Friday, September 2, 2011

Let's Make a Bet....On Our Future

A new form of reining competition has come across my desk this week.  It is called the "World Reining League."  It a project started by Michael Miola/Silver Spurs Equine & an astronaut by the name of Charlie Dry (while his bio on the WRL website is extensive, there is no mention of prior experience in the horse world), and is touted as, "Transforming the equine sport of reining into an electrifying spectator sport complete with adrenaline-charged professional competition and world class entertainment."  Their vision for the WRL is that it "will employ professional cheerleaders, laser lights, a flying stage, etc. – a real entertainment production – completely scripted and choreographed."   Competition will be limited to 8 professionals who will have to have won at least $50,000, and who will be divided up into teams - the WRL hopes to eventually sell team franchises.  There will be quite a lot of money at stake to win as each event will have a minimum payout of $240,000 with $40,000 to paid each member of the winning team and $20,000 to each member of the second place team. And there will be betting - in fact, they already have a bookie in Las Vegas ready to take it on.

I am scratching my head over all this.  Is this where we are headed in promoting horse sport?  I think we all want to grow the horse industry, and many of us in the reining world would love to see more TV coverage and more fan attendance to events.  But lasers & flying stages?  It says on their website that , "a WRL event will actually be a reining competition wrapped around a rock concert."  And add drinking and professional cheerleaders, and you've got yourself a pretty rowdy atmosphere.  Anyone wonder what their drug policy will be for the horses involved?  Will these events be monitored for humane treatment and by whom?  (Yeah, I said it.  Whenever there is a prize at stake, we have to make sure the horses aren't misused in pursuit of that prize.)

Ya gotta wonder too, what the ticket prices will look like; if they are truly going to limit these exhibitions to arenas with no less than 10,000 seats, and you have all these extra people to pay, including putting on a concert (which, let's face it, for an artist that I'd actually want to see, the tickets aren't less than $65, and that is just for a concert), tickets to these events won't be inexpensive.

I am not a gambler.  I have never gambled at a casino, nor at a racetrack.  I have on occasion played Powerball, but only when the jackpots are huge, and my bets are never more than $5.  I just can't do it!  I see gambling as throwing money away, and, perhaps too, I don't want to fall into the trap of gambling addiction.  I realize that gambling is legal in many places, I understand that many people enjoy it, but it isn't for me.  So it isn't much of a jump to understand that I don't like the idea of betting on reining horses.  Betting hasn't done anything good for racehorses.  Yes, it has made many people very rich, but it has caused many horses' suffering (think tampering, think rampant drug use, think win at all costs), and aided many people in losing everything.  This wouldn't be like betting once a year on the Superbowl; the creators of the WRL see this as competing with NASCAR and other major league sports.  So betting on reining horses would become a weekly event?

I'd like to also point out that we already have "franchised teams" in a sense.  Owners of reining horses already put a lot of money into trainer's barns to go after NRHA sponsored titles.  If an owner wants to purchase WRL franchised team, won't that be spreading owner dollars thinner, and possibly take money away from our traditional reining events?

Don't even get me started on the whole professional cheerleaders thing....I mean, really?  Do we need to make reining horses sexy?  T & A with your Pattern #8?  As Joni Mitchell sings, "Sex sells everything..."

I'd love to hear what everyone's opinions are on this topic.  When I see something like this going on, I have to question, "Where do we want our sport to go?"  And I begin to wonder what visions of the future other people in the horse industry have.  While I have spoken on this blog about Michael Miola before, this isn't a personal attack.  I see it as perfectly logical that we should discuss this proposed competition, and if it has a place in the future of reining horses, and horse competition as a whole.  So....anyone wanna weigh in?