The British equestrian team enjoyed unprecedented success at the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. The outstanding success made the national headlines and introduced a whole new audience to the sport. Having raised the profile of what many consider to be elitist disciplines, what has been done to capitalise on the success achieved and bring the sport to the masses?
The British Equestrian Federation (BEF) started planning the Olympic legacy as early as 2007 by evolving a detailed strategy for raising accessibility to riding in Greater London and then rolling out the plans across the whole country. The aims were to raise the profile of the sport, set up and develop new riding facilities in London and to establish a riding programme through the schools in the area. A legacy campaign called “Hoof” has been established to act as an umbrella for various projects to promote equestrianism.
Hoof aims to introduce a more people to horse riding by connecting them to riding centres, sporting organisations and clubs. The campaign is particularly focused on particular social groups – the disabled, underprivileged and those who would find it difficult to access riding facilities. This is done via the Hoof website www.hoofride.co.uk, social networks, working with schools and special projects across the country including Take Up the Reins and Take Back the Reins. The campaign is also encouraging people to get involved as volunteers and give the gift of their experience and expertise to others.
Take Up the Reins is a new initiative to encourage the nation to get into the saddle. A team are touring the country with three mechanical horses visiting shopping centres, high streets, universities and tourist attractions to spread the message. The public are offered the chance to ride the horses to get a feel for the sport and are then given information about how they can get involved in riding. Take Back the Reins is a project working in conjunction with riding centres to offer a series of lessons for lapsed riders to help them get back in the saddle. There are thought to be over four million people who have ridden in the past but for a variety of reasons no longer participate. The Hoof website gives details of where you can access a course.
Is The Plan Working?
So have the new initiatives actually worked? A new riding facility has been established in Greenwich and riding stables are reporting an increase in uptake since the Olympics. An increased interest in the sport can also be seen at major equestrian events which are experiencing a greater demand for tickets and higher visitor numbers. It does appear that the British Success in the Olympics combined with a carefully planned strategy for the future is creating an increased interest and participation in horse riding. It will be a difficult task to change the widely held belief that riding is for the privileged but the Hoof campaign has made an excellent start… so get your gloves, don your boots and get riding!
Sally Stacey is an experienced rider with competition experience as well as a blogger, business owner and lover of sports. Read more at Sally’s Google+ page.