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What if They Wanted to Change the Name of Your Favorite Equine Sport?

Filed under: Featured,The Buzz |     

Trail or Equine Agility?

By: Brittany Bevis

How would you react if the powers that be wanted to “re-brand” your favorite equine sport by giving it a new name? What if Dressage became Horse Ballet or Western Pleasure became Equi-Ring Around the Rosie?

It’s not a joke but in fact a real conversation regarding the discipline of Eventing, a combined training event that includes three stages: Show Jumping, Dressage, and Cross Country. The idea of a possible re-branding began at the FEI Sports Forum in April and then again at the FEI General Assembly in November.

Click here to read proposal notes from the Sports Forum- April 2015Click here to view discussion points from the General Assembly- Nov. 2015

Early name suggestions included Equestrathon or Tri-equathlon. Thankfully… those have fallen to the wayside with Equestrian Triathlon appearing as the most likely choice. The comparison of Eventing’s three-part competition (Cross Country/Dressage/Show Jumping) does have obvious similarities to the human triathlon (Bike/Swim/Run). However, can you increase the popular appeal of a sport simply by renaming it? Furthermore, is it necessary that the name of a sport describe what happens during the competition? Golf isn’t called hit-ball-in-hole. We don’t refer to soccer as kickball. While the mention of curling might bring to mind an image of a blow dryer and hot rollers, it might be better described as slide-rock-across-ice.

IMG_6208 copyThe whole idea behind the re-branding came as a result of the International Olympic Committee and their 2020 agenda, which focuses on evaluating all of the sports included in the Olympic Games. The intention is to “shape the Olympic Movement to be fit to speak to a new generation of fans and athletes.” Therefore, international federations have been asked to review their sports to ensure they are “attractive, modern, TV and spectator friendly.”

It’s not just equine sport that needs to take notice. The IOC directed all sports to consider what the futures of their disciplines will look like at the Olympic Games in 2020.

We all know that branding is BIG business, which in turn means BIG money, which translates into more media coverage, higher ratings, and, quite possibly, the future success of the sport. All of these aspects certainly come into play when the world tunes in to watch the Olympic Games. How many of you are familiar with Google’s rainbow colored-text, Facebook’s thumbs up graphic, or Coca-Cola’s iconic polar bear? Perfect examples of recognizable and consistent branding.

Also, it’s not just a name change that’s being considered. Revisions to the Eventing point system, the number of riders on a team, and the overall competition format are up for discussion.

The British Equestrian Federation released their own feedback on the FEI proposals, saying they support the name change to Equestrian Triathlon. However, there are many who aren’t too fond of the idea. See Horse Canada’s Cuckson Report- Re-Labelling Won’t Bring Any Bonus to Eventing. Also, leading Canadian eventer, Kyle Carter, recently expressed his opinion on the potential name change. 

IMG_3540 copyAs President of the Eventing Riders Association, Bruce Haskell, stated in an February 2016 Open Letter, this decision must be carefully considered. “Eventing has to be careful at this point and consider the future of what our sport will look like at all levels. The Olympics, as we have seen in past, has a top down effect of the rest of the sport.”

But this isn’t something that will happen right away. The FEI Eventing Committee will meet again in early March and the FEI Sports Forum takes place this April in Switzerland. Then, more discussion will undoubtedly take place following the upcoming 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio. Any decision would be subject to IOC approval in 2017, but implementation could be made by the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

IMG_3079 copyStill, until as many people tune in to watch equestrian sports as do track and field, swimming, or soccer, a new name probably won’t make a whole lot of difference. What do three of the most-watched Olympic sports have in common? They’re easy to understand: run the fastest and win; swim the fastest and win; kick the ball into the other team’s net and win. The complex rules, convoluted scoring, and judges’ opinions that are inherent in equine sport certainly don’t help its popular appeal with a non-horsey audience.

What’s the answer to get Eventing and other equine sports more TV time and popular appeal among the masses? The answer is still to be determined…


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