Robert Dover Canada’s New National Coach

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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, Oct. 7–Robert Dover, a six-time Olympian for the United States, has been appointed Technical/Coach Advisor for Canada’s dressage team for the next year, Dressage Canada announced Wednesday.

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. © 2007 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Dover, 53, who is based in Wellington, Florida, is the trainer representative on the FEI Dressage Task Force that is overhauling the sport. He has been America’s most honored dressage rider.

Ashley Holzer, three-time Olympian for Canada, said in an email to dressage-news.com:

“I think Canada is VERY lucky to have Robert. His amazing track record speaks for itself!!!!  He is an incredibly successful coach and rider as well as an extremely nice person.”

Dover was a candidate for the post of Chef d’Equipe/National Coach of the U.S. but lost out to Anne Gribbons, an “O” judge who is still negotiating a contract with the U.S. Equestrian Federation. She is reported to have asked Dover to join a lineup of coaches for high performance dressage in the U.S. as he trains several top American riders, though that is now not possible.

Dressage-news.com reported two months ago that Dover was under consideration for the Canadian post. Dover’s contract with Canada is believed to run through the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. He is the second U.S. Olympian to work with Canadian team; David O’Connor, the Sydney 2000 individual gold medalist works with Canada’s elite Eventing riders.

The Dressage Canada announcement came after an extensive search and selection process which began in July of this year and was led by the Dressage Canada Own the Podium Task Force, including consultation with Dressage Canada’s Athletes Council.

Robert Dover
Robert Dover

Applicants were narrowed down to three candidates and interviews were conducted in Toronto, Ontario. The Task Force then made their recommendation to the Dressage Canada Board, which was then approved by the board.

“We are thrilled that Robert has accepted this position and are confident that his experience and enthusiasm will be invaluable to dressage in Canada,” said Victoria Winter, the chair of the Dressage Canada Own the Podium Task Force. “We look forward to having Robert work with our athletes, coaches, owners and volunteers to put together a successful high performance plan for the future.”

The post is part of the new high performance program being developed to assist in identifying talented human and equine athletes and in creating a system to support and complement their training and competitive goals. Own the Podium, a national sport technical initiative, provided financial assistance to help Canada’s summer and winter athletes achieve podium success at the Olympic Games.

With three decades of international competition experience, six Olympic Games, four World Championships and seven World Cup Final appearances, Dover has amassed four Olympic bronze medals and more than 100 Grand Prix victories. In addition, he has coached some of the world’s best dressage riders to top international results.

“Robert comes to us with a truly stellar background as a world-class equestrian athlete, coach and trainer. More importantly, he brings to Equine Canada a rare force of will: he is clearly determined to see our dressage team bestride the competitive world like a colossus, and he has the infectious energy and optimism necessary to turn that ambition into a reality,” said Equine Canada Chief Executive Officer, Akaash Maharaj. “Robert will be able to command the respect of the Canadian dressage community and foster a sense of teamwork across the sector, and I very much look forward to welcoming him to our staff.”

Dover’s extensive vision for the position includes identifying top young equestrians, establishing young horse programs and having Canadian representation at top international dressage competitions.

“I am very excited and honored to be selected as the Technical/Coach Advisor,” said Dover, who has a soft spot for Canada having lived here for seven years. “I’m looking forward to teaming up with the very talented riders, horses and personal coaches in Canada to produce together the future team and individual champions.”

Dover’s position will begin with the Dressage Canada 2009 European Fall Competition Tour, an Own the Podium funded program aimed at providing European competition experience for some of Canada’s up and coming combinations. The participating athletes — Cheryl Meisner of Blandford, Nova Scotia, with Paganini; Belinda Trussell of Stouffville, Ontario, with Anton; and Diane Creech of Caistor Centre, Ontario, with Wiona — are currently in Europe preparing for competition.

Dover competed in six consecutive Olympiads for the United States Equestrian Team, as well as four World Championship Teams and seven World Cups.

Dover was born in Chicago on June 7, 1956.  He began riding when he was 13 years old, graduated as an “A” pony clubber, and specialized in dressage when he was 19. After attending the University of Georgia, Dover’s equestrian career took off in the 1980s.  After his first Olympic appearance in 1984, Dover helped the U.S. capture the North American championship the following year.  In 1987, Dover defeated six-time Olympic gold medalist Dr. Reiner Klimke to win the Aachen Grand Prix in Germany before a crowd of 65,000.

This victory was the first time an American had won at Aachen since 1960, and Dover considers it the high point of his career. He said the biggest thrill came during the awards ceremony when the U.S. flag was raised and the band played the Star-Spangled Banner.

He made his international debut at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, finishing in 17th place in the individual event on Romantico while the U.S. placed sixth in the team competition.

Dover returned to the Olympics in 1988 at the Seoul Games, where he finished in 13th place. At the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Dover won his first medal, helping to lead the U.S. to a bronze medal in the team competition.

In 1994, Dover was named “Male Equestrian of the Year” by the U.S. Olympic Committee after winning the bronze team medal at the World Championships in Hague and finishing fifth individually.

At the 1996 Atlanta Games, Dover won his second Olympic medal and the U.S. finished in third place to win the bronze medal for the second straight Olympiad.

At the 2000 Sydney Games, Dover captained the U.S. equestrian team and helped lead the Americans to another bronze medal, his third consecutive bronze, finishing behind Germany and the Netherlands. He said of being elected captain, a title he was named to at all six Olympics: “It is truly an honor for me to represent my teammates on the dressage, eventing and jumping squads as Olympic Team Captain… the USET riders here are all conducting ourselves as teammates should, and I am truly proud to serve as our Captain.”

Robert Dover and Kennedy. © 2004 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Robert Dover and Kennedy. © 2004 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Dover clinched his sixth Games berth at the 2004 Olympic Dressage Trials when he won all four trials. In Athens, he rode FBW Kennedy, a Baden Wurttemberg gelding owned by Jane F. Clark, to win a bronze medal, his fourth medal in six Olympics in team dressage, and finished sixth individually. To finish out his career in 2005, Dover placed fourth in the 2005 World Cup in Las Vegas.

He has also taught and given clinics all over the world, sat on many USEF. committees, and is one of the Founders of the Equestrian Aid Foundation, which helps people in the horse world suffering from any life threatening illness or injury.

For the past year he has been teaching and training out of Stillpoint Farm owned by World Cup Final competitor Arlene “Tuny” Page and her husband, David. In addition to Dover, Olympic and World Championship medalist Lisa Wilcox of the USA and World Championship competitor Oded Shimoni of Israel are based at Stillpoint.

He is based less than one mile (1.6km) from the farm of Ashley Holzer, Canada’s top international dressage competitor. Her facility is also the base for several other Canadian high performance riders, including 2008 Olympic team mate Jacqueline Brooks.