The future is bright for BE
Arriving into this season off the back of winning Olympic and European team gold medals, and with four out of six individual championship medals awarded last year being hung around the necks of British riders, it’s hard not to feel excited.
Those who have followed my comments since my appointment last summer will know I’ve always believed it is important for us to be clear and transparent about our shortcomings and where we know we need to take action to improve. However, it’s equally important to recognise our strengths, the progress we’ve made and the wealth of potential we have in our sport.
A safe and fair sport
One of our most basic requirements when we compete is to be sure we’re participating in a sport that is well-regulated and fair. Our national equine anti-doping programme seeks to protect the welfare of horses competing in our sport. It’s also intended to maintain the integrity of our sport by protecting the right of all athletes to participate in fair competition on a level playing field.
Safety is always paramount and we leave no stone unturned in seeking to find ways to make our sport safer and more enjoyable for horse and rider. British Eventing is a world leader in research and implementation of safety initiatives; we invest much time and resource into safety research, which is the foundation of our rules and regulations. When be competing at an event that is set to the highest standards in the sport.
Some of those safety initiatives include developments in fence safety. Frangible pinning kits have been mandatory on all suitable fences since 2006 and since 2012 have been supplied free of charge to organisers. Reverse pinning kits have been free of charge since 2014 and the latest technology, MIM clips, since 2016. All the dimensions and profiles of every fence on every course that are recorded and entered into the BE safety database are annually audited by Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) and any trends or tendencies are acted upon to try to keep the sport as safe as possible. We will continue to invest in research to keep us at the forefront of scientific and technological advances and we’ll also continue to invest in our people.
We’re so fortunate to have some of the most experienced course designers and officials in the world working within BE and it’s so important that we maintain those standards by providing high-quality training and CPD.
BE stewards and technical advisers are trained to carry out their roles with the safety of the sport as their top priority and cross country courses at BE events must be designed and built by BE-accredited course designers and builders, who are certified at the appropriate level having completed a specialist training scheme.
It’s also vital that we bring new talent into the sport – new designers, new officials – so we can share this incredible wealth of expertise and continue to grow the sport. We will also continue to identify areas where new ideas and visions can push us forward, such as the appointment of Chief Medical Officer Katharine Hartington and her medical team. Medical and veterinary safety is so crucial to keeping our members and their horses protected when they compete with us and it’s something we will continue to cover both here in BE Life and online.
The more we can do to improve the wellbeing of our human and equine athletes, the better. Identifying and delivering the optimal ground conditions for BE members to compete on, for example, not only improves safety but also protects our horses and extends the longevity of their competition careers. BE has a fleet of Aerovators and Aggravators available to organisers at minimal cost. The machinery, which complements events’ existing ground care routines, is an invaluable asset to BE and is used countrywide, throughout the season, in cases of both dry and wet weather. Ground care advice is also available to organisers through BE’s ground care adviser Philip Herbert, who is clerk of the course at Burghley.
BE is the Gold Standard of eventing and it’s important we keep striving to make sure that all of our events meet these high standards. With the rise in standard of the unaffiliated market, it’s more crucial than ever that BE delivers a Gold Standard product.
A sport for all
British Eventing has so much to offer and we want to make sure that as many people as possible have the opportunity to enjoy it. Over the past five years, we’ve been faced with the challenge of a 24% reduction in competing membership and this, coupled with the additional challenges of recent times, means we need to be more attuned than ever with the needs of our members.
It has been important for us to understand the profile of our membership. One of the most striking things we’ve identified is that 73% of members have never competed above BE100 level. We’ve seen the greatest reduction in membership at grassroots levels and we need to make changes. We have acted quickly to introduce a cheaper introductory membership for these riders at the entry level into our sport and will continue to review how we can further support them.
If the past couple of years have taught us anything, it’s that having company and being able to share your passions with those around you is invaluable. We recognise the importance of being able to socialise in our sport and the power of friendship and mentorship, therefore, we’ll be encouraging new members to spend more time interacting with the BE community through training, camps and mentoring schemes. We will seek to remove the barriers in our sport, making it less intimidating and more welcoming to all and promoting a feeling of inclusiveness and camaraderie. We’ll be building our own community, as well as strengthening our alliances with those around us, such as the Pony Club and British Riding Clubs.
Everyone likes something to work towards and we have been developing championships and leagues for all levels. We want to help riders identify their goals within the sport and to feel inspired to build pathways for themselves and their horse. We also recognise the value of training to members across all levels and will be reintroducing training opportunities for members.
Over the coming years, we want to continue to create greater opportunities and benefits for all our members. The British Eventing Support Trust has recently gone online and will be a fantastic resource for helping us to look after our own. In times of need members will be able to turn to the Support Trust to receive help and support when they need it most. You can visit the new website here.
A sustainable sport
While we’re taking all these steps to move the sport into a great place, it has got to be sustainable. It doesn’t matter how successful we are this season or next if eventing isn’t here in 10 years’ time. It is our responsibility to protect our sport and ensure it stays around for future generations to enjoy.
Within the organisation, we’ve been investing a lot of energy into addressing the sustainability of our IT infrastructure. We’ve put a roadmap in place to move away from a current in-house, bespoke system with complicated architecture that’s costly to run. Delivery of our sport must become cost neutral to BE and that is what we’re working towards at speed.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle we have to overcome is finding the balance between addressing the challenges around the ever-increasing costs for organisers and trying to stop the sport becoming too expensive for members. Seeking and maximising new commercial opportunities is key to that.
A sport for the future
To bring new financial backing into the sport, we need it to be at its most brilliant and best. Over the last few months, we have been looking at ways we can drive innovation and modernise the sport to make it more attractive to a wider audience and it is already reaping rewards.
We have expanded our partnership with EquiRatings to ensure we’re at the forefront of data and digital technology. We have also launched a new podcast – the British Eventing Show on the EquiRatings Eventing Podcast – to give greater behind-the-scenes access to the sport. Live scoring is now established and the next step will be to make it more interactive and engaging for audiences.
We are also exploring new formats for competition, looking at possibilities such as combined training, two phase competitions and a reinvigorated arena eventing offering, to provide members with a year-round calendar of sport. We are also thrilled to welcome a new venue to the calendar this year – many members in the south-west will remember the popular event that ran at Ston Easton in the ‘80s and ‘90s and we are delighted to have an exciting new venue at nearby Mendip Plains Ston Easton.
A sport for you
Our aim is to put communication and transparency at the heart of the BE brand so you, the members, can see the challenges within the sport but most importantly the successes. Going forward, we will be conducting more surveys and rider reviews to gain valuable input from our members and we will also be increasing our team’s Marketing Cloud Training so we can fully utilise the Salesforce software to communicate with you more effectively.
The appointment of Mark Sartori as our new chair of the board is great news for the sport. We’re extremely lucky to have him on board and I’m excited about the future of BE with him at the helm. The next steps will be to take opportunities to review the current board structure and the committee structures and set out our plans for further improvements. The future is definitely bright!