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Piper speaks with Olympic Grand Prix rider and trainer Daniel Bluman and US Equestrian President Tom O’Mara. Brought to you by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services. Listen in!
GUESTS AND LINKS:
- Host: Piper Klemm of The Plaid Horse Magazine
- Guest: Daniel Bluman, born in Colombia and of Jewish descent, represents Israel in the world of show jumping. Currently ranked 15th on Jumping Longines FEI World Rankings, he is coming off a successful 2023 show season with multiple international Grand Prix victories as well as a Nations Cup win, which qualified team Israel for the 2024 Olympics in Paris, France. You can read more about Daniel and his Bluman Equestrian in The Plaid Horse December/January Education issue.
- Guest: Tom O’Mara officially became the President of US Equestrian in January 2021. Prior to his role as President, Tom was a member of the Board of Directors for four years, and served as Secretary/Treasurer for two years. Tom has been an active part of the hunter/jumper community for many years, where his wife, Liz, daughters Meg, Casey, and Abby, and son T.J.
- Title Sponsor: Taylor, Harris Insurance Services, Taylor, Harris Insurance Services (THIS) was founded in 1987 to provide specialized insurance for all types of equine risk. THIS places their policies with the highest rated and most secure carriers, meticulously selected for reliability and prompt claims settlement. THIS is proud of their worldwide reputation for responsive and courteous service, and welcomes the opportunity to discuss your equine insurance needs and provide you with a quote.
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This transcript was generated automatically. Its accuracy may vary.
Tom O’Mara [00:00:30] I am firmly in belief that my perception going into this that horse people were great people. That has been reconfirmed time and time and time again.
Daniel Bluman [00:00:39] I really think that if more people around the world had the opportunity of riding and spending time with horses, their lives would be just so much better, because it’s really just an incredible experience to be able to interact with these magical animals.
Piper Klemm [00:00:55] This is a plaidcast. I’m Piper Klemm, publisher of the Plaid Horse magazine. And coming up today on episode 363, I talk with Olympic Grand Prix rider Daniel Bluman about his incredible career and training business. And then I talk with U.S. Equestrian President Tom O’Mara about his thoughts on 2024 as an Olympic year, and look back on the 2023 show season and how we all did. This episode is brought to you by Taylor Harris Insurance Services.
Piper Klemm [00:03:11] Daniel Bluman represents Israel in the world of showjumping. Currently ranked 15th on the jumping Longines FEI World Rankings. He is coming off his very successful 2023 show season with multiple International Grand Prix victories, as well as a Nations Cup win which qualified Team Israel for the 2024 Olympics in Paris, France. You can read more about Daniel and his Bluman Equestrian in the Plaid Horse December/January education issue. Welcome to the plaidcast, Daniel.
Daniel Bluman [00:03:38] Thank you very much for having me.
Piper Klemm [00:03:40] You’ve had an absolutely incredible year. Can you tell us about some of the the classes that you’ve won and some of the highlights?
Daniel Bluman [00:03:46] Uh, it’s been a really good year. The, the horses that we have at the top of the sport have all won several Grand Prix this year, which is awesome. You know, to see them going well and then the younger ones that we are developing are, are really getting to the level that, that we planned to get them. Uh, by the end of the year. So yeah, so far we’re, we’re very, very grateful of, of the season we’ve had.
Piper Klemm [00:04:15] You’re just coming off a big win at the Royal Winter Fair. Can you tell us a little bit about that mare?
Daniel Bluman [00:04:20] Gemma has been with us already for, uh, for quite a few years. Uh, I started working with her when she was five, and, uh. Yeah, she’s had a great season. I think this is the third Grand Prix that she wins. This this year and she’s placed in almost every single class that she’s, she’s competed on. So it’s very consistent and and in great form. So, uh, yeah, it was it was great for her to be able to win that class, it’s an important Grand Prix with a lot of tradition and with a great crowd. So it was it was definitely a cool one.
Piper Klemm [00:04:51] Um, so many people participate in this sport at all levels, and we don’t always get to see inside the highest level of the sport. What what do you think is is different among your peer group? And, you know, I see how how seriously you all study the courses. What do you think is really different at the top of the sport?
Daniel Bluman [00:05:11] Well, actually, I want to talk to the opposite. I want to talk more about what’s similar, you know, because that’s what I think it’s it’s the most beautiful thing about what we do. Uh, you know, everyone that rides horses, everyone that that has a lifestyle around horses, even if it’s in an amateur level or a professional level is so lucky, you know, and and that’s something that I, I always, um, like or I always, uh, try to, to tell everyone, you know, although at the level that we are at, uh, we get to, to jump more glamorous competitions and, you know, do it at the highest level at the end of the day, the most beautiful thing we all share, which is being able to spend time and and enjoy the company of horses. So I really think that if more people around the world had the opportunity of riding and spending time with horses, their lives would be just so much better because it’s really just, uh, uh, an incredible experience to be able to interact with these magical animals. That being said, you know, at our level, uh, but going back to answering your question, um, you know, the level of competition is really, really high and intense. Uh, the level of the riders and the horses that they at the highest level is, is, is is very extreme, you know, it’s it’s as good as it gets. So every, every second counts, you know, every every second that you lose your concentration or every moment that you’re not focusing. What you have to do, uh, can be the difference between winning and losing. So, you know, what I would say is that we we just try to be very focused and stick to a plan.
Piper Klemm [00:06:51] It’s it’s interesting that you said that because I, I look at a lot of the Grand Prix courses and, and think about how similar they are to, to so many equitation courses we see and it’s, it’s a lot of the same questions at a different level. You know, at the most basic it’s does your horse, you know, go off your right leg, off your left leg, go forward, come back. You know that responsiveness.
Daniel Bluman [00:07:12] Absolutely. It’s all about the basics. It’s absolutely all about the basics at any level. You know, if you’re able to to to do that, to get to, to really, uh, control the basics and master the basics, then you get to the highest level. You know, that’s, that’s, that’s, that’s about it. The same things that, uh, everyone that any rider is working on equitation class or, uh, or a lower jumper division, uh, are the same thing that we in our division are working on the difference is that we have to make sure that we really master our aids, and that we really master those basics so that we are able to a clear the fences, you know, that are already very tall and technical, uh, lines and, and bending is and b that we are able to go fast in the jump off to be able to win classes. But at the end of the day, the same for anyone at any level. It’s all about the basics.
Piper Klemm [00:08:12] Um, when you won at Saugratties this fall, you said that, you know, you’re kind of in this middle range. You have young and up and coming riders that are gunning for you. Um, and you’re also not kind of that that senior Grand Prix rider that that we still see in the ring. Can you talk a little bit about your perspective of, of not being, um, the new kid on the block anymore, but also, you know, still striving to achieve as much as that, that peer group ahead of you?
