Are you going to the Ecco FEI European Championships in Herning, Denmark in August this year? Then this is a public service message to leave your video camera at home. The organisers have decided to prohibit all unauthorised video recordings during the event. That includes any member of the public or press who might feel the urge to capture a bit of footage with a smart phone at the warm up arena, for instance. Just so you know.
According to the media guide to the European Championships, ”It is not possible to shoot any footage anywhere on the showground without persmission from the organisers. This specifically includes footage to be shown on the internet. Those organisations wishing to shoot footage on the grounds must have a media credential as well as a permission to shoot footage.”
”Those approved to shoot footage will be granted a special sticker to be placed on their camera. Only cameras with this sticker will be allowed to shoot footage, and then only in approved areas.”
In other words, the effort to silence criticism of questionable training methods has been stepped up since the London Olympics last year. In London, anyone could use a video camera, even if steps had been taken to shield training areas from prying eyes. Fans and other curious onlookers were dissuaded from taking pictures or filming over the fence to the warm up arenas by intimidating guards and sometimes even by riders and trainers. But there was no actual ban on brandishing a non FEI-approved smartphone anywhere on the showground. At the European Championships, that will all have changed.
And frankly, who can blame the organisers? Especially when you consider the photos taken at last week's Danish Championships of several riders, including the new Danish champion, Anna Kasprzak. We didn't take these photos, but the photographer kindly permitted us to publish them.
Aside from being a succesful dressage rider, which we all know requires hard work and dedication – Kasprzak is the daughter of Hanni Toosbuy Kasprzak of Ecco which is the main sponsor for the European Championships in Herning this August. It would be really, really awkward if the daughter of the patron who is footing the bill for the entire shindig were to wind up on YouTube doing the sort of thing you can see in the pictures. Or for that matter, if Andreas Helgstrand (also pictured) as a member of the FEI Ecco European Championships organising committee had to explain why he and his pupils appear to be hyperflexing their horses' necks in contravention to the rules.
More pictures posted by the photographer on Facebook
In case you don't know what the ”Ecco” in ”Ecco FEI European Championships” stands for, it's a Danish brand of sensible footwear, which sponsors a tremendous number of dressage competitions, including the prestigious Ecco-cup, which Ecco heiress Anna Kasprzak has won an impressive five consecutive times from 2007 to 2011. Ecco was also a top-billed sponsor at last week's Danish Championships, where Kasprzak won her first gold medal as a senior and where - judging from the pictures above - the stewards chose to interpret the ban on "flexion of the neck by aggressive force" in a manner bordering on laissez-faire.
Of course, the spectacular and sometimes unbelievable correlations between sponsorship and competition results in equestrian sport will not be news to you if you have been hanging around horse shows for any length of time. But the next time you say out loud that there is not enough positive reinforcement going on in competitive riding, just try to think about it in a different way. And perhaps consider placing a bet when August comes around.