What a year this has been. Just when we got a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel regarding COVID, another major bombshell hits the equestrian world. The announcement that the Del Mar Horsepark will be shutting down all horse-related activities in March was certainly unwelcome news that took most of us by surprise. However, it wasn’t totally unpredictable, and could be a harbinger of things to come…unless we take some substantial action as a horse community. If this isn’t a red flag as to where we’re possibly headed, I don’t know what is!
Let’s look at the facts. Unlike many sports where the equipment is minimal and competition venues are plentiful, the equestrian sport is expensive both for the participant and the organizer. Most riders, trainers and owners are acutely aware of the costs of participation, but very few have any idea of the investment required to put on the events that keep the industry alive.
Having an inside perspective to the finances of a show management company, I can personally attest to the immense costs of producing the competitions that we all rely on. Unfortunately, those numbers pale in comparison to the red ink that is typically associated with many of the actual facilities that host the events. Just for starters, a lot of acreage is required for a major horse show facility…That’s land needed for competition arenas, warm-up rings, stalls, storage areas, offices, vendor areas and parking (both for cars and horse trailers).
Then of course, the weather has to be suitable for the horses (and people), which means that the seasonal nature of the revenue stream lends itself to a challenging business plan at best! Not to mention that if horse shows are to continue being held where people are, as opposed to where they aren’t, a location of that size was probably pretty valuable when it was purchased in the first place.
Finally, there is our collective responsibility for enhanced environmental compliance, which gets back to what was mentioned at the outset…that what happened last week was, in many ways, predictable. As everybody knows, Blenheim EquiSports held hundreds of events at the Del Mar Horsepark over the past couple decades, and the loss of that facility to our sport is gut wrenching for us all.
What many people are probably unaware of however, is that horse show facilities now fall under the CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) governmental regulations that mandate an extensive infrastructure investment. It was in fact, a consequence of the impending CAFO restrictions that forced Blenheim to relocate several of our shows from Del Mar to San Juan Capistrano this summer.
This brings me to my last point…The loss of Del Mar Horsepark unfortunately may only be the beginning. As many of you are aware, we have been involved in the design process for CAFO-compliant infrastructure improvements to the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park for some time now. The architectural renderings which many of you have already seen (particularly if you’ve walked by Hillary’s tack room at the shows) reflect what our “dream” facility could look like if we all pitch in and help out.
One Piece Of the Puzzle
The point is that while we need to do all we can to save Del Mar Horsepark, that is only one piece of the puzzle if we are serious about preserving our sport on the West Coast. At the same time while we navigate these uncharted waters, we can demonstrate our sport’s commitment to leaving a positive environmental imprint on the land we are so fortunate to use.
On the “good news” front, our Spring Prize List is now available online, detailing all that we have in store at Blenheim for the upcoming year, including the new Interactive Mortgage “Ticket to Ride” Adult Jumper program, as well as the 1.50m grand prix series that was announced in my last newsletter.
More importantly though, as we approach the holiday season, stay safe and… Happy Holidays to all!–Robert Ridland
President, Blenheim EquiSports