Daniel Bluman [00:08:42] Yeah. Well, I still feel young, you know, I feel I feel obviously obviously young because I get to compete with some people that are almost, almost double my age. Um, so that obviously gives you a bit of perspective of where you are in terms of your career and the longevity of this career. Uh, but that being said, I have been already in the to work for about 14 or 15 years. Uh, and, and I enjoy, um, knowing that I have been around already a little bit, you know, that I’ve made a lot of mistakes, you know, and I’ve been able to learn from those mistakes, and I survived those mistakes. So at the position where I am right now, I actually feel really good. I feel that, uh, I got a lot to learn still, but I am already at a, uh, pretty decent level where I can be competitive anywhere in the world. And at the same time, I’m being able to appreciate, um, not only competing against riders that I grew up idolizing, but also competing with younger riders that are coming up and are very talented and hungry, um, to win. So I’m sort of in, like I said, um, I feel like I’m like right in the middle at the moment. You know, I’m not in the older group, but I’m not in the younger group anymore. I’m just right in that very sweet spot. So I’m enjoying it.
Piper Klemm [00:10:09] In your sweet spot. You’re starting to to teach a little bit more, and you’re starting to give back to the community. And, um, how do you view how has teaching changed your own riding and and how do you feel about teaching young riders?
Daniel Bluman [00:10:23] I enjoy it. You know, I, I really enjoy giving back and and speaking about horses, you know, and, and having conversations with younger riders, uh, about this sport and about training and about horsemanship. Um, I mean, I think it’s a bit of responsibility also, you know, like, we want to make sure that we’re able to share what we know and, and how we practice this sport because I, I, I strongly believe that, uh, the way that we are practicing this sport at the moment, um, it’s really beautiful for the horse. You know, it’s just a beautiful lifestyle. The respect for the horses and, you know, the the training, you know, the, the methodology that that we’re using. It’s it’s for it’s for every level. You know, so I, I really try to put a good team together at Bluman Equestrian with different trainers and uh, and get, get to, to, to share as much as I can what I’ve been able to learn in the, in the last, uh, 14 years, you know, in the last 14 years training with excellent horsemen around the world. So it’s it’s not easy, you know, it’s not easy to be able to to put up, uh, a team of, of of, um, of horsemen around me that can help, uh, as many people as possible. But I think that we’ve, we’ve been, uh, accomplishing that, uh, in the last few years and, you know, and hopefully a lot of, of students can take advantage of that information because that just like how it just like it changed my career, it can change anyone’s career at any level.
Piper Klemm [00:12:04] This has always been a family sport and a family environment for you and I. I think in a lot of ways people are so used to communicating with with family, have such a leg up on, um, on teaching and getting started because you’ve all essentially been doing that with each other for years.
Daniel Bluman [00:12:23] Yeah. I mean, we we have, uh, we’re a third generation in equestrian sport. So, so we have been able to make all of the mistakes, you know, like any mistake you can think of, we’ve made it. And we’re sure there’s a few more that we’re still we still need to make. But we’ve been able to make a lot of mistakes and we’ve been able to to find solutions and learn from from those mistakes. And it’s been always an open conversation because we’re trying to to learn from each of those mistakes and actually, uh, understand the mistake, you know, really dig into the situation and why we ended up in a problem. And when we were able to solve the problem, how did we solve that problem? And we do it on an open conversation among us so that we try to prevent making the same mistake again. And because of. Of the way I’m wired or my personality. I really like to understand and put things into words. So I try to to write a lot of the situations that I’ve gotten myself into and how I was able to make the best out of the situation. Uh, different problems that I’ve had with different types of horses and what worked and what didn’t work, you know, so, you know, so there’s a lot of material and, and I got to share it with my family and, and I and I love to share it now with, uh, with the rest of the team and, and hoping that they share it also with their students and, and and with the people that they know. Because at the end of the day, I feel that the ones that benefit the most out of doing things correctly are the horses. And because I love the horses more than anything else than I would do anything that I can so that the horses have the best quality of life and the best, uh, um, possibility of doing the sport the right way.
Piper Klemm [00:14:11] Tell us about the winter circuit and what you’re looking forward to this winter, and kind of some of your plans in the next few months.
Daniel Bluman [00:14:18] Being able to stay in one place for a few months and then by, you know, every day of the week with my family, with my kids, with my wife, uh, be able to work with, uh, with Aline and one with my cousins, uh, with the clients. Um, you know, Florida is a great situation because it just allows us to do so many things at the same place and sort of get ready for a very busy season that always, uh, takes, takes off when we actually have to leave Florida and start going to different cities almost every weekend. So, yeah, the plan for Florida is, is that, you know, enjoy, enjoy being in one place and work with the horses and be able to make the best out of out of, uh, what what, uh, the structure that we have, uh, in Florida with our clients and our family.
Piper Klemm [00:15:10] Daniel Bluman, thank you so much for joining us on the plaidcast.
Daniel Bluman [00:15:14] Thank you very much for the invitation.
Piper Klemm [00:17:25] Tom O’Mara officially became the president of US Equestrian in January 2021, prior to his role as president. Tom was a member of the U.S. Equestrian Board of Directors for four years, and served as a secretary treasurer for two years. Tom has been an active member of the Hunter jumper community for decades alongside his wife Liz, daughters Meg, Casey and Abby, and son T.J.. Prior to his time at US equestrian, Tom was the co-host of the NCEA plaidcast edition. If you like his interview and want to go back and listen to any classic episodes, welcome back to the plaidcast, Tom.
Tom O’Mara [00:18:01] Hey Piper, thank you very much. Thank you for having me on, and it’s a pleasure to be here.
Piper Klemm [00:18:05] So it’s a really exciting year. This year we’re back in with an Olympic year. Um, you know, I always like to start at the basics. Can you, can you tell us what US equestrian’s role is and what an Olympic year means to the national governing body?
Tom O’Mara [00:18:20] Yeah, you know, that’s one of the one of the many, uh, roles of the national governing body is to field, uh, teams for international competition. Um, the mandate obviously goes all the way from grassroots to, um, the international competition. But this is a year where that certainly, uh, is, uh, kind of hand all hands on deck, making sure that that gets done. There’s, you know, teams of people in our sport department. And I guess, you know, we think about it sometimes as, um, it’s every four years the Olympics. But as you know, we have a world championships in between. Uh, we have, uh, Pan-Am games. We have a number of other things that are international competition besides Nations Cups. And by the way, we do this in I think it’s seven different FEI disciplines on top of it. So three of them are in the Olympics. So yeah, it is big from that perspective. But I think it’s three out of every four years in the quad. You know there’s a chance a major championship again besides all the international championships that happen every year.
Piper Klemm [00:19:24] That’s all it feels like extra exciting though, given, you know, after last time and not being able to really participate. I felt it was kind of hard to even fan from home last time with with everything being delayed.
