We’ve all felt it: Following leaderboard updates just doesn’t replace watching our horse sport as it is happening. Live feeds turn long-distance fans into active spectators. Cheering on several clean trips going different routes through a cross-country water combination; then commiserating an unfortunate dunking; then the hopeful approach of the next horse and rider — this is how viewers share the intensity and drama with the athletes, and with other spectators, even remotely through a screen.
Textual or verbal play-by-play updates are the next best thing, much like the old-time radio broadcasts that kept baseball and horse racing vital to fans for many decades. But, as sports with real-time television broadcasts can attest, there is no substitute for the audience seeing it unfold with their own eyes.
We learn more when we see it live. We pick up on subtleties that don’t emerge in descriptions or brief video clips. We see the good or bad effect of a competitor being held on course; how each rider approaches a troublesome corner; that some horses take notice of a dense crowd but others do not.
Live viewing creates lasting memories. We spectators will have much to talk about with each other after the final results are posted. We share the details we noticed; we recount vividly how we felt during critical moments.
And — not for nothing! — long after the competition is over, the stables and parking areas are empty and the course flags are back in storage, the stimulation lives on for those who saw it live. Yes — admit it! You’ve stepped up your own game after a great day of watching a four-star event online! Or viewing a Grand Prix dressage or show jumping as it happened.
An intense day of viewing international class competitors in live action leaves you inspired to do more to become a better rider yourself. You ride more often, improve your fitness, take an extra lesson or clinic, even revise your goals. You may not be aiming for Badminton or Rolex Kentucky (or maybe you are!) but following the examples of the riders and horses you watched throughout their competition experience, you know you can step up your own and your horse’s skills at your level.
The purest essence of sport is the competitive action as it is occurring right now. Seeing it for ourselves lights a passion to see more, do more and become more involved.
I look forward to more live feeds from four-star events and hope for live feeds from many other eventing venues as well!