Generally speaking, ESPN, The New York Times, NBC, and all of their peers only bother to cover horses when something horrible happens.
That pattern has seen a nice reversal this week as wonderful equestrian story lines, strong social media support from fans, and the approaching Olympics have prompted mainstream media outlets to showcase horses in the Olympic sports.
On Tuesday, paralyzed equestrian Claire Lomas took the world by storm with her heroic 16 day completion of the London Marathon to benefit Spinal Research. TIME, BBC, Perez Hilton [h/t Sara Fogelberg], and pretty much everyone in between carried Claire’s awesome story. The story was so powerful that it hit made the homepage of Reddit on Wednesday [h/t Leslie Threlkeld].
On Wednesday, ESPN published an interview with US Olympic show jumper Beezie Madden, and NBC ran the awesome feature on eventers Boyd Martin and his heroic horse Neville Bardos Wednesday night. Also on Wednesday, the New York Times ran an article about 17 year old show jumping phenom Reed Kessler. Frankly, I think it’s about time.
As an eventer, I’m really proud that horse sports are getting so much attention thee days, but I want to take things a step further and ask for much more of this in the future from the mainstream media. There are so many wonderfully compelling stories in the equestrian community that I have often wondered why the big outlets don’t write about horses more. My US History teacher in high school told our class that 99% of the media is generally lazy. It’s a sad fact that as a member of the media I have come to believe that–and I’m including myself and all of us in the equestrian media right along with the mainstream media. We wait for a story to trend on Twitter, or to get sent a press release, or until public support pushed the story into our sights. Then one of us will carry the story and then, finally, the rest rush to jump on board. The good news is that if we can get more mainstream outlets to pay attention to equestrianism in a positive way, we’ll get more instances of one of them carrying the story the first time and then of course more of them rushing to jump on board.
Call me biased, but horses have been the one of the coolest things in my life since I can remember. There’s something enchanting about horses that makes them almost universally lovable. What I’m hoping that the popularity of the Claire Lomas story and the Boyd and Neville NBC video (which currently has 1,200 Facebook ‘likes’ on EN alone) will convince the mainstream media that a love of horses and the demand for positive mainstream coverage of horses extends well beyond us crazies in the equestrian community.
I know there are many members of the equestrian media who don’t care what the mainstream media thinks or does and I admire that spirit of independence. But I believe that each positive story about horses welcomes new fans and riders into our community. This is especially true with coverage on TV, where the brilliance of our sport is conveyed through the movement of horses on the screen. Watching David O’Connor win the Sydney eventing Olympic gold on my TV was a big part of my decision to become an eventer. There are hundreds of awesome horse stories every year, even every month, and I hope that we are beginning to see a trend of the mainstream media recognizing the value of paying attention to positive horse stories.