Tom O’Mara [00:19:36] I agree with that. The, um, I was fortunate I actually attended the, uh, Tokyo Olympics, and I will say that was the first Olympics I’ve ever gone to in person. Um, but sitting in my role, um, as president of the federation, it was, uh, interesting, uh, perspective. And it was really a great experience. So I have to say kudos and I you’re correct. I think for the fans here in the United States, there was a big time difference, obviously, on the other side of the world, uh, as well as having fans there in person, even if you’re watching from home, you know, there’s a lot of excitement that comes into the arenas, whatever the sport is. I think the athletes feel that our horses and athletes feel that or don’t feel that, I guess for some it might be of benefit to them, um, in all sports. But I do want to say right from the beginning, uh, the Tokyo, the Japanese organizers. I give them credit, you know, that was supposed to happen in 2020. And these are huge endeavors by these countries who put these on, of course. And the way I thought about it was, um, even though it was held in 21, it was postponed a year. And within that, uh, the Covid bubble, they trained people. They were so disciplined. They were so welcoming. Um, there was no I mean, they were serious about making sure nothing went wrong. Now, it wasn’t open to spectators in person. Um, but they did not change their methods. And it was so well organized. And I give the reason I give them great credit was because I don’t know, financially, that must not have been an easy thing for them. And and probably an extra strain during Covid for everybody. They’re trying to drop this bubble of athletes and their delegations from around the world in the middle of Tokyo. And they got it done successfully. So they made a huge commitment. And, you know, uh, you know, it’s like, uh oh, that was definitely all hands on deck. But they did a great job and they presented great support. Now, it’s not the same as all other Olympics. And obviously nothing in the world was during the pandemic. But I think, uh, I think I got to give them credits to start with. But I also agree with you, Piper. Uh, this is going to be fun again. Uh, for people being able to attend, uh, the competitions in person. And it’s in Europe, so it’s kind of closer to our time zones. Uh, especially on the East Coast. Um, and so I think it’s going to be fantastic events.
Piper Klemm [00:22:07] So let’s look a little bit back on on this past year on 2023. Um, you know what? What’s our what’s our state of the Union. How how’s your sport looking? Um, what are we excited about? What? What? Well, what are what are we looking forward to improve in 2024?
Tom O’Mara [00:22:23] Well, I guess I’m kind of an, uh, eternal optimist, but I see a lot of great things happening. Um, doesn’t mean we all do things perfectly well, whether it’s at the Federation or, you know, at a horse show or at a barn or, you know, in our largest, but in, in, in the aggregate and, um, Piper we’ve talked a lot over the years about a lot of different topics, but I think and I know you like looking at numbers as well, but I think, you know, I’m, I’m always say I’m, I feel like I’ve had experience in the numbers game. And to me numbers aren’t actually just absolute, but they are relative also. And um, and I think it goes back to my days in the derivative markets, but that’s what, that’s what you got to keep your eye on as well. And I think we do really well. And I have to say in 2023, you know, and I’ve been prepping a lot of these numbers because in about a week’s time from this airing, we have the US Equestrian Federation annual meeting, which I’m going to give a plug for right now. That is January 12th through the 14th, Friday through Sunday. Um, and they’re shorter than we’ve run them in the past for a couple of reasons. We had pretty good success last year doing a symposium focusing on social license, uh, of our sport, and that was well-regarded and people from all walks of equestrian World and outside of it even attended. And, uh, there’s been a lot of work this year, looking back on this year along those lines within the Federation from all of our affiliates, we sent them back with kind of homework assignments, and there’s been lots of conversations. There was five questions to answer. What does it mean for your breed or discipline? Um, what can we do better? What are the issues? And they came back. They had mid-year assemblies on that with the affiliates. And, um, you probably have seen there’s even specific rules going forward on on horse welfare, not all directly coming from this, but some maybe spurred it on and move them forward quicker. So, uh, I think a lot of things are happening on that front. And anyway, that’s going to be continued. Instead of it being a symposium at the annual meeting this year, it’s going to be we’re calling it more of a workshop, because now they’re getting down to the brass tacks where people are, uh, coming from, again, all breeds and disciplines to sit down and go through some of the, uh, the results or the findings that we’ve collated from lots of different, um, interested parties in that. So. So anyway, that’s my plug for the annual meeting. I also say to people, my, uh, being honest, before I was on the board of directors of the US Federation, I had dialed in and listened in or gotten reports on the annual meeting, but I had not been to one as a horse show dad myself, uh, I had been invited to a number for some awards that some of my kids and horses have won, and, uh, I didn’t have the time to go to them. Um, I think one of my kids or two have gone to those to accept those awards or their trainers did, but I never had a chance to go. But what I learned by going to my first one, when I was added as an independent director eight years ago now to the USEF board 7 or 8 years ago. Um, was that there was a at that time, it was a two hour presentation by my predecessor, Murray Kessler, reviewing the Federation the Year in Review, the state of the Federation. And um, and Murray did it in two hours. Um, we’ve shortened it. I think Bill Maroney and myself will deliver that in about a one hour time frame. And that will be on Friday, January 12th. It’s not live streamed, but it will be recorded. So I encourage and I, uh, as we just got through the year end here, I’ve attended many, um, of our affiliates annual meetings or championships for different disciplines. And one thing I say to everyone is, if there’s one hour that you can spend, uh, listening to a recording, uh, if you can’t be there in person, which I encourage everyone to be. By the way, the annual meetings in Louisville this year. Um, but if you can’t be there in person, you know, about a week later, I’m guessing it’s going to be put up on the USEF Learning Center or USEF network or USEF website somewhere, or all three, probably. I would encourage you to listen to that one hour, because I think it gives us, you know, we all the organization’s big. There’s lots of different members. I’ll go through some stats with you in a second, which I think are positive. And um, but everyone you know has a different thing that they touch the federation for or they, they prioritize. And, but there’s so many things that are done. Uh, again, I’m never going to stand up here and say or talk to you and say that we do everything right, but we try to. And um, so that’s why I also encourage people to listen, because then you’ll hear what we do. And I think it’s a success story. Almost every year I listen to that. I’m like, wow, that was the best hour to listen to. Um, uh, you know, you have to have the time and listen to it. But it also is thought provoking and it creates further discussion when we get people to come to it or listen to it. So I encourage people to do that. But I do think 23 was, uh, a great year. Um, uh, I was thinking back on it versus, say, 22. I remember, uh, giving this state of the federation, uh, discussion in January of 23 for looking back on 22 at our annual meeting. And I think I led off with, you know, whenever you plan something in business and, uh, or any organization, you do some planning on what your year’s going to look like, budgeting, whatever you want to call it. Uh, there’s always the unknown that come up. And, uh, you have to adjust your organization to deal with that. Right. Well, last year there was two major unknowns in 22, which were, um, you know, there was a war in Ukraine and invasion of Ukraine. And then there was, uh, which did impact, uh, international sport and the US. Uh, but then what really impacted, uh, the, the equine world was the EHV outbreak, uh, in the spring, late winter into the spring, um, primarily on the West coast, but all around the country. And, uh, those were severe in 22. And yet we, uh, we, we adjusted and, um, and responded to them, I think, very swiftly, not the Ukraine war. We don’t have anything to do with that. But we supported, uh, horses in Ukraine, uh, no doubt about that. Um, and the Ukrainian Federation continues to thank us, specifically the United States, for the work that we’ve done to help them, um, outside of the rest of the international community, which step forward. But the, um, this year, um, at my speech, at the beginning of it, thinking about anything dramatic or in a bad way, that happened in 23. I mean, there’s certainly one offs and a lot of scenarios that we want to correct, but I think there was vesicular stomatitis kind of as a biosecurity threat, which was contained. And I have to say, I think a lot of the, the, the ability to design protocols under EHV the prior year, which is always pops up every year, but not as severe as it had, and maybe it hadn’t popped up to that extremity and that broadly in maybe ten years. Um, but we have now at the Federation especially, but within the equine world, many more biosecurity experts who guided us, and we actually bought one of the top in the United States, doctor Katie Flynn. She’s now a full time. We took her from the state of California. I think it was where she came from or Kentucky. She was at both. I can’t remember which one in what order. But she now works for us full time just to focus on this, because it’s become that big a part of our world. Right. So when when something popped up this year, our ability to adjust and design protocols and the acceptance of those by our members, exhibitors and organizers was remarkable. So, um, the good news is it didn’t spread as widely. And as far as some experts were predicting, but we were we were ready for it. So I think that was a real you know, these are one of the things that you just, uh, you know, helping prevent a really bad thing from happening. Uh, we’re dealing with the potential of a bad thing. I think it’s a great win. Um, so anyway, but then there’s lots of things that have happened with competitions across all breeds and disciplines, you know, are stronger. Uh, we all know of the ones that aren’t. And we spent a lot of time, you know, uh, listening to people involved with those to see what can be done better. But in the aggregate, you know, the numbers show a lot of strengths.
