BY Piper Klemm
Another year, another Derby Finals, and yet another tepid crowd for the sport I love. Which got me thinking—who is producing the best crowds at the Kentucky Horse Park?
Unequivocally year after year, the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event Presented By MARS Equestrian™ and Breyerfest are massively attended. In an incredible vision for show jumping sport, Equestrian Events, Inc. (or EEI) hired Split Rock to manage the Kentucky CSI3* Invitational Grand Prix to evening competition after cross country day at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day in 2018. It is one of the largest audiences in the United States for show jumping.
So, what if we could add USHJA International Derby Finals to the massively-attended July event of Breyerfest?
Breyerfest is the annual celebration for model horse lovers that absolutely packs the Kentucky Horse Park. Tens of thousands of fans come in every year to meet each other, see demonstrations, and celebrate their love for horses. The event is full of programming from breed demonstrations, educational lectures, and various fun ways for horse people of all ages to build their knowledge, such as meeting celebrity horses, model signings, and raffles.
Logistically, Breyerfest does not use the Rolex Arena and only uses a small fraction of the barns on site, so everyone could work together without spacial restrictions. Breyerfest is adept at welcoming new people each year by explaining horse sports, breeds, and so much more. The visibility, description, and demonstrations could help tens of thousands of people understand and appreciate our sport, what we’re judging and training for, and show them pathways to get involved.
If the Green Incentive could be moved to the Rolex Arena over Thursday and Saturday, we would not only all have a place to sit and watch, but those horses could start their careers with exposure to a crowd and enthusiasm as well instead of near silence when many of them landed from their final fence.
Derby Finals could be run all day Friday at a time of year when more youth have not headed back to school yet and could actually watch and learn from the masters of our sport. Derby Finals could be a seed for thousands of children to have a lifelong love of hunter sport in a way that it is not accessible now due to back-to-school timing.
These important championships could be stand alone, so professionals would have time to watch and be present for other rounds instead of rushing off to show the same horses in other rings, tend to clients and other horses, and leaving immediately upon completing their rounds. Instead of rewarding horses who did one or more divisions, then the Green Incentive rounds on Thursday, and then Derby Finals on Friday and Saturday, we could be rewarding horses who show up and are brave and well trained prior to the championship.
Derby horses could be all stabled within a few barns, allowing stewards and show staff to easily keep an eye on many of them and increase public trust in the competition. The jog would allow fans time to see their favorite horses—maybe for the first time ever in person—and the opportunity to get excited, just like the massive crowd that gathers for the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day jog fashion extravaganza.
Have your own thoughts on this? Discuss in The Plaid Horse groups on Facebook or email Piper at email@example.com.