‘Military’ to ‘Eventing’ to … ‘Iron Horse’?

The FEI's recent proposal to re-name eventing, presumably are meant to align with the FEI core objective to “ensure the competition to be the ‘best sport entertainment’ — attractive, modern, TV and spectator friendly,” have been met with a great deal of controversy. Kim Keppick suggests that maybe it IS time to "think outside the box" and package our sport for broader public appeal.

Kim Keppick representing Ireland with Leander in France in 1981 when the sport was still called Military there. Photo by Terry Baker. Kim Keppick representing Ireland with Leander in France in 1981 when the sport was still called Military there. Photo by Terry Baker.

Imagine the TV announcer’s introduction:

Welcome to Iron Horse, a grueling test for horse and rider. So grueling, in fact, that only military horses and riders were allowed compete until the 1956 Olympics.

The sport has changed some since those days but one thing remains constant: Only the fittest, the best trained and best cared for horses will prevail. The requirements of each phase:

DAY 1: Calmness, suppleness and harmony as horse and rider dance together with invisible cues.

DAY 2: A daring ride through open land filled with solid jumps, huge ditches, water complexes all on varying terrain. Horse and rider must be brave yet still have the technical expertise to thread a needle to clear all the jumps. You must jump clear and be fast. Otherwise you could be eliminated or rack up so many penalties that you have no chance of winning.

DAY 3: Your horse must pass a vet check to show that he is still fit and healthy to continue. Then horse and rider face a stadium jumping test, over fences that will fall with the touch of a toe. These tired horses must show great heart to give it their all.

If an announcer were to open with lines like this would it make the casual person scrolling their TV guide stay and watch? Does the word Iron Horse or even International Horse Trials encourage someone to at least click to see the info?

The FEI’s renaming suggestions for eventing (“Equestrian Triathlon,” “Equestrathon,” ” Tri-equathlon”) are too much of a mouthful and frankly I think the fact that TV uses ‘Equestrian’ to show dressage, eventing and showjumping does not encourage the casual viewer to watch.

We need to think outside the box if we are going to reach a higher viewership and keep horse sports in the Olympics.

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