Piper Klemm [00:31:02] It’s, you know, I feel like our sport moves so quickly in so many ways. Even you just saying that, I was like. I was like, oh yeah, that stuff did happened this year. Um, because, like, once it’s fixed, you don’t think about it anymore. And, uh, kind of as you said, you don’t you don’t think about things with us, our problem and and we, we don’t give anyone else really credit for, for prevention of anything because that’s not fun or dramatic or in the moment.
Tom O’Mara [00:31:28] No, that’s true, that’s true. It means the fact that we prevented something and had things in place. You know, it’s like having the, the reserve, the, on the Army Reserve at your back. You know, we didn’t need to call them, but believe me, they were prepared and in place. Uh, um. But yeah, yeah, the time just does fly each year. I’m like, which thing? But I think that’s a real, uh, a real plus to 2023. I mean, you know, I don’t want to state this like there weren’t issues again. Um, because sometimes people think when I just talk about a lot of positives that we’re missing, you know, those and we’re not. We hear about them. We’re working on them. Um, you know, I think one overarching thing is, you know, as an optimist coming into this, I think the people in our sport are fantastic. Um, and the passion is, I don’t think is as high in any other sport as it is for equestrian sport, primarily, uh, because we have, uh, these wonderful animals as part of our, uh, lives as equestrians, whereas a lot of other sports, you put down your racket, your golf clubs or your soccer ball or basketball and, you know, you don’t have to come back to it for 30 days. But if you’re an active, competing member in the USEF, you probably are involved with some type of a horse which is all consuming, which may be why you said Piper, time flies so far. But if nothing, if major unexpected catastrophies or emergencies don’t happen, I think that’s a great year, right? And I don’t think that. I mean, I know again, being respectful to the the people who’ve had issues because that does happen. But out of the ordinary numbers of issues on a kind of catastrophic scale did not happen this year, uh, in the United States anyway, so I do it does feel pretty good, right? And it does feel like 2023 because of that, I guess.
Piper Klemm [00:33:19] Um, you mentioned social license, which seems to be the topic that, um, comes up with every governing body that I talked to, but does not seem to come up as much in, in, in tabletop conversation. Um, so it’s always kind of interesting. They are um, we have a huge social license, um, issue essentially coming up with the horses and then the race horses, but even more internally, I, I want to talk a little bit about the social license. Uh, are people a little bit. And, you know, when I talk to people, we seem to have this like, uh oh, trainers are out to make money, and and I’m just I always sit there and I’m like, there are a lot there are a lot easier ways to make money. If you want to make money, you’re not going to become a horse trainer um, and then you know and and that, you know, the judges are biased or you know, when I sit down with people and this stuff comes up, I’m like, this doesn’t make rational sense, you know? And and I think we have a little like beyond our social, our external social licenses. I think we’re at a place where we’re really exploring some of our internal social licenses and our internal just things that we, we accept or take as a fact or other people say. And, um, I think those are the ones that come up kind of a tabletop conversation a little bit more.
Tom O’Mara [00:34:45] They do.
Piper Klemm [00:34:45] Um, but I think as we might have to confront social licenses to a larger audience, we’re going to have to have a united front internally. Um, or I feel like we need to be a little more on the same page of of who we are and who we want to be, and then how we get along with each other. And, um, and these things come up a lot. Um, my, my dining room table seats ten and they’re there ten people there all the time. And it ranges, you know, from, from non horse people to horse crowds, academics, everything in between. And um, most non horse people are very curious and want to learn. And I’m not always sure that the horse people give them the kind of best face forward of our industry.
Tom O’Mara [00:35:33] Well, that’s a great point. And uh, and as you were saying that, I think, uh, I discussed this once before with you, probably not in a plaidcast, just in a conversation. But, uh, I don’t think it’s something that’s, uh, just, uh, obviously it’s not. This is not an issue that’s just faces the equestrian world. Um, and that’s why I like your, uh, your your story about your dining room table. Um, it it, um, you know, whoevers sitting at our tables, you know, from whatever walk of life they come from, whatever background they come from, you name it. Um, I think I see it just happening in the world today. And, you know, every time we start down this path, that having this type of a little bit of conversation about the world, you know, I, I really do start feeling like, you know, an old guy, I guess, because I used to always when people said that, I’m like, oh, it’s just an old guy. This is the way the world is. Get used to it. But, um, I think there’s a reason for it. I think there’s the connectivity of information. I think that is both a positive and it’s a negative and it’s overwhelms people. And, you know, even when we see bad things, everyone is notified of it immediately. But, you know, they swipe right or swipe left or whatever way supposed to go. And, um. Because so many are coming. They just, you know, I was saying to someone recently, I think, you know, in the early 1970s when there was an issue, you know, there was a sit in because there was one issue everyone focused on. And, um, now that because we know and in the early 1970s, there were lots of issues around the world, but not we just weren’t they weren’t all at our fingertips. But now that we have so many at our fingertips, you know, it’s just the level of, uh, of how we measure how extreme the situation is before people start really having an uproar on it. But a lot of things just do just also get passed over because of the overwhelming amount of information. But I to your point about, you know, social license with people, I 100% agree. I mean, um, from a from a governance perspective, that is the one thing. This is now my fourth and final year of my term as president, um, uh, of the USEF. But the one thing that has surprised me, I would say if anyone people do ask me. So I’ve said this a couple of times now, I am firmly in belief that my perception going into this, that horse people were great people. That has been reconfirmed time and time and time again. So that’s the great news. That’s the wonderful part about it. But the the very small percentage of people who, um, become what everyone focuses on, who do things outside of, you know, how they should be being done or how we should just treat people, no less the horses and God forbid. And that happens to is just I think that’s surprised me. And, you know, a lot of people have advised me along the way, as you know, there’s times where I’m like, wow, you know, I spent weeks or days or hours dealing with an issue over like a single person. And then, as you know, we always talk about it in the industry, you know, and rules get created and, you know, you never want a rule named after you. But I think there’s been rules over the years in our rule book and in all, by the way, there in all the different breeds and discipline sections of the rule book, not just in the general rules, very specific things that were created for very specific people or groups of people. And that’s what surprised me. I mean, I think I heard of that, uh, you know, being an active participant in the horse show world over the years, someone would talk about a rule being designed for someone who was, found a loophole and went right through it as fast as they could to get an edge or a benefit to themselves or their clients or their horses or whatever. But the extent of that, um. It’s not like it’s pervasive, but I’m just surprised that people do it are so kind of boldface about. And, you know, you got to stop them. So the process works to do that. Um, as we all know, though, people who want to circumvent and do shortcuts or whatever it’s going to be, you know, they can, uh, they’ll continue to look for those whatever rule gets put in place. Um, you know, I say to people, there’s stop signs all over American red lights all over America, and people drive through them all the time. So, um, just because it’s there doesn’t mean you’re going to stop people who want to do it. Um, but that, I think, was my biggest surprise. I was just a little shocked by it’s not like it’s a huge, huge number, but there’s pretty boldface about it and it’s just. And then if you call them out on it, they’re a little bit like, what are you talking about? Um, you know, they, they try to advocate for being bad sports. Bad, you know, horsemen or something along those lines, which is that’s that’s surprising to me. But it gets worked out in the long run for sure.
