Blogger Contest Round 2: Seija Samoylenko

We recently announced the final three Blogger Contest finalists, and now we’re bringing you each submission from Round 2 here on Bloggers Row. We will be posting all six entries over the next few days, so be sure to check them out and leave your feedback in the comments.

All entries will be reprinted without editing for fairness’ sake. Thanks again for your support and readership, EN! We are thrilled to have such quality entries yet again this year.

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I grew up (and still live) a little bit outside of Boston.  If you know anything about Boston, you might know the people here love their sports (and particularly their sports teams).  The Pats, the Bruins, the Celtics, the Sox…I’ve been to many games, watched countless playoffs, World Series, and Super Bowls at home, with friends, and at parties.  Watching sports here is part of the lifestyle, and it’s what you talk about with a stranger after you talk about the weather (which is always a hot topic in Boston).

What makes people like watching sports?  Why are some sports more popular than others? Some of by best childhood memories are going to Fenway Park for Red Sox games with my dad.  Half of the fun was the game itself, but the other part was the experience.  You saw in real life all the superstars on television, you ate peanuts and cracker jacks, you sang Sweet Caroline in the seventh inning.  Those are the kind of experiences that make sporting events meaningful long after the game is decided.

What needs to be done to “change” eventing? I don’t think there are foundational problems with our sport, how its conducted, or how its scored.  We don’t need riders to start training for half-marathons to “spice up” the competition.   I think of eventing in some ways like major league baseball.  There are moments when it’s exciting, but there are also times when it’s pretty slow and boring. The balance we need to strike is an environment fair to competitors and the horses, while being really engaging with the spectators.

This year was my first trip to Rolex CCI****.  I always had considered going to watch a four star pretty overrated—I would rather be riding my horse.  But on Wednesday afternoon when I walked into the stadium, saw horses schooling, and the horse park in all it’s glory I realized there is something special about watching riders of this caliber in real life.  For the first time at an event it felt like walking into Fenway for me.

The solution may be to finally accept there are two levels of the sport out there: one for the professionals or high-level competitors, and the lower-levels. I love the my local Area 1 events where I’ve grown up competing, but that isn’t the same atmosphere you see at Rolex, Fair Hill, or any FEI event.  Why not create a better system where riders, like other athletes, are ranked?  Why not make it priority to have commentators who are a mix of horse and non-horse people that actually engage the spectators?  Why not have each rider pick their own walk-on song? People like understanding the rules of the game and they like picking favorite players or teams.  People want to know the odds Michael Jung will win versus a first time competitor.  Rolex gave me so much hope that there can be a future for eventing as a well-respected Olympic level sport, and I believe the answer is simpler than we all think it is. The problem is how equestrians as athletes understand themselves and connect with the non-horse people of the world.  If we as eventers demand to be taken seriously as a world-class professional sport, and can provide a meaningful experience to an audience, we will be.

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