by Ronda Payne/Special to the Langley Advance
The horses jump, turn on a dime, and navigate the course at events such as the Longines FEI Nations Cup Jumping of Canada at Thunderbird Show Park on June 3. So it’s easy to see these animals can be valued up into the millions.
Jane Tidball, president and tournament director at tbird, believes the most expensive horse ever sold went for somewhere in the range of $18 million – which is a far cry from what the average parent can afford to get a child into equestrian.
But, as Tidball explained, the sport of horse jumping doesn’t have to be limited by extreme horse values.
“We’re really focused on grassroots participation,” she said. “We have shows open to ponies and events where kids can rub shoulders with the high-calibre participants.”
In truth, it’s the grand prix and Olympic-level horses that range from the 10s of thousands into the millions. For the average entrant, participating in equestrian jumping can actually be affordable, Tidball elaborated.
With a few hundred dollars and leased space, it’s possible to get into horse jumping.
It can actually start even more affordably than that by taking lessons and growing into the sport, explained Chris Pack, chief operating officer and tournament manager with tbird.
He pointed to groups like the tbird-sponsored Pony Tails Kids Club, which engages kids in the world of horses.
“A lot of riders don’t start with money,” he said. “They work their way up.”
Tidball explained that her daughter began by working in the stable as a way to get into the business without a lot of money.
Plus, tbird caps the costs of entering the grand prix level events to help keep costs down for participants, Tidball said. Expenses can be substantial at the highest levels given transportation, the horses’ needs, tack, lodging, and more.
“There’s so many costs that they carry,” Pack said. “But, there is an opportunity at that level to win back substantial amounts of money. The minimum is [in the hundreds of thousands], the maximum is a few million [for the highest level of winners].”
This level of financial gain is for the calibre of horses competing on Sunday with a grand prize of $400,000 at stake in the Nations Cup.
And the costs to get there are the reason why many of these riders develop partnerships, sponsorships, and syndicates to help fund the expenses to participate. It drives the hope of winning some of that expenditure back, making the stakes high for many of the rider teams.
While the Nations Cup may be what many new to the sport aspire to, Tidball noted it takes a long time and a lot of effort to get to the grand prix calibre of participation.
“It’s expensive at the highest levels,” she said. “But, we want to see people take an interest in the sport and start participating. We always sponsor two junior horses through the George and Dianne Tidball Legacy Foundation.”
Those interested in starting in horse jumping should come out and see the Olympic-calibre riders on Sunday, but keep in mind the beginnings of an equestrian career can be within reach.