Piper Klemm [00:40:08] Do you think officials are becoming more empowered to speak up by now? Over the years, I’ve I’ve interviewed many, many stewards and many judges who are almost afraid, it seems, to to do the right thing because of repercussions.
Tom O’Mara [00:40:26] No, you know this. We hear that all the time as well. And, uh, I do feel, um. That we’re we’re we’re gaining traction in that regard with, uh, you know, uh, a review of it. You know what? Why is that? Right? That’s the question to be asked. Why is that? Why do they feel that way? More importantly, um, you know, that is one other thing that when we hear about that things, you know, sometimes people stand up in front of a crowded room and just tell a story. And I’m not even certain that the story can be verified. But, um, then that becomes social license issue just because people speak out loud about things. So I’m not doubting these issues, you know, whether, you know, this happens with horse welfare, with safe sport, with, you know, we can’t doubt the issues that’s brought up, but we do gotta it. They do have to be looked into. And sometimes, you know, half the things you hear about halfway through and half of them might not be as much. But but it’s it does seem like, uh, stewards and a lot of licensed officials and most recently. Right. Judges we hear I mean, I read articles that are written about this. I’m not disclosing anything. Uh, that’s not public, but just in the public domain. You hear these stories, you see these stories, they are reported. Um, I do see, um, the public sanctions that come out against people, uh, when they do come out via hearings for people violating rules in regards to bad behavior. Um, and I am shocked by that, too. Right. Again, the rules are created for certain behaviors at ringside by whether it’s a parent or a trainer or exhibitor. Uh, you know, um, so, so it’s tough on, on some people to have to be, you know, is that getting any worse? I don’t have the answer. Is that getting worse than what it was or or not. And does that putting more weight on the people who were monitoring it, perhaps in the past, and who still we’re still requiring them to monitor it as it’s getting worse? Maybe that’s what the problem is. But we have sat down with, uh, you know, there are steward committees and, uh, judging task force, which is underway, which is, you know, dealing, working with a lot of licensed officials, um, and, uh, primarily in the jumper world, but they’ve opened it up and are having conversations with other breeds and disciplines as well. And, um, you know, we have effected a number of new changes regarding, uh, you know, penalty guidelines are stronger. And, you know, we hate just running around with the hammer trying to control people. But at some point in time, you know, some penalties hadn’t changed in 20 years. So, you know, some people just look at it as it’s not even a problem to pay a fine. Um, so those are some things have been adjusted, but I think we’re getting, uh, you know, we may not be ahead of the wave right now, but at least we recognize the wave and we’re on the wave with everybody. And, um, I’m hopeful, you know, that people continue to do the right thing for our sport because it is a social license problem. And if there’s just bad behavior and someone new walks into a barn and the first person they talk to is like a parent, and they say, you walk into a barn with your kid, you want to talk to some other parents about it, and they start talking about some of the bad things they hear about. Again, some of them may not even be true, but my gosh, we want them to walk in a barn and be a welcoming world and people talk positive about it. So, um, I know it exists, but I think we’re getting ahead of it.
Piper Klemm [00:43:45] You said right at the beginning, you know, your responsibility is the Olympics all the way down to to the grassroots. Um, I know you’ve taken a lot of initiatives to think more about the grassroots. And, you know, I think historically, we can agree that, um, the federation didn’t always get involved in grassroots things quite as much as maybe they, they should have or they could have helped. Um, you know, I think having, you know, I say all the time, you know, the more you sleep in your own bed, the more cost effective the sport becomes really quickly. I think any sport where you’re traveling, you have, you know, staff is traveling. You know it. It’s not. Of course, this will always be expensive, but also travel will always be expensive, and there’s no way to keep people on the move and keep it economical for most families in this country. Um, you know what? What is the Federation doing and thinking about of, of kind of revamping, I would say the structure that almost like took off with itself, you know, like it all the rules made sense at the time. And then things evolves based on rules and markets and, and but we we’ve kind of ended up with the system that you look around and you’re like, uh, no one would really have quite designed it this way.
