In an industry that is, internationally, so often touted as cliquey, old fashioned and losing fans and market share with every passing year, the question as to how to entice new fans to horse racing has led to much debate and various marketing efforts with varying results.
Apart from the keen followers from the gambling aspect, the balance of horse racing fans and owners are either involved in it for the status or are avid horse lovers. Seemingly, these traits are often completely separate and you’re either one or the other but seldom both.
At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, I will say this again and probably repeat myself again; we must never forget that at the heart of Horse Racing is — THE HORSE.
For those of us born with the addictive equine gene, it is obvious really; the sheer beauty and magnificence of these supreme athletes never fails to thrill and being in their presence and experiencing each different personality, is always a special interaction.
BUT, if you are not born with that faulty gene and have never had the privilege of spending time with and getting to know horses, that understanding of their special presence is hard to fathom and/or appreciate. Take any sport or hobby really, the less you know and understand about it, the less interested you are in it, as it is very difficult to enjoy something that you don’t have a feeling for or understand. Horse racing, is by its very nature quite complex for an outsider and too often people are intimidated by the complexity and seeming lack of information. If one can start with an appreciation or love of the horse, the understanding comes so much more easily.
This is where time and again, I am simply blown away by the response of the uninitiated to horses when given time to spend with them up close and personal. From tiny toddlers to adults, that initial, maybe tentative interaction can turn into full-blown love in just a few minutes spent with a special horse. The realisation of the gentle, inquisitive and affectionate nature of this huge animal often has people amazed. This to me is where the non-horse lover can be won over for life and it happens at any age but most definitely the younger the better.
That’s not to say that every horse racing fan is compelled to be an avid horse lover but if you are only interested in racing as a gambler, you’re missing out on the integral core of the sport. If you’re just about wagering and making returns on your bets then you could be betting on anything from soccer pools to cricket matches or simply putting your money in a slot machine. That gambling takes little skill and relies more on chance whereas horses are living creatures with strong personalities, previous form lines to compare and hooves and hearts that make the difference.
Appreciating the horses for the athletes and individuals that they are is what can hold the fascination for generations, especially for those horses that are close to our hearts. Admittedly some horses will always have a greater following than others, but so it is with human celebrities. It takes nothing away from the average population, but the spotlight is greater on those more well known. Take Frankel as an example, he is considered one of the best racehorses ever and had a huge international following. Now, as a stallion he is still being followed and watched, and in his case with only 5 runners from his first crop, 4 are winners – and that already makes him a celebrity Beyond Racing, where his exploits after the track will be enjoyed as much as when he was racing. https://www.facebook.com/BeyondRacingSA/
So to answer the question – horse lovers and racing fans are often born but many can be made, it just takes the right opportunity, a bit of time well spent at the stables and special horses. As horse lovers and racing fans it is up to us to share that passion.
Create the love, ignite the passion and Imagine the Possibilities.