Equestrianism is symbolic of upper-class elitism. Or it is an outstanding example of a democratic sport. It depends which perspective you choose
At the London Olympics,the dabate developed as the equestian event unfolded [31st July, 2012]. The conventional view would point to the elitism of the event in Greenwich Park with its royal spectators and other supporters “in a terribly genteel cavalcade of Hunter wellies and Chanel scarves” as the Independent put it.
The competitors included the Queen’s grand-daughter Zara Philips who received her well-earned silver medal on behalf of her thoroughbred steed High Kingdom. The medals were awarded by Zara’s mother Princess Anne, herself an equestrian of note.
The Loyal family
As the team event gave way to the individual discipline, members of the Royal family seemed to appear from everywhere: some of them even wearing plastic ponchos.
Taking a different perspective
The London 2012 Olympic Games continues to provide enough news for 24 dedicated TV channels on the BBC, plus its Olympic coverage also 24/7 on BBC Radio 5. It was Rachel Burden who offered her explanation of the democratic nature of equestrianism.
She pointed out correctly that is one of few sports in which men and women compete on equal terms. (And don’t go on about it being all down to the horses: that applies for Formula 1, where women in the competition remain a dream for the future). Furthermore, Rachel pointed out, in this particular competition, GB had fielded 51 year-old Mary King. So it’s not ageist. She might also have mentioned Hiroshi Hoketsu of Japan, who competes at the age of 71.
A similar defence of the egalitarian nature of the sport was offered by a spokeswoman for British Eventing:
“We are the ultimate equestrian challenge; a healthy outdoor sport, where women and men of all ages compete on an even playing field. Thousands of volunteers and spectators support the sport at fantastic rural locations every weekend.”
Elitist and egalitarian?
Confused? Maybe it’s a case of a sport which is both egalitarian and elitist. It all depends on your perspective. A similar matched pair of conflicting arguments have been deployed by supporters and opponents of Fox Hunting.