Industry Innovators: Showjumping Unplugged!TV

Grand Prix Royalty with Showjumping Unplugged!TV 

By Erna Adelson

Tamara and Paul Petersen have an image of show jumping that many of us associated with the sport would wholeheartedly agree on – it is thrilling to watch and deserves the same outlets and consideration by the media as other extreme sports. With Showjumping Unplugged!TV, a half hour show that they film and host, these entrepreneurs chronicle the stories and exploits of the grand prix greats that are known to the horse world as mentors and inspirations and certainly deserve to be recognized and revered in sport circles. The Petersens have taken their work overseas to England, where they were received by the Queen herself and are heading back this summer to shoot a full-length documentary about the European Championships, a show that is more popular in England than Monty Python.

  “One of my favorite interviews was indeed with John Cleese,” says Tamara. “He’s funny, funny, funny, super charming, and so warm and giving of his time.” Cleese, whose daughter Camilla rides with Archie Cox, is one of the many interesting people that the Petersens have interviewed on the job. Meeting celebrities is a definite perk, says Tamara. After seven years covering show jumping, Tamara is a seasoned media pro. Showjumping Unplugged!TV has evolved, too, since its origins as a series of sponsor reels for grand prix riders. Today the show airs on KVMD in Los Angeles, on Del Mar TV every Monday and can be seen from any computer in the world at Both Paul and Tammy shoot, host, edit, and produce the content.

“We started out shooting in the format of an ESPN sports show,” says Tamara. “But now, we make sure each segment tells a story. So much of our approach revolves around getting a great shot and building around that.” The challenge, she notes, is getting enough footage to capture the magic moment. “A lot of the job is simply to be in the right place at the right time, so you really have to be ubiquitous. For example, when George Morris walks over to congratulate a winner, that’s a shot I want to have since George doesn’t like to be on film very much. When you know it’s coming, you have to be there.”

According to Tamara, another crucial part of shooting a successful segment is the cooperation of the show management. “We helped Lynn Walsh at the Pin Oak Charity Horse Show in Houston, TX, raise over $100,000 for the Texas Children’s Hospital Cancer Research Center,” she reports. With Lynn’s help, Showjumping Unplugged!TV made it possible for sponsors to see exactly where their money went. It was truly validating to demonstrate to the show sponsors the power that TV brings to charity horseshow fundraising. In fact, she adds, “FEI just mandated that all FEI classes have to have TV coverage as part of the horse show’s marketing plan, so well see how that plays out for Showjumping Unplugged!TV.”

While the new FEI regulations could be fortuitous for the Petersens, their future plans are already in motion. On a royal note, the PR director of the Royal Windsor Horse Show invited Showjumping Unplugged to film the event in 2008. Their work was so well received, Tamara and Paul were presented to the Queen herself. “We had to have an etiquette lesson first,” Tamara recalls, “Since we hadn’t met her before, we had to address her as Your Majesty. She was honestly interested in what we did and we ended up talking about horses with her for several minutes.” Tamara reveals that she did make one etiquette error when she accidentally brushed the Queen’s arm during their visit.

Social faux pas aside, the Royal Windsor shoot was such a success that the Petersens were invited back to cover the Olympia Indoor Christmas show in London. “It’s really an experience rather than just an event,” says Tamara. “They even call the classes ‘performances’.” It was there that they met with the Olympia Show Manager Simon Brooks Ward, who requested the pair to film at the upcoming Royal Windsor in May. They also recently got the green light for the documentary that they plan to film at the Windsor Castle European Championships, where they will follow Simon Brooks Ward and record the horse show visionary as he plans the momentous occasion. The documentary, which is to be titledSimon Sez: the Making of the European Championships, will be eligible for film festivals in 2010.

While they prepare for their next trip to England, Tamara and Paul will hone their skills as the principals of Showjumping Unplugged!TV and continue to bring the thrill of the grand prix to viewers. “We want to be the vehicle that brings show jumping to the forefront of sports,” announces Tamara. From our own American royalty in the grand prix arena to the Royal Windsor Horse Show, the Petersens are bringing our sport to the TVs and computers of many a loyal fan worldwide.

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