Chrystine Tauber On Becoming President of US Equestrian Federation – Part 1 of 2

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Chrystine Tauber

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Chrystine Tauber takes over leadership of the U.S. Equestrian Federation for the next four years with a goal of creating a “new American system” to return the nation to the top levels of horse sports after the worst Olympic results in more than half a century and membership reduced by tough economic times.

Although her term starts officially this month when David O’Connor moves on to become coach of the U.S. Eventing team after eight years in the post, Chrystine has already been active under new rules enabling active involvement by the president-elect. She has been a key participant in making appointments to high performance committees that direct the Olympic disciplines of dressage, eventing and jumping and the other international sports, driving, endurance, reining and vaulting.

In addition to being recognized by the International Equestrian Federation as the national governing body in the United States, the USEF is an umbrella organization for dozens of disciplines and breeds, many of them state and regional groups at grassroots level, a structure that will be reviewed.

“What I see as really important is this restructuring and also has to do with budgeting,” said the Wellington, Florida, resident, “how the various breeds and disciplines are participating and receiving funding for their programs. We have this ongoing discussion of the budget as to what portions go to international breeds and disciplines and national affiliates.

“I would like to woek toward programs that are as self-sustaining as possible so we can plan four years at a time and know the amount of money we are going to be dealing with.

“I think that has been one of the biggest bones of contention, and also frustrations, in having to cut back on programs. So we have to look at many different ways of doing this, of creating additional revenue, revenue-generation such as IT services, drug testing, member retention and growth of membership.

“Those are the key things. If we can start to have the money and know how we can budget for the future and everybody has a clear understanding of the pieces of the pie and what that is going to lead to.”

The USEF in its present form emerged as the national governing body and umbrella organization eight years ago after a costly and bruising legal battle involving what was then the national level USA Equestrian and the U.S. Equestrian Team that dealt with international high performance levels. USA Equestrian became the USEF and the USET became a foundation with the mission of raising funds to promote and support international level athletes.

David O’Connor, individual Olympic gold medalist at the Olympics in Sydney in 2000, became president of the new USEF and succeeded in healing the wounds from the years of acrimonious disagreements between the two equestrian bodies. Jane Forbes Clark, a former president of the forerunner American Horse Shows Association and owner of dressage and jumper horses that have competed at multiple Olympics as well as carriage driving at World Equestrian Games, headed up the USET Foundation until late last year.

Chrystine has spent a lifetime in most aspects of horse sports including U.S. jumper team rider, judge, trainer, course designer, marketing and management. She was National Junior Champion winning both the AHSA Medal Finals and the ASPCA Maclay Finals in 1965, one of only a handful of riders to win both events in the same year.

A guide for U.S. high performance sports may come from the so-called Blue Ribbon panel set up by the USEF to review the lead up and results at the 2012 Olympics and recommend future programs.

Once the study is completed, she said, open forums were likely to get views of all stakeholders–owners, riders, grooms and sponsors, similar to the process that was followed for the selection of eventing and jumping coaches.

However, Chrystine said, discussion has already been held over a “pipeline” connecting breeders to trainers and up through the ranks to team combinations as Germany and the Netherlands do with extraordinary success.

“We can work toward facilitating that,” she said, “that’s on the table with the blue ribbon panel–owners, breeders, young horse championships, everything is on the table right now. Even auctions. The Europeans do a better job at auctioning. We can start to look at our model, what we can do to make it better.

“It’s like a pipeline. There is a pipeline for riders and there should be a pipeline for horses. How do we help match the right horses and the right riders.”

Asked about the program in Great Britain of lottery and taxpayer funds supporting high performance sports that helped win team gold in dressage and jumping, team silver in eventing and individual gold and bronze in dressage, she said:

“We all know how hard it is to stay on top. The Germans and the Dutch used to dominate. Guess what? They didn’t dominate this one. We all go through cycles.

“We were very much in a down swing in our cycle. Some of it was the age of our horses, some the quality of our horses and some just funny things that came up with our selections. Everybody performed well but we just didn’t perform well enough.

“That’s what we have to look at–how do we climb back up there. We are examining every single piece of it.

“One of the things is looking to our coaches to create training programs for the international competitors that are better coordinated and identify the horses and rider combinations and developing them.

“This has all got to be part of our strategic plan for developing winning teams and we hope out of this conversation on the blue ribbon panel we will give birth to a new American system. That’s what has got to come out of this.”

Next: A New Transparency for the USEF?