Tom O’Mara [00:45:06] Well that’s true. Um, um, yeah. You know, it it is difficult. I think what you’re saying is it’s, you know, the where is the entry level, how well defined is it again, across all breeds and disciplines. And, um, it is the federation’s responsibility. But I think one of the things we, I like to kind of draw a map, you’re not in front of me and I can’t do this visually, but. Not a map. Maybe just a picture, but the picture is, um, it is a triangle, right? Um, or a pyramid and, uh, the the obviously the the wider base at the entry level is very, very important. And, uh, the federation, we do, uh, have programs and we do create the framework for that entire pyramid. So, um, the framework of sport. So whether you are at the grassroots level or at a high performance level, um, you know, the same rules and regulations now, certain parts apply to different, uh, levels of the pyramid. But, you know, that’s, that’s the key to have consistency no matter where you are now, I know people will argue that it’s not always consistent, but that is the key. That’s the goal. Um, and by having all these things in place, it does cover the entire pyramid. But the other thing is, when it comes to programs and things for people to do at the different stages, uh, in the pyramid, um. You know, what is our involvement? And our involvement is kind of measured not by just direct involvement by the Federation, but the other part of the pyramid or not, of the pyramid. Another diagram I can show you would be the, um, the umbrella or the organizational structure, because underneath the federation, we are a federation of other entities. And the federation, uh, that’s what makes it a federation. We have 28 breeds and disciplines underneath us as well as and that they they’re therein lies 17. I think it is 17 or 18 actual affiliates. Um, so those are organizations that are horse associations and at the national level for different breeds or disciplines, as we are all familiar with, and they spend a lot of their time and money focused on the grassroots and entry level, which we then support. Right? So, you know, someone once said to me, if you looked at our P&L, look like we spent as much, uh, at a certain levels as in other levels. And in my opinion, you have to look at them in the aggregate. So our sport, because we do govern, um, things that fall at the grassroots level, even if it’s being run by the, uh, Arabian at the Arabian Horse Association, at the entry level, the Saddle Bridge, the Morgans, uh, the past the finals under USAF sanctioned events at all levels, US hunter jumper and um so in the aggregate, when you throw all those back in, right, all the different affiliate, uh, work, which a lot of that is done at the, um, grassroots to intermediary up to the advanced levels. And then, of course, high performance is pretty much, uh, falls under the, under our, uh, umbrella directly. But that’s what adds to the, um, you know, to the financial structure as well as the program structure, which the money follows that, um, because the money comes in and we spend it on programs, you know, we are a 501c3, we don’t have a PNL at the end of the year, we what we bring in, we put out into horse programs at all those different levels, and then we work and coordinate with the affiliates to see what they’re doing at each level, to make sure that we’re not duplicating it or replicating it. Sometimes we do, but, you know, if there’s a good reason. But that’s discussed, uh, between the affiliates and the federation. But in the aggregate, I think it looks really strong. And I think there’s lots of entry level programs. Um, and now it may be difficult to navigate, you know, all those different programs. I do think that’s, uh, possibly a problem. You know, maybe we slice and dice too many programs. Uh, depends on what breed or discipline you’re in again. But, uh, the point of doing them is to help. Um, and sometimes, you know, we can overshoot. We’re creating too many programs, quite frankly. So I was looking at our numbers in 23, uh, and our budget for 24. And Piper, I gotta say, I can. You know, hand on heart, tell people, you know, we have two councils where there’s three councils, from a governance perspective, underneath the board of directors at the federation, and one is the member Services Council, which is where most programs and services that we provide to our members and exhibitors lies. And then the other two fall along the lines of sport. One is the National Breeds and Discipline Council. So that’s all national side. That’s where all the national disciplines and breeds, uh, report into and we govern the sport, uh, in the national side through that council, uh, through committees going into that council. And the other side is the, the other councils, the international discipline councils. Um, so those are the FEI, uh, disciplines, um, fall into, into that realm and we kind of break down our budget budgeting across those three councils just from a manage a business management perspective. But when I looked at it, I was really excited. And I will be presenting this to our board at our annual meeting. We have our annual board meeting also. Um, the old board will be one board. The current board, uh, will be uh, ending its term and the new board will be starting and there’ll be some change of board members during that process. But it’s I’m excited to be able to stand up in front of them and give them the exact numbers. Um, but, uh, I can tell you that on the national side, over the last three and a half, four years, we have doubled just under the programs that are directly under the auspices. We’ve doubled the amount of money that we’ve spent on the national programs during that period of time. And on the international side, we’ve it’s also increased like on it’s up about 140%. It’s pretty 100 and 30, 140. And I’ll have it right in front of me. But it’s significant also. And um, so I think that’s really an important message to say, you know, as we have created the ability and as the sport has grown, and when we see revenues, we’re not pocket. And then, uh, we’re putting them right back out. And that to me is a great, uh, way to look at it. Financial visual is, uh, the those pies are larger. And, uh, as we had some new revenues from some new things, uh, initiatives that we’ve undertaken and just from the general growth of the number of rounds going on in sport in 23 and 24, hopefully we project versus 21 ish right after 20 especially. We don’t look at 20 as a good year because as the Covid year, uh, so we often look right back to 2019, which was the peak year before Covid, and all the numbers are higher. And because there’s been increased revenues, we put them back into the sport. So I think that’s a good thing. I think that’s a great way to look at it.
Piper Klemm [00:52:10] How does the structure work after your president this year, do you go back onto the board automatically to kind of share that expertise, or what’s the structure of, uh, um, kind of where you go next after 2024?
Tom O’Mara [00:52:25] Well, um, that’s a good question. I don’t know all the answers, but I do know that I, um, the term of president, uh, the president is elected by the board, and, um, I can serve a second term. So, um, that’s something that’s. And then that doesn’t get announced or get decided really by until the board sits down at the annual meeting in a week or so. So, um, you know, personally, I am open to that. So we’ll see what happens. Um, and I think that’s an, um, and the reason I say that is because, you know, four years ago, four and a half years ago, the board, I was part of a strategic planning group on the board, and we looked at, you know, what we wanted to do over the ensuing four years. And that when I became president or chairman of the board, I was basically, um, my role is to enact the strategic plan and make sure that our CEO, Bill Moroney, is, um, leading the troops within, uh, the federation, the employees, the staff to execute on that strategic plan. So, um, when I look at it over the four years, what I look at, Piper, is that there was, uh, a lot of unexpected things that we didn’t plan for. Um, Covid took out the whole first, most of the first year. Right. It was got a huge adjustment that we had to make. And I’m proud of how we responded. And support responded. And all participants responded. Um, you know, I’ve always said, you know, we were the first sport to reopen for competition in the United States. Golf courses open up, but they didn’t have competitions. And we opened, I think two and a half months after Covid shut everything down. Now, everyone might not have, uh, appreciated the mask game and and all that stuff, but those were the protocols that we put forward to get permission from each state by state, quite frankly, to operate, uh, before the federal government even had protocols for outdoor activities again. And, uh, and we did that, um, the federation did that. We went to state. Each state’s uh, or Department of state at the state’s or what at each one has a different name for it. Um, and we sent forward and we had written, sat down and wrote up, um, using the WHOand the CDC guidelines and protocol and came up with what we could do outdoors. So that worked, and that was a lot of work. Um, I will tell you, some of those states have since, uh, shortly after that, they actually applied those same protocols that we developed for equestrian competitions, and they applied them to other outdoor activities, and they gave us kudos for it, which was nice. Um, so that was a tough first year there. The second year, of course, we had, uh, my second year as president, we had this huge EHV, you know, shut down the West Coast for a significant part of the winter circuits, uh, and beyond. And that was a big hit. So a lot of the things. So I’m pointing those out because those do happen. Unexpected things happen. Uh, you just can’t plan for them. You have to adjust to them when they happen. But what it did was our strategic plan. What I thought we’d get done in four years. We didn’t get done in four years. Uh, well, we still have another year here, of course, but I don’t think we’re going to get it all done in four years. But we’re well on the way down that path to completing a lot of these things. Just a few things got, you know, waylaid by, uh, things out of our control. So I would like to get them all done and, you know, so we’ll see how that works. I think the board wants to get them all done, too, but I can’t speak for them. Um, so I’m, you know, I’m hopeful that that that would happen. So would you ask kind of about other, you know, what else could I do? I don’t know, because that would be my, uh, the first thing I think I would, uh, I’m interested in doing. We’ll see how that works out. But you’re allowed to serve. I think it’s two terms on the board. And then you have to be off for a year or so or some period of time, and then you could come back. Um, but, uh, we’re trying to get things done for the sport. I’d like to continue helping with that many, whatever my role is going to be.
