In order for other events to work, we have to build a new regional model based on attracting local people from outside the sport. In order to accomplish this, we'll need to fulfill the needs of people looking to either: a. Have a fun family outing, b. Have a nice event to attend as a corporate outing, or c. Entertain tailgaters. Events like Red Hills, Plantation Field and Galway Downs have begun this trend here in the United States. Boekelo, in the Netherlands, has taken it to the next level of spectator attendance by creating an atmosphere equally enjoyable for horse lovers and those new to the sport. Who's to say that by combining the best ideas from all the top events and by thinking to ourselves, "What would make the best spectator event possible?” we can't do more?
My feeling is that prize money should be grown out of the ability of an event to get paying spectators. When we find the formula that gets people through the gate consistently, big sponsorships and prize money will naturally follow. While the money does add interest and drama for the spectators, it certainly doesn’t matter how much money is given out if no one but competitors are there to watch it being won.
Because I strongly believe in this, I will get involved. It will be my primary mission to get spectators, and I will beg anyone committed to the sport to help with that goal. Further, I hope to enlist fellow riders to join me in this pursuit. If we can make one event other than Rolex successful with paying spectators, then we can use it as a model for the other events. Right now we have a fantastic sport, but a subpar spectator product. We must change this soon to remain relevant.
My third pledge stems from having no good answers to those that have written to me about my last blog post in which I called for collegiate equestrianism to be the breeding grounds for future Olympians. When asked by those interested, “Where do we start?” my answer was “I don’t know.” I believe this will take some level of cooperation between the USEF, U.S. Olympic Committee and the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Because I don’t know for sure, the only thing I can do to find out is get involved. As such, I have recently accepted a few positions on USEF and USOC committees. Hopefully I will find a way to make a difference and contribute to the future of the sport.
As the sport grows and develops a more sustainable business model, we will all do better both collectively AND individually. These are the steps I’m going to take. Join me, or find your own solutions. Either way, “be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Thank you for reading: Michael
Michael Pollard and his wife, Nathalie, run Chatsworth Stud, a breeding and training facility in Chatsworth, Ga. Michael, 31, is also the CEO of several carpet and equine-related businesses and a father of four. At 18, he jumped around the Rolex Kentucky CCI*** and won the Markham trophy as the highest-placed young rider. He was the U.S. Eventing Association’s Young Rider of the Year in 2001. In 2009, he won the Jersey Fresh CCI*** (N.J.), and in 2011, he was a member of the gold-medal U.S. team at the Pan American Games (Mexico).