Day after day – The way we were, we are now and will be in the future
Nelson Pessoa, Neco, a horseman of immeasurable wisdom and experience, has been and still is a direct witness of the changes that have affected our sport starting in the 1960s. This is what he had to say.
Slow but constant
There have been changes and this is obvious.
It all happened over time with a slow but constant evolution. This does not apply so much to the talent shown by riders which is the same for those 100 years ago, 50 years ago or for those who will ride in the future, but instead applies to the sport’s evolution, the number of people involved, the number of horses, of shows, which have all increased exponentially. These large numbers provide greater chances of providing us with more great riders and therefore champions. This is in a sense a good thing. As in all things, evolution does not always lead to better quality in general, or a better standard of living, but in our sport there are many things one should consider as positive: sport as an industry, the quality of the horses, the number of horses and riders and the entire sector’s industrial aspect that has become gigantic.
Sport & Business vs Business & Sport
However, I believe that equestrianism has changed from being first of all a sport that allowed one to do business into business that has become part of the sport. Nowadays it is business that comes first and then sport. There is a significant difference. That is my opinion. The financial and managerial aspects of things have changed too. Allow me to make an example; when I lived in Geneva my home was close to the International Equestrian Federation headquarters (FEI), once an antique house in which just 3 or 4 people worked. Nowadays the FEI headquarters consist of an entire building in Lausanne; this proves very clearly the evolution of our sport and it is this evolution that has resulted in great changes also in the lives of the athletes. Nowadays riders are constantly travelling, they travel continuously from one end of the world to the other and it is hard for them to live a normal family life. In the course of one same week-end many riders travel from one show to another and then are off to do the same again the following week. I too travelled a great deal in my day, ever since I started. I would compete in 16 shows a year, which was already a lot! Then we moved up to 32, and then more and more; but nowadays it’s really incredible! We human beings are like that, we always exaggerate, we always want more. Those who observe us from the outside judge us, but those who are inside this vortex are oblivious, they consider it normal. Well, it is not.
Nowadays the whole world sees everything. All eyes are on us. We have to be very careful how we behave, how our horses are managed, we cannot and must not make mistakes because any mistake or problem is immediately in the public eye. We see this happening in many aspects of our daily lives. People are more attentive, they watch, they inform and report things.
What will the future bring?
I am not able to provide advice concerning what one should do, the only thing I can see and clearly state is that those involved in managing and organising our sport must seriously think about protecting it, starting by establishing a limit to exaggerations that are inevitably reflected on the horses. It has all become too much for the horses. But if we continue to let things go, if we don’t stop, if we continue to postpone setting limits and really think about protecting horses from these excesses, if we continue to ignore matters, the monster will continue to grow bigger and bigger day after day… And yet, amidst this quantity of shows, amidst the confusion, this mad race to always achieve more, what remains unchanged is the beauty of shows such as Aachen, Calgary, Rome… those shows that date back 30, 40, 50 years and still maintain their charm. We need to start over from there, from those feelings, from that lifestyle, from the times when being a rider was a privilege thanks to the quality of life and the sharing that characterised each and every show. Every single moment was lived in full; every show was a chance to improve. Nowadays it is all a race against time clutching a stopwatch. I don’t know what the future holds, we shall see.
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