I have seen lots of posts on social media this week complaining about how no one is talking about the Paralympics on horsey social media, when last month everyone was talking about the Olympics. In fact, I have heard more talk about the Paralympic Dressage results on BBC Radio 1 than I seen on any of my horsey social media. However, I think there is a simple (although not okay) reason for this.
Team GB Paralympic Dressage is very successful with the team expecting a lot more medals in this than in the ordinary Olympics. So of course the general media is going to be talking about this more. Secondly, how many horsey people actually know many (if any) of the Paralympic riders?
Equestrian Olympics is so successful and followed by the equine world as it is the biggest competition there is for our disciplines. The people competing we know and we follow and we want to see them do well. Take the GB team riders for example. Who isn’t amazed at how fantastic Valegro is? Who doesn’t have a lot of respect for Carl Hester? Who couldn’t love the entertaining, full spirited, stallion Big Star? Who didn’t want William Fox-Pitt to do well after his amazing recovery earlier this year? And how many of us didn’t play Pippa Funnell games growing up? And then you only have to look at other legends riding at this level and at Rio such as Mark Todd and Michael Jung and how can you not be amazed by them?
My point is, as equestrians, we have our favourites, whether it be a horse, rider or a team, and we want to follow their progress. Their ups and downs are always in the horsey media for us to follow, or we will see them at one of our favourite events, or follow certain riders on social media. These top riders are very much in the limelight all the time, making it very easy for us to keep up to date with them and keeping us invested in them.
Whereas, and correct me if I am wrong, para-equestrian sport is very rarely in the media. Don’t get me wrong, this week Horse & Hound has done a very good job at keeping us up to date with what’s happening in Rio. However, to be totally honest, I don’t think I have read any of it, despite seeing it on their home page. And the simple reason is that I don’t really know anyone they are talking about. I think Para-Dressage is an amazing sport and these riders are much better than I could ever hope to be. I have a lot of respect for them and what they do. But that doesn’t help me to engage with them and their story on the rare occasion they make the media.
So yes, it’s sad to say that equestrians as a whole do care less about the Paralympics than the Olympics. But I don’t think this has anything to do with discrimination or the differences in sport. I think it comes down to the fact Para-Equestrian isn’t in the media enough for us to follow it’s progress or have a favourite to back in these big competitions. I think it is the job of the Equine media to report on more Para-Equestrian sport over the next 4 years, so that when the next Paralympics are here, they are talked about just as much as the Olympics.