Piper Klemm [00:56:14] We have a really interesting, um, you know, I think certain fields kind of face us more than others. And, um, you know, even thinking about, like, um. You know, my husband, Adams, a chemistry professor. And the pre-med standards. You know, no matter how much kids change or miss during the pandemic or any of this stuff, like, you still have to meet the pre-med standards. Doctors need to have have criteria. And, um, I interestingly, I think our sport is a lot of the same in that training horses hasn’t really changed fundamentally. Um, and, and people gain, you know, more experience and more feel and then more ways to do things. Um, but a lot of it’s that consistency that there’s really no way to disrupt school in general. Otherwise someone would have done it by now. Um, I would argue that there’s no real way to disrupt horse training, like it’s a daily, consistent thing. Um, which people are struggling with of of how we’ve how we live our lives and. We have people who are more sedentary and less outside than ever. Um, how do we. Keep encouraging the next generations to to join us. And this is a worthwhile pursuit. And, you know, it’s a lot of hard work that that’s very worthy of their time.
Tom O’Mara [00:57:36] Well, that’s that’s an excellent question. Um, the first thing that comes to mind, uh, to me, anyway, to my mind is, um, because we’re not a mainstream sport as, however that’s defined in the United States, we’re just not one of those right at this point in time. But it’s okay, because there are more sports that are not mainstream than there are mainstream. I think there’s 3 or 4 main sports, right, that that everyone in the country watches. And um, what I think we don’t have and I observed this as a horse show dad, um, walking around horse shows and again, uh, listening and reading about, um, this the leaders of our sports as they all got together and discussed, um, the state of the state and all those types of things. And, um, I do remember before I went to the USEF annual meeting and I went to a USGA annual meeting and, um, um, and I listened. I just went to see what was going on, and it happened to be close by to wherever I was at the time. So it was convenient as well. But, um, I listened and the thing that hit me was, and everyone’s been asking this question, uh, I think Piper for a long time, like, it’s not so much is how do we how do we get more people involved with the sport and whether they don’t want to be outside now any more than in the past? You know, I you know, I can’t answer that part of the question, but I think it’s still the bigger question is just like how to get more people involved with the sport. And, you know, I’ve gone back to. Um, some, some, some thoughts I’ve created over the years around that. Um, but a lot of it came from listening to horse people talk about the state of our sport. And, you know, people always fall onto, uh, it’s expensive and kids want to do different things this days, and they’re all online or whatever it’s going to be. But I think and those are true. But I don’t think they’ll stop, uh, unless we’re just trying to get people to come and take lessons. You know, to me, the biggest hurdle. Yes, there’s a financial hurdle for sure, but there’s ways to get involved without having to attack the largest financial hurdles. I think there’s other barriers to entry, and I think the biggest one is, um, proximity to horses. Um, you know, not, you know, years ago there used to be horses close to urban areas and more crowded areas. But now, as land gets more expensive and certain parts of the country especially, it becomes more valuable to use it as something else. And that’s the problem we have for agriculture. It’s a it’s a big problem. But the reason I bring that up is because that’s not the only way. If we think of it as a we thinking about it as a, as a business, like, as are we trainers or horse show organizers managing the sport and saying, let’s get everyone to ride horses, which is the ultimate goal? Um, or would we look at it like other sports and get people to watch? All right, these people are called fans. Um, it’s not hopefully it’s not lost on too many people. That’s why we created a new fan account for people to stay connected with the USEF. But they’re not competing members. They’re just people who love our sport. We didn’t have a place for them in the past. Um, as of the end of 2023, we now have 392,000 of them. Right. And that’s in just a couple of years. These are people who are and obviously we have over a million people, unique individuals who follow us and want us to be at least looking at stories about horses that we put out via our social media platform for different or more social media platforms. So they’re out there. I think there’s more people out there who are interested in the horse, and we’ve seen statistics and studies that show that. I mean, we’re talking about thousands and hundreds of thousands. We’re talking millions of people. And as a sport, I think my approach has been it’s part of our strategic plan is to get a million fans following us and to connect. And that’s 3% of the 27 million people who supposedly sat on the horse a couple of years ago, which is, you know, a third of all households. And there’s another study that says there’s a third of all households have someone who loves a horse. And the good news is 50% of the people, 50% of those households, the person who loves a horse is under the age of 25. So there is still an interest. Now, there’s may be hurdles and they can’t get to becoming, uh, you know, ride like us, look like us, all those things. But they’re interested in horses. So to me, we’ve broadened our umbrella to be able to connect with those types of people, because I think that does help our sport in the long run. And, um, and this is, again, one of my long winded answers to your question was the more people who end up knowing about our sport, the numbers of people who participate in our sport will continue to increase.
Piper Klemm [01:02:30] I, I completely agree, um, you know, I was on a on a plane a couple of weeks ago and chatting with the lady sitting next to me, and, um, she got very excited when I brought up horses and showed me probably 30 pictures of her and this horse she met that she was petting at her in her neighbors backyard and just had picture after picture at her phone. And, um, yeah, it’s it’s everyone, you know, it’s it’s getting people excited and inviting your friends to the barn, you know, including people. Um, and I think that’s something we can all control and we can all be a part of, and we can all take responsibility for including new people in our sport.
Tom O’Mara [01:03:10] I think many people in our sport do that and want to do that, but I think we just got to keep reminding them of it, and that’s an important part. If we counted all the people that everyone who’s a competing member of the USEF has talked to about horses, who are excited about horses, who aren’t competing, remember the USEF, you know, it’s a huge number. The reaches is huge. And, um, and we’re all, you know, come from families. And all of USEF members might be the only member in their family or some. We all have extended families. You have a dining room table of ten people with who very often aren’t all equestrians. And I’m sure they they want to hear at least some part of the conversation about what you’re doing in the equestrian sport and their interested in, in it. Um, so I do think it’s a, it’s a topic. It’s a, it’s a sport. It’s a lifestyle that people do like. And, um, I do feel that’s kind of the role of central i.e the federation to kind of get exposure and get um, get in, in. Front of more non equestrians so that the rising tide lifts all boats. And I’ve had this conversation with all of our affiliates and many, most of their boards of directors, and they’re thankful because we are doing that as part of our action plan. And we’re seeing great, uh, headway being made both on the digital media side as well as linear. Uh, I can tell you, two years ago, I think we had two ish events on one of the ESPN, for instance. Uh, um, and, you know, there’s ESPN, ESPN two, three, ESPN news, ESPN, there’s a couple of different ones. So I can’t tell you the exact ones that we were on. It was not the primary one, but it was on. They’re all significant in their own way. And this past year in 23, I know the number is somewhere between 8 and 10 events. Um, they’re interested because you know why? When they put it out there, they see they’re not taking our word for it. They’re putting it out there and they’re watching how many people are watching. And you know what? People are watching. So they they’ve come back. And I said, keep doing this. Get us more, get us more product, which is, you know, all these things cost a lot of money to create and produce, but we’re doing it. We’re working on it, uh, on a shoestring, creatively working with partners, people who are willing to to lean into that. And it’s happening. Um, so I see that it’s going to be like one of those hockey stick projections. So the connections that we have to non equestrians via these, uh, mechanisms is significant. And um, and we’re creating new content and new potential uh, events that will be broadcast. And um, I’m, you know, you’re out there, uh, flying on a lot of flights talking to the non equestrians. Um, I, I, I always stack up a lot of the magazines that I get, I still get the hard print because I like looking at them that way. And I do travel a lot and not when I’m driving, but when I do fly, I grab a stack of them and I read all of them, mostly cover to cover, just to make sure I got, you know, each discipline and breeds, what’s new and happening, you know, a little bit of a understanding of it. But ever people on the plane, you know, when I go to throw out the magazines, after I finish them with the flight attendants are walking up and down, they keep them, they put them under their arm and like, can I have it? I’m like, yeah, I like horses, I like this, I like that. I’m like, okay. So, um, people do like it. If we were just walking up and down a plane handing out your magazine, I think that would be effective. They would all take it and read it, at least during the airplane flight. You gotta make a version that they could read in a two hour flight, I guess.
