Should Show Jumping Rethink Its Relationship With Donald Trump?

The greatest impact of Donald Trump’s comments during his presidential announcement speech on June 14th, insinuating that Mexican immigrants were thieves, rapists and drug dealers, was the show of solidarity that they inspired in his former business partners. The list of companies, individuals and organizations to publicly cut their ties with him, includes Univision, NBC, and Macy’s, and continues to grow.

But does something that Donald Trump does or says as a public figure matter to the sport of show jumping? The answer is yes, his offensive words matter very much, because Mr. Drumpf also has business ties to and is a supporter of show jumping.

Since 2013, show jumping has benefitted greatly from Trump’s involvement in the sport. His successful partnership with Mark Bellissimo and Equestrian Sport Productions has resulted in the creation of two glittery, FEI-rated show jumping competitions, one at Mar-A-Lago,Trump’s private resort in Palm Beach, FL (Trump Invitational CSI4*) and one at theTrump-operated Wollman Rink/Trump Rink in New York City (Central Park Horse Show CSI3*). Trump is also a sponsor of the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL with Mar-a-Lago bearing title sponsorship of the show’s opening week for the last two seasons.

In press conferences and at public appearances for those events, Bellissimo and Trump have appeared as good friends, with each speaking highly of the other, riders thanking Trump profusely for his support of show jumping, and Trump’s willingness to address and solve event problems (such as drastic footing improvements at the Trump Invitational) have been widely applauded.

The Backbone of the Sport
But for all of those ties to the sport, it’s likely that Mr. Trump has never considered the impact that the Hispanic population has on show jumping. In North America in particular, a majority force of Hispanic grooms and industry workers serve as the backbone of the sport. The hierarchy of equestrian sport has provided livelihoods and lifelong careers for millions of Hispanic immigrants who settle in North America to pursue careers in the horse industry. And that’s to say nothing of the enormous growth in top-level Hispanic riders from Central and South America who have settled permanently in Wellington, Florida, to pursue their own riding careers.

Trump would be well-suited to ask his business partner Bellissimo about the importance of Hispanics in show jumping; just last week Bellissimo announced a fantastic, groundbreaking initiative to recognize and reward the grooms of top-placing riders at his shows in Tryon, Wellington, and yes, Central Park and Mar-a-Lago. “We recognize that grooms are the unsung heroes of equestrian sport and have decided that we will systematically honor their hard work, dedication, and commitment to their riders, the horses and the sport,” Bellissimo was quoted on Chronofhorse.com.

Bellissimo’s initiative now rings with irony when held up to Trump’s so very public stance on immigration and race.

If the show jumping organizers who work with Trump truly stood behind their grooms, not to mention the ideals of diversity and the largest growing minority in the United States, they would follow NBC, Univision, et al’s example and disassociate themselves from Trump as well.

Trump and the Bellissimo family presided over the prizegiving at the 2014 Central Park Horse Show

Head In the Sand
But in show jumping, where there’s big money involved, such as the $210,000 and $125,000 purses tied to the Central Park and Trump Invitational Grand Prix events, those involved can more often than not be counted on for a head-in-the-sand approach rather than taking a strong stance for the greater good. But should riders then boycott events that Trump supports out of respect for their Hispanic grooms?

When asked directly about the possible negative impact his relationship with Trump could have on show jumping, Bellissimo demurred from commenting, pointing out that his priorities are focused on growing the sport and the positive elements of that growth.

That’s all well and good, until Trump’s loose tongue turns to show jumping. The PGA, LPGA and USGA quickly distanced themselves from Trump, long a supporter of professional golf, after he said that the golf world was giving him “tremendous support” because “they know I’m right.”

Furthermore, the City of New York is now calling into question its ties with Trump.

“We are reviewing Trump contracts with the City. Donald Trump’s remarks were disgusting and offensive, and this hateful language has no place in our city,” said New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio. “Trump’s comments do not represent the values of inclusion and openness that define us as New Yorkers. Our Mexican brothers and sister make up an essential part of this city’s vibrant and diverse community, and we will continue to celebrate and support New Yorkers of every background.”

New York City is, of course, home to the Trump-supported Central Park Horse Show. As much as he wishes to focus on the positive aspects of the sport, Bellissimo’s relationship with Trump could soon prove to be anything but.


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