Sunday, February 27, 2011

PRO DerbyCross Interview with Allison Springer by Ashley Leith

PRO DerbyCross is a sport designed to showcase in a fun and spectator friendly format the bravery of three day eventing’s cross country phase as well as the speed and accuracy of show jumping. In DerbyCross competition, teams of five riders compete against each other. Each team is comprised of three event riders, one show jumping rider, and one polo player. Riders individually jump designated courses against the clock, with the course being altered slightly for riders of each discipline. This year DerbyCross has partnered with the Professional Riders Organization. On March 5th, DerbyCross will make its debut in Wellington, FL. Five teams will vie against each other at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.

This weekend I took a few moments to speak with Derb Cross Team Triple Crown captain Allison Springer. Allison is a member of the 2011 USEF High Performance List and has her sights set on the London 2012 Olympics on her mount Arthur. Allison is also on the USEA Board of Governors and is the Vice President of PRO.

Tell me about your experience with DerbyCross.
DerbyCross began in 2006. I have ridden in three DerbyCross competitions so far. The ones that I have done were at Great Meadow Polo Club in The Plains, Virginia. The thing about DerbyCross is that it takes the best elements of eventing and it puts it into a fun and educational format that really showcases the sport. Currently, three day eventing is difficult to follow if you don’t already understand the sport. With DerbyCross we can really create a buzz about eventing for an audience that may not have known about us at all.

In the competitions that I did at Great Meadow, I spent some time mingling with the crowd afterwards. They were really positive about DerbyCross. They loved that it had riders from different disciplines and they thought that the team aspect made it really fun. People told me that they came to the event to enjoy a day in the country, but as the competition progressed they became invested in the teams and wanted to root for one team or another to win. They were excited about cheering their favorite team on.

Eventing is such a special sport, but unlike in Europe and the U. K. the sport is not widely known here. The aim of DerbyCross is to tie in different disciplines with spectators so that we can personalize our sport for them. We want people to say, “I love that horse!” or “I love that rider!” Then they may come to see what a real event is all about.

How Does DerbyCross compare to other attempts to bring eventing to a larger audience, such as Express Eventing in the U. K. and Indoor Eventing in Canada?

When Sinead [Halpin], Rebecca [Howard], and Dana [Voorhees] created Derby Cross, they really did it right. They got just the right mix of what is exciting in our sport and they created something very special. In my opinion it’s great to not have the dressage because the jumping draws people in right away. Unless you know the players, what is exciting to watch in eventing is the thrill of cross country and show jumping. Also, the team and interdisciplinary aspect of DerbyCross makes it more fun to watch. With DerbyCross we are reaching out to more folks and bringing them in. It is a great thing for our sport.

Wellington does not have a big permanent eventing community in the winter. Why is PRO hosting a DerbyCross competition there on that weekend, even though it is also in conflict with Rocking Horse Horse Trials?

Our hope with DerbyCross is to take it to different parts of the country so that we can reach out to some new audiences. Wellington is our first try at this. As for the dates, we had to pick dates in February and March that worked for the event riders who were going to participate. For the upper level riders, we agreed that if we missed an intermediate level competition, we could find another one to go to. Where we couldn’t compromise was with advanced or FEI level competitions, because that calendar is much tighter. I sat down and found three weekends that would work between the Area II and Area III eventing calendars. From there we let Wellington decide when they wanted us, so it ultimately wound up being there choice. They chose to have us on Nations Cup weekend, which is a huge honor. Nations Cup weekend is the most prestigious weekend of the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington.

PRO has a proven track record over the past few years of hosting fun, audience friendly events at some major shows. For example riders did the bareback puissance at Plantation Field International, Pony Club games at the Millbrook Horse Trial and Shetland pony races at the Dansko Fair Hill International CCI**/***. How do these events and DerbyCross fit with PRO’s goals?

PRO has been trying to help support a culture of destination events through the PRO Tour Series. One of the goals of the series is to create a family and audience friendly atmosphere where people can come and enjoy the sport of eventing while having other fun and interesting activities at the same venue. PRO’s extra events just give the audience something different to enjoy while watching the competition, and it creates an introduction to some of this country’s top event riders. They have this type of stuff in England and it’s a lot of fun. PRO has also gotten color commentators for their special events, and it really adds to the atmosphere. Next weekend at DerbyCross we have Leslie Law and Boyd Martin hosting and commentating and John Kyle is flying over from the UK to do the announcing. They will really help the crowd to understand what is going on and they will be able to talk about the different elements of our sport. We have such camradarie in eventing and it’s such a fantastic sport. With DerbyCross we are trying to boil it down to the essence for eventing enthusiasts and new audiences as well. I think this is a good thing for everyone in eventing!

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