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Looking back at 2020 – with Steven Wilde: “It has been harder work than it normally is, but a year working with amazing people”

Friday, 01 January 2021
Interview

Photo © Private collection. Steven Wilde. Photo © Anna Faire.

 

Text © World of Showjumping

 


 

Over the past weeks, WoSJ has asked chef d’equipes, grooms, riders and show organisers to look back at 2020 – a year out of the ordinary for absolutely everyone. Next out is equestrian sports commentator Steven Wilde, who wants us to think about all the people in the equine industry that were without income last year. 

“We – Ashley Neuhof and I – were in Florida at the beginning of the year and were in full show flow when we started to hear stories about a virus in Europe,” Wilde explains. “Then in March it quickly escalated and on one Friday afternoon it was decided that we would only continue with the show until Sunday. It was a lot of back and forth and I was sick to the pit of my stomach and everyone was very nervous and anxious. We didn’t know what was going on and what to expect.”

“We thought the shows would shut down for a few weeks and that they would all be up and running again, so we stayed in Florida until the end of April,” says Wilde. “Then we realized it would not be a temporary thing, so we drove up to Vermont, where Ashley lives. Luckily I stayed in the US; otherwise I wouldn’t be able to get back in.”

“At this time, we started to create a series for Clip My Horse and it was this kind of thing that went from an idea one Monday to be online the Monday after. To have that project really helped – it was good to have something to focus on. For the rest it was a bit like going through a fog and not knowing what to expect next.”

“In May I was back commentating my first show in Kentucky and it was an event that was really well put together in terms of the Covid-protocol,” Wilde says. “We live streamed it on FEI TV and we had a massive audience. I have never seen anything like it, it was crazy how many people that were watching a 2* show.”

“After that we went up to Great Lakes in Michigan for a 12-13 weeks show. It was impressive how they could be on top of things every week. It was a really nice build-up to the American Gold Cup, with fantastic riders competing,” Wilde continues. “At the same time, you realized what you were missing – the audience! I can’t wait for when we can have audiences back safely. It has been harder to be an arena commentator when you are only talking to the few grooms and riders that are present. So, it has been harder work than it normally is, but a year working with amazing people.”

“When it comes to the Longines Global Champions Tour, it has been a part of my life for more than ten years and I have been privileged to be able to see the best riders in the world fighting it out every week. Of course, I missed it a lot – I missed the crowd, the competitions and I missed seeing everyone involved. It is very odd to not see so many people for a year, that you normally see every week. However, it will come back!”

“Ashley and I avoided the flights and have been driving everywhere, so we have seen a lot and that has actually been the nice side of it,” Wilde says. “I’m very lucky to have had shows to go to in a year like 2020; lots of people didn’t have any income during the year and it breaks my heart. For the sake of the number of people employed in the equine industry, we need to get back showing. This is a huge industry and it is definitely not all highly paid jobs we are talking about – people need to be able to put food on their tables. I was a bit involved with a fund in the US during the lockdown, with the goal to help people that were out of income because of the pandemic. It went really well actually, and it was nice to see people stepping up for each other.”

“And it has indeed been some fantastic people stepping up in 2020 – all the organisers that have put themselves out there and taking the risk in terms of finances,” Wilde points out. “It is great that they had the bravery to do it. It will be some brave ones in 2021 too, so we need to support them so that people can get back to work. I think 2021 will be a bit rocky and that we have to wait until 2022 before we are back to normal again,” Wilde closes off.  

 

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