeder, it won’t be possible to build a horse for the rest of the world.

“I’m here at a 5* show now because I’m good, not because I’m rich. If it continues like this, I’m sure in two or three years, if I sell my horse, you will never see me again at this level, and I know it.”
-Jérôme Guery, Belgium

“I think it’s a disaster for the sport in Europe, for people like us, everything. If I was starting to do bigger shows now, like when I started ten years ago, I have no idea if I could ride at the level that I am at now. When people ask me for work now and [they say], ‘I have dreams, I ride well, I have talent, I want to work, I’m a good worker, I want to ride,‘ I say, I have no idea if you can make it.”
-Gregory Wathelet, Belgium


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