What do you enjoy most about equestrian commentating, and what do you find is most rewarding?
Equestrian commentating is something I’ve been doing for quite a few years now. It’s got many highlights and sometimes it can be hard work, but you get to travel the world, and you get to socialise and meet a lot of very interesting people. You’re also lucky enough to experience places like Spruce Meadows, where you see the world’s best riders and horses compete at the very top level.
What are the highlights of your equestrian commentating career?
There have been so many highlights of my career so far. Spruce Meadows itself and this ‘Masters’ tournament is always a highlight – it hosts the biggest Grand Prix in the world and there’s CAD$3 million in the prize fund. Other highlights include the 2017 World Cup Jumping Final, which I commentated at in Omaha, Nebraska – for such a small town the atmosphere was electric.
Are there any sports commentators that you take inspiration from? Do you idolise anyone?
As far as commentators go, I’m a bit of a strange one, as I don’t really look towards other commentators for inspiration. I started my career at a very young age at stage school where I did some theatrical stuff. I then trained in radio and television, as well as riding all my life, so I very much combined the two. When I’m looking for inspiration or for people to get tips from, I’d look to television programmes like The X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent. In a way that gives me a little bit of a different edge, because I’m able to take elements from non-sporting events and weave that into my show jumping personality.
What makes an exceptional commentator?
Doing lots of preparation is key, as you need to know a lot about the riders, the horses and the sport. As well as being a commentator, I think you also need to be more of an entertainer that wants to inform those watching. There are a few commentators on the circuit who sound very much the same, even a little uninspiring. Although our sport is a minority sport, which is growing all the time, it’s incredibly exciting, and it’s my job to make it sound like it’s The X Factor.
What advice would you give to someone contemplating a career in sports commentating?
For someone considering a career in commentating, I’d say prepare, prepare, prepare. If you’re doing a one-hour broadcast, you should be doing approximately three hours of preparation. I’d also recommend trying to get as much different experience as you can. Starting off in radio, it taught me so much, as I used to sit in a studio for four hours a day, six days a week, and literally talk to myself! If something happens in the ring and I need to fill time, it’s not daunting to me, as I know how to talk. It’s also a good idea to watch as many different shows and other sports as possible, decide what you like and what you’re good at, and then form your own character.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever been given?
I think it goes back to preparation. If you don’t prepare, it’s so easy to sound bored or stale. You’ve also got to try and make sure you’re fresh all the time.
Which equestrian shows do you most enjoy commentating at, and why?
I’m extremely lucky, as I get to travel to a lot of the world’s best shows. There aren’t any shows I do these days just for the sake of it, or because they pay lots of money; every show I work at is ultimately because I enjoy it. Spruce Meadows is where I started my commentating career in North America. They advertised on Facebook, and I sent them a showreel of everything that I had done. This is my seventh year coming here, so it’s one of my most enjoyable shows.
As well as commentating at the top-level events, I also enjoy being part of the smaller shows at home in the UK, because it means so much to the riders, as they don’t get to hear that standard of commentary very often. I suppose it would mean more to them than it would to Kent Farrington or Steve Guerdat, for example.
What makes Spruce Meadows so special?
Spruce Meadows is incredibly special, and if you haven’t been here you should come and experience it. There are so many elements that make it magical. The rings are spectacular, the crowds Spruce Meadows attracts are electric, and everything is pristine. The thing I first noticed when I first came to Spruce Meadows was the attention to detail. Because it’s a family run venue and it’s so international, it attracts people from all over the world, not only to compete but also to watch.
You then have highlight classes such as the CAD$3 million CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, which is part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Other highlights include the ATCO Electric Six Bar, and an evening’s entertainment with an orchestra and fireworks. You just wouldn’t see that at any other shows in the world.
What do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has done for the sport?
The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping just keep growing. It attracts so many of the world’s top riders, who are all focussed winning one of the four Rolex Grand Slam Majors and going down in history. I was here when Scott Brash became the only rider to ever win the Rolex Grand Slam, and he still talks about it to this day. I don’t think it’s the financial incentive that drives riders, I think it’s that trophy and that title. So many other sports have got their own Grand Slams, and for show jumping to have its very own Grand Slam, it’s just transformed the sport.
Source: Press release from Rolex Grand Slam
Photo: © Adam Cromarty