Anne Gribbons & Morten Thomsen Selected as USA Dressage Chiefs, Robert Dover Rejected

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Robert Dover, six-time Olympian, at 2007 World Cup Final in Las Vegas. © 2007 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Robert Dover, six-time Olympian, at 2007 World Cup Final in Las Vegas. Spurned as USA national coach. © 2007 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, Aug. 12–An extensive process of selecting a national coach for the resurgent USA dressage team led by World Cup and Aachen champions Steffen Peters and Ravel has led to final choices that were reported Wednesday to have stunned top levels of the American dressage community.

Anne Gribbons, an “O” judge who has represented the United States at small tour in the Pan American Games, and Morten Thomsen who represented Denmark in the 2000 Olympic Games, are being interviewed by the U.S. Equestrian Federation on financial terms of their agreement to be what will be described officially as national advisor, chef d’equipe and national trainer. In broad terms, Gribbons will be the advisor/administrative half of the combination, Thomsen the training component.

Robert Dover of Wellington Florida, a six-time U.S. Olympian and a member of the FEI Dresage Task Force that is charged with overhauling the sport, was rejected for the position to replace German Olympic gold medalist Klaus Balkenhol who had led the U.S. team for eight years until the end of 2008. So, too were other top North American candidates including Hilda Gurney, a two-time Olympian, trainer and judge of Moorpark, California, Axel Steiner another “O” judge and trainer of San Diego, California, and Cindy Ishoy of Hannon, Ontario, Canada.

Dover said on his Internet site: “I received word last night via E-mail that Anne Gribbons had been selected to become the U.S. Chef d’Equipe/Technical Advisor. Please know that I wish nothing but the best for Anne as well as our teams and that I will always be the proudest supporter of our Dressage Teams.

“I want to thank all those who supported my efforts and let everyone know that I am extremely happy and content with my life of retirement and look forward to many exciting adventures to come.”

With one year to go before the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, possibly the single most important event in the history of U.S. horse sports, the selection of Gribbons and Thomsen was a shock to the equestrian community worldwide. Several of the 14 applicants from Europe and North America who applied for the position of national coach were perplexed.

Applications were based on the criteria that called for a national coach resident in the United States for the majority of the year. Initial criteria was offered though advertisements in equestrian publications worldwide, including the USA’s Chronicle of the Horse, Britain’s Horse & Hound and other periodicals asked applicants to request the criteria from the USEF.

Morten was reported to have won over the top USA contenders for the 2010 WEG with a three-day clinic in California which included the top American riders with Gribbons agreeing to act as the chef d’equipe.

Some potential candidates said they did not apply because of the published criteria but they might have teamed up with partners to meet the residency requirements if they had known the criteria would be amended midway through the process. These candidates believe that somewhere between the published criteria and the final selection, selectors determined that the choice of a single “national coach” was too restrictive and that expanded qualifications could be included. No public disclosure of a change in the criteria could be found by dressage-news.com.

The search committee was led by Chester Weber, a leading USA four-in-hand driver, and included jumping captain George Morris and Eventing chief Mark Phillips. Their choice then went to the Dressage Eligible Athletes Committee led by Susan Blinks of Encintas, California, an Olympic and World Games medalist.

It is not known whether the search committee recommended Gribbons and Thomsen.

Their recommendation then went to the High Performance Dressage Committee led by George Williams of Delaware, Ohio.

The High Performance Committee is reported to have rubber stamped the recommendation to appoint Gribbons and Thomsen for the sake of “unanimiity.”

Among the horses that Morten Thomsen has been involved with since 1990 are Solos Carex which he won the dressage championship at five and six years old levels. When he was 7 years old, Solos Carex was sold to Tinne Wilhelmson.

According to Morten’s Internet site, he rode in the Olympics in 2000. The official results showed he finished fourth last at 61.44 per cent.

His Internet site reports he was coach of the Danish team for the World Cup for young horses in 2005-2007 and was a judge for the selection of the young horse championships. According to his Internet site, “Morten travels nearly every weekend to England, Germany or Italy, and helps professional riders with their horses.”

Anne Gribbons, who lists her official residence as Knoll Farm in Chauluota, Florida. moved to the United States from Sweden in 1972 and has trained 11 horses to Grand Prix. She rode on the 1986 World Championships dressage team and was a member of the 1995 silver-medal Pan American Games team in Argentina. An O-rated dressage judge, Gribbons is co-vice chairman of the U.S. Equestrian Federation Dressage Committee. She started contributing to Between Rounds (a magazine column) in 1995.

As a judge at the 2009 CHIO Aachen, Germany Gribbons awarded the equal lowest of the five scores for Steffen Peters and Ravel of the USA in the Grand Prix CDIO. Peters and Ravel went on to create history by becoming the first USA combination to sweep the three CDIO classes–Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special and Grand Prix Freestyle–at Aachen, the world’s premier horse show.