The future of HoY

Handing the running of New Zealand's biggest show to event managers with no equestrian experience raised eyebrows throughout the equestrian community. How did the new event managers think the show went?

Dave Mee catches up with Helen McNaught at the final press conference
Dave Mee catches up with Helen McNaught at the final press conference

Dave Mee, head of SMC Events, came to the final press conference and told us how ecstatic and stimulated he was about how the show went. He said he had “learned a hell of a lot about equestrian” to the point where “I even want to get a horse now!”

This was the first year the show has been run by SMC Events, and while it was acknowledged there were a few teething problems, on the whole the riders appeared very happy with how it went. The three at the press conference certainly were!

Numbers are still being calculated and were not yet available when we asked this week, but when they are to hand we will let you know. However on Sunday, Dave said that he thought it was about “50-60,000 people through the gates over the whole show.”

On taking up the challenge of running one of the biggest shows in this hemisphere with little equestrian experience, Dave said that their first priority was making sure the riders were happy and had a better overall experience.

“We wanted to focus on the riders, and get the basic stuff right, such as cleaning out the stables, and simple things like having the arrival packs sent out early so that there wasn’t a logjam on arrival.”

Dave also outlined his plans for the future, indicating that the company was in this for the long term.

“I am heading to Badminton Horse Trials [in May] to have a look. I want to get immersed in the business side,” he said. Badminton will be a great place for Dave to get ideas from, so we we will be interested to see what he learns from this British event where on cross-country day alone, crowds of up to a quarter of a million pour in. It is said the event is the second largest in the world for money made. The trade stands are a paradise for shoppers – and not just equestrian shoppers!

The need to have the Horse of the Year show appeal to those outside the horse world was recognised by Dave. “Twenty per cent of the event is unique to equestrian. I want to get more corporate buy-in from outside the equestrian community.” He also saw the advantages of getting world-class designers and judges at the show.

When asked which was his favourite class at the show, he said: “It’s a real toss-up between the cross-country yesterday and today’s Olympic Cup. Prior to the event, the cross-country appealed to me, it seemed pretty cool. I don’t know now.” So, it looks like eventing is going to stay.