Piper Klemm [01:06:43] Yeah. I mean, I think there’s so much opportunity and, you know, it’s it’s on all of us to to talk to non horse people and make them feel welcome and make them feel encouraged and walk them through whatever we can.
Tom O’Mara [01:06:57] Yeah. And people shouldn’t feel bad that my one of my points is the first step on that is not like, oh, and it’s really expensive and you got to travel out to the rural areas to find a horse. Like we shouldn’t even live with that. Just watch it or follow us. It’s free. Log in. I have a little five that they made for me in our membership department because I always say I meet people and I want to make them fans. They can. That’s right on my keychain. And I just whatever. I touch it to their phone and, uh, it opens them up there. They can become a fan. They have to type in 1 or 2 things and they’re a fan. They follow us and they can, you know, opt out whenever they want. But people want to at least follow it and, and learn about it. And we brought it to schools and other organizations and non equestrian organizations, and they sign people up just to take a look at it. And you know, people are inquisitive and people like horses. So kind of joins together. There’s something for them to look at. They can get access to much of the a lot of the programing on the US network, which is now much bigger. We supersize that with an international deal and a partner and we see more people. I was down at the Pan-Am games and um, I looked at some of the statistics on viewership, uh, the different ways people it was being broadcast around the world, um, and less so around the world because it was Pan American Games, but definitely within the Americas, but around the world as well. And I think it’s interesting. There was a Pan-Ams continental championships, um, and the second largest viewership out of the United States was, I think it was Germany. It was one of the European countries. And I looked at it, I was like, wow, here we were. It was a Pan American Championships. And they were watching, um, they were watching our eventing. They were watching our showjumping. They were watching our dressage. And, uh, all of them, they were the second largest and not inconsequential numbers. It was pretty serious. So they were watching and maybe they weren’t watching Americans, but they were watching, you know, people from all the different American countries, uh, of the Americas. So that was really interesting to see that. So, uh, and they were probably mostly equestrians, I get that, but, you know, we’re starting to make headway with the non equestrian world too, which is obviously a lot bigger. You know, the one thing I always point out to people is and you and I have talked about this Piper what is the number one watch sport on. Television in the United States. The number one watch sport. All of us. Everybody loves this sport. Well, more people love this sport than any other sport, I guess. Right?
Piper Klemm [01:09:20] Um is it Taylor Swift?
Tom O’Mara [01:09:22] haha it might be. But notice where she’s been spending some time lately.
Piper Klemm [01:09:26] Exactly, no I’m teasing. But yeah. Football.
Tom O’Mara [01:09:29] There you go. And I remember I read only because, um, she’s been going to some football games lately. Uh, but she grew up, her father took her to football games. And so, anyway, um, she didn’t become a football player, but she, um, she still enjoys the sport. But the number one sport that’s watched on television in the United States is football. And I always say to people, 99% of men, we stop playing football, backyard football, even organized football when we’re about 13, because we’re not going to be big enough or fast enough to get to the NFL. And, um, and there’s not an organized, uh, um, football for, uh, women. Um, there are some flag leagues now, which is good and, um, which is growing, by the way. But, you know, just prior to the last five years, there really was nothing yet women it’s the number one watch sport by women as well. So that’s what I always say to people, uh, when we’re competing, when we’re equestrians, when we’re on horses, we want other people to be riding horses. But you can have a sport that the number one watched sport in the United States is a sport that none of us do. Um, the smallest group of us do. I heard someone recently say, if you took all the competing members of the USEF, that wouldn’t even fill a football stadium. Like that’s how much bigger football is. And I think that’s the wrong analogy because, um, the people in the stadium are fans. And that’s exactly my point. I want to see that many people following our sport. But the players on the field, you know, there’s only 1900 people in the NFL. That’s it. Uh, that’s how many people make it as a pro in that sport. Now, in college, there’s a 130. D1 programs with six independent of conferences 136, they have 110 people on each one. So I don’t know what that adds up to. It’s like 14 or 15,000. Um, is that right, or am I off by zero there? Anyway? Um, you know, football, not a sport that we all do. Number one watch sport in the United States. So I want to appreciate the ability with certain formats and certain events. Uh, I know that we can reach millions of people and that will bring it to the forefront. And then those who want to explore it further from all walks of life will figure out a way to get there, because I know we have programs and access for all of them.
Piper Klemm [01:11:49] Amazing. Well, Tom, thank you so much for joining us, and we look forward to a great 2024 from from the grassroots all the way up to the Olympics.
Tom O’Mara [01:11:59] I agree, I agree it’s going to be exciting. And the Paralympics Paralympics are also in Paris about two weeks after the Olympics, and we’re very excited about that. And that’s really just, uh, a wonderful event. And we got some of the greatest athletes in the world who they are truly amazing and probably probably more amazing, um, to be able to do what they do with the situations that they’re in. So, uh, really looking forward to that as well. Little plug people probably don’t know. We had our FEI para driving, uh, world championship this past year. Um, I don’t know if all your viewers follow driving. No less power driving, Piper, but, um, we had a woman win the gold medal in that individually for the second time, and our U.S. team was silver medal. For the first time, we haven’t even had enough participants in that, I think, to have teams in past couple of championships. Um, but it’s growing. Uh, it’s an access area for para athletes in driving, and it’s growing in the United States. So pretty excited about that, too.
Piper Klemm [01:13:02] I love that. I, um, I hadn’t seen a ton of, uh, the driving the FEI driving horses and then, um, Misty Wrigley, Miller’s horse was the, uh, the key keynote horse at Breyer Fest, and I got to see, um, him in action. And it was it was incredible.
Tom O’Mara [01:13:20] Just some great horses. They had some nice ones there too.
Piper Klemm [01:13:23] So yeah, I that’s another great thing to look forward to. And, and people can check out and, um, there’s a lot of great new content and resources on the U.S equestrian website. And um, I think it’s going to be a great year.
Tom O’Mara [01:13:36] I do too. So for all of you listening today, find that, uh, state of the state that I’m giving, um, uh, on the you’ll see all the data and numbers and kind of growth projections and part of the plan, things that we did, things that we’re planning on doing. It’s pretty exciting. One hour. Um, uh, video. And that will be on Friday, January 12th.
Piper Klemm [01:15:57] To learn more about anything we’ve discussed on today’s show, visit the Plaid horse.com. You can find show notes at theplaidhorse.com/Listen. Follow the plaid horse on all the social medias. You can subscribe to the print edition of the Plaid Horse Magazine at theplaidhorse.com/Subscribe. Please rate and review the plaidcast anywhere you listen to it. And if you enjoyed this episode, please share it with your friends. I will see you at the ring!