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Friday, October 28, 2016 “Russian horseracing results not recognized globally”

Participants of the “Equiros-2016” International Equestrian Exhibition discuss a challenging situation in the equestrian sport.

The exhibition features a broad spectrum of equestrian equipment and rider’s apparel – from boots to top hats. According to producers, the average price of European branded products has increased by 50%, yet customers are reluctant to switch to cheaper Russian items.

“Manufacturing in Russia is only making its first steps, which defines the quality of goods. We lack experience, proper equipment and materials to compete with international companies. Naturally those people who buy local goods at the exhibition are guided exclusively by price”, says Svetlana Dobrovolskaya, equestrian store manager.

Traditionally the latest selection achievements of Russian horse-breeders have been presented at the event.

Russia can boast great Don, Budenny and Orlov Trotters – it will suffice to mention the gorgeous Balagur who achieved high global ranks. Currently 2 Russian-bred horses – the Trakehner (Inessa Merkulova’s at the Olympics) and the Hannover (Marina Aframeyeva’s) have achieved great success. These are the best of our horses and they outrun competitors from abroad”, commented Natalia Bronnikova, general director of “Kartsevo” Equestrian Centre.

Meenwhile, the very mediocre results in Rio Olympics have triggered arguments concerning the situation in Russian equestrian sport. Some experts point out inconsistent operation of the Russian Equestrian Federation while the others mention insufficient state financing. According to Vladimir Beletsky, Vice-President of the Russian Equestrian Federation and International Master of Sport, the Federation’s goal was to qualify teams, and it served as a basis for planning the entire training process.

Two individual riders have obtained dressage licenses. Despite proper training and great performances an unfortunate mistake prevented them from competing for top places. It’s been the first time for many years where Russia has been presented by a composite team in horse trials. However, the financial means to expose our riders to top tournaments, therby gaining experience among the best world pairs was lacking. Another issue was transportation to the training camp in Germany, which was a departure location for Rio. It is important to understand that geographical location of Russia and border crossing causes regular issues as long trips are physically exhausting for horses, and it had its impact on the outcome”, he said.

Anna Karpova, press secretary of the Russian Equestrian Federation spoke to the reporter and shared what stops our riders from getting in the top 3 and what measures the officials take to overcome the crisis in equestrian sport.

Anna, we hear about uniting the equestrian sport with horseracing under the aegis of the Russian Equestrian Federation. Why is this question brought up now?

- Actually this need has been long in the making, for example, today’s horseracing in our country is an illegitimate activity. It falls within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agriculture, while the Ministry of Sport is in charge of all the other activities, which causes a number of issues. Russian horseracing results are not recognized globally as our rules fail to meet the international standards. Why is this important? There are elimination races in the global community where the horses can participate only as long as they hold certain positions in the global rating. Given that Russian results are off in terms of this rating, our horses are unable to score and compete in large-scale tournaments. It forces the riders to go abroad in order to gain this rating. Thus, Russian horseracing is set apart from everything else. Therfore, this endless circle can only be disrupted if Russian horseracing becomes a part of the international system.

However there are opponents to this decision. What are the downsides of the integration?

- I believe the problem is that many people are guided by stereotypes. The opinion that horseracing is something agricultural, which we as the Federation of Sport have nothing to do with, has had major influence. Nevertheless, the integration negotiations are already underway. Rossiyskie Ippodromy OJSC understands that this is the real solution.

As far as horse breeding is concerned, what is the situation in Russia today? Why don’t we effectively cultivate our own national breeds?

- It would be too ardent to claim we don't breed decent horses. For example, the two horses that performed in dressage in Rio – Avans and Mister X, belong to the Russian selective breeding programmes, and its achievements are recognized globally. It's a big advantage for both the industry and the horse breeders who have to promote their animals. The big issue is lack of the mechanism to interact with those breeders. The situation is aggravated by the fact that today's horse breeding pools include, not only large facilities but also small private farms. In Soviet times the structure used to be less segmental. The horse breeding committee established under the Russian Equestrian Federation, has begun its activities, but we shouldn't be expecting any results soon.

What does the state do to support the development of equestrian sport?

- Certainly the Ministry of Sport provides financing for various events. But it is important to understand these funds do not top up the Federation’s accounts. Someone may imagine that “we receive the funds and use it the way we want”. The Ministry of Sport rather allocates funds for a specific event, for example for the team to compete in an international competition or European championship. Some funds are allocated for holding the all-Russian competitions. The state partly covers for judges or lease of a sporting venue but all these expenses must be strictly reported. And of course it’s not enough.

It’s no surprise that equestrian sport is deemed elite – one would need a horse and some costly equipment. In Soviet times the state used to provide a horse for this purpose. Who knows if Petushkova would still be the champion if not given her Pepel? Is it possible to revert to this system today?

- I don’t think so. Both the Federation and the state used to be structured differently in those days. Anyway, as far as the Olympics are concerned, equestrian sport becomes expensive and elite in any country. However, in mass sport there are a lot of children or youth schools where you can train for a reasonable fee or even free of charge. In Moscow region you can find clubs that only charge you 2500 roubles per month (4 sessions per week). Compared to a private club, where this is the average price for a single session.

Why is this sport not as popular as is the case in Europe?

- The reason is lack of public awareness. I know some publicly funded schools in the regions shut down sometimes because they have no students. The system in state facilities implies the number of vacant spots matches the number of students. Therefore, if you are two individuals short this year, and next year these two spots are eliminated. A shortage of students is the result of parents not being given the information they need. However 5 years ago, media was barely interested in the equestrian sport, but today more and more articles and TV pieces come up aided by the Federation.

Can it also be about the price of equipment the parents need to buy?

- At early stages there is absolutely no need to buy expensive items, especially when we talk about children who grow up really fast. In any kind of sport your gear depends on how you use it. You don’t go skiing to a local forest with your Olympic skis. Equally your first steps in training require just some basic equipment.

Is equestrian sport developed enough in the regions?

- There are many regions that are unable to develop equestrian sport for climatic reasons. It is not so popular in the north in general. In the south it is the opposite, due to the Cossacks culture or a multitude of stud farms located in close proximity to each other. As a result, there are rather large Federations operating there. There are regions where the federation consists of merely 5 or 6 people but they use whatever manpower is available to promote the sport and hold competition, albeit small. The question is whether communication is in place.

Why don’t we implement the German system? It was the Germans who won the majority of equestrian medals at the last Olympics in Rio.

- It is clear we lack a lot to be able to compete with Germany, but it is important to understand that the German experience can’t be integrated in Russia, as structurally their system is completely different. For example, a horse possesses a special status – it’s neither an agricultural animal, nor sports equipment. According to the Russian Ministry of Sport’s standards, a hockey player bearing a hockey stick and riders with their horses are equal. And there is zero funding to maintain the horse as a part of sport, while it requires certain therapy and care, just as people do. This special status in Germany is fixed legislatively and both horse breeding and equestrian sport are funded differently. Moreover, the Russian Equestrian Federation reports to the Ministry of Sport, and German Federation reports to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which makes it clear what status this authority has and how the state responds to its needs.

If it brings such results, would it make sense for the Russian Equestrian Federation to report to the Ministry of Internal Affairs?

- A lot can be done in this regard but we have to consider consequences. Right now we are able to regulate some aspects internally or cooperate with horse breeders, race hosts or the International Federation, and so far it’s been enough. An attempt to break ministerial laws is a lengthy procedure, and we must be very cautious tampering with it.

Source: ExpoTrade

Last update: Monday, February 06, 2017 1:01:55 PM

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