Equine Canada’s Ambitious Six-Year “One Vision” Strategic Plan

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Ashley Holzer, Canada's top dressage rider, on Breaking Dawn at the Olympics in London last summer. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Equine Canada proposed an ambitious six-year strategic plan it labeled “One Vision” to overhaul and reinvigorate horse sports, including Olympic and other high performance programs, with plans for diversified funding including a lot of government money to pay for it.

The federation spent almost two years preparing what it called “a blueprint to reinvigorate the organization and set the stage for future successes as we build towards 2018.”

Canada is one several nations conducting top-to-bottom reviews of their horse sport activities–the United States set up a blue ribbon panel to review its programs and Equestrian Australia launched a similar effort, both driven by poor performances at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

The Canadian plan listed these strategic areas to focus its efforts:

–Excellence in equine development with a focus on research, production, promotion and equine welfare to foster a robust and sustainable horse industry;

–Adopting an inclusive approach for the future of equestrianism in Canada to attract, engage and retain a constant stream of participants;

–Focus on technical expertise and innovative training and analysis, including exposing athletes to international expertise and competitions to gain an advantage on international competitors;

–Building a positive competitive culture, from grassroots to podium, highlighting the sport’s unique relationship with horses, is key to success;

–Set aggressive goals for Equine Canada to process improvement and change, providing training and support for organizational excellence;

–Make continual improvements in financial capacity, seeking to expand and diversify the funding base and incorporate innovative strategies to support goals, and

–Maintain and renew information technology and infrastructure as the highest priority to contribute to the core mission of the organization.

Jacqueline Brooks competing in her second straight Olympics for Canada, on D Niro at the London Olympics last year. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

“Canada is already successful in many areas of equestrian sport,” the federation plan said. “We must work hard to maintain and improve this position, both within the international equestrian community and in the consciousness of the public. Equine Canada is committed to developing a high-performance culture within every element of the organization.”

In turn, it expects:

• Achievement of performance targets at identified major games;
• More talented horses remaining in Canada;
• Strengthened relationships with high-performance funding partners;
• Identification and targeting of an increased number of up-and-coming athletes, and
• Hosting of national and international championships.

Canada will host the Pan American Games in Toronto in 2015 and is a candidate to host the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Bromont, the rebuilt equestrian venue of the 1976 Olympic Games. However, no World Cup qualifiers in dressage have declined in recent years and none have been scheduled for the 2012/2013 season although the country is part of the North American League along with the United States.

The plan charges Equine Canada with developing “a cohesive high performance strategy, implementing more formal cross-discipline structures of coordination to significantly enhance performance and improve resource utilization.

“We will implement approved world-class performance targets by achieving podium performances at equestrian events and encouraging the establishment of centers of excellence,” it said.

“We will establish strategic partnerships and a multi-year plan to attract high performance horses, and create incentives and a national outreach program to encourage horse owners to keep talented horses in Canada.

“Equine Canada will actively recruit innovative technical leaders and coaches; enhance efforts to retain highly valued professionals by ensuring they have the resources to achieve their professional goals and aspirations and plan for their success.

“Equine Canada will promote and encourage innovative research and analysis for equine and human athletes to support world-class performance and athlete development.

“Equine Canada will implement a hosting strategy to strengthen equestrian excellence and athlete development.”

Canada's Eric Lamaze, a global superstar on Hickstead celebrating their individual gold medal at the 2008 Olympic Games. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The federation said it will create a Major Events Plan and be actively engaged with domestic and international events held in Canada to develop progressive, skills-based championships by creating a comprehensive championship model including regional, provincial, national and international championships.

The sport will be provided expertise such as health and welfare, safety standards, high performance and athlete development. The outline seems similar to the program implemented by Great Britain with taxpayer and lottery funding to reap team gold medals in dressage and jumping, individual gold and bronze in dressage and team silver in eventing at the London Games.

Equine Canada will identify and support development of the next generation of athletes as well as current athletes by:

* Establishing and implementing a cohesive, coordinated multi-year training and competition program;

* Providing focused domestic and international competition and training opportunities for Canadian equestrian team prospects;

* Improving support for elite athletes and owners;

* Facilitating access to sport science/medicine and technical services;

* Analyzing current high-performance results to help determine significant trends, impacts and gaps and establish standards required to achieve podium performance, and

* Celebrating athlete achievements and telling their stories.

Equine Canada said it will effectively administer Sport Canada’s Athlete Assistance Program to add the greatest value to equestrian sport in Canada, remove decision-making barriers to encourage innovation and improve high performance cooperation and efficiency.

Innovative communications strategies will be investigated to improve links with membership and stakeholders as well as “encourage public excitement and involvement in equestrian events, creating a sustainable legacy of increased participation in equestrian activities.”

To pay for it, Equine Canada aims to generate resources to meet the needs of the present without compromising the future, working with the sport sector, governments and the research community to create what it called “new economics of sport.”

In addition to traditional and social enterprise approaches to raise funds, Equine Canada said it will maintain and strengthen relationships with its high performance funding partners and ensure all government funding programs are maximized.

Relationships with alumni, friends and patron programs will be cultivated to achieve sustained private financial support and philanthropic funding.

Marketing will be strengthened to better leverage public support, a branding strategy developed, partnerships sought with sports, leisure, arts, culture and entertainment organizations and a creative publicity strategy developed to increase media coverage and influence, including coverage of national and international sporting achievements

Other funding initiatives could include developing an international events and hosting strategy, capitalizing on sponsorship, branding and revenue opportunities.

Equine Canada said the steps implementing the strategic plan include mobilizing around the “One Vision” plan and monitoring by the federation’s board of directors every quarter.