“In show jumping, there are two words: show, and jumping.”
This succinct statement from Christophe Ameeuw, CEO of EEM World and mastermind behind the Longines Masters, summed up his ethos behind making the sport more accessible and appealing to the general public. The New York Masters, his twenty-fifth event, was home to an awe-inspiring menagerie of top riders, horses, musicians, chefs, artists, and even sequined stilt walkers, who strode between the warm-up ring and the luxury vendor stalls. The glamour and magic is part of a carefully planned mission to give show jumping the same global visibility as tennis or golf.
“My focus and my ambition were to give to my sport and my passion fantastic credibility,” Christophe says. “We can feel the sport day after day grow and grow and grow.” Spectators drawn to the event purely for the gastronomy, music or art experience stay to discover a new sport: show jumping. And the same is true in reverse – horse people can watch their favourite sport and discover a new fashion and lifestyle experience. “All these steps are connected, and that is why today this event is so successful.”
The crowd at the event was an eclectic mix of equestrians, shoppers, and families with children out for a fun day, which included face painting and a colouring wall. “We are very elegant and fashionable, but we are very accessible to everybody too, especially to kids and family,” Christophe states. “People think of show jumping like it is so inaccessible and VIP – for rich people. No, no. This is a fantastic sport, a unique sport. Men and women competing in the same classes. You can be young, a teenager, and win a Grand Prix, or you can be like Beezie Madden, the best woman in the world, winning the World Cup final in Paris. There are so many inspirations we can get in this sport.”
He places emphasis on making the sport visible and understandable for newcomers, which was the inspiration behind the Riders Masters Cup. “If you don’t know the sport, you always follow your flag, just like in the Olympics. My team, we aim to create passion. We changed the rules a bit, the light and the sound, make it attractive for the public and for the media,” he enthused, displaying the exact passion he was looking to inspire in spectators. “The audience needs to know when to applaud or not!”
Adaptability is key to the success of the Longines Masters. “How we modernize the sport, and how we keep the traditional values is very borderline,” Christophe says. “When you think of horses, they are very noble. Stay noble. When you think show jumping, you think elegant. Stay elegant. If you think horses and riders together have fantastic synergy, keep the synergy. Make the communication around this.”
During the speed challenge and the six bar, the suspense built by the formatting of the classes and the enthusiasm of the commentators generated thunderous applause and cheering from the crowd. The Riders Masters Cup brought about as much patriotism and frantic flag-waving as is seen at a Stanley Cup playoff game or at the Super Bowl.
“This is the best picture, the best window that we can offer into our sport,” Christophe says. “This is not a small competition in someone’s garden. We need to trust that everything is possible with show jumping.”