With USA Back On Olympic Medals Podium, Robert Dover to Use New Deal to Go For Gold

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Debbie McDonald jumping for joy next to Robert Dover at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiror. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Robert Dover and Debbie McDonald at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Dec. 3, 2016

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

With the United States back on the Olympic medals podium fulfilling a goal set four years ago, Robert Dover will use the extension by two years of his time as Technical Advisor to set America on what he is confident can be a path to gold.

To keep building the momentum that led to Olympic team bronze at Rio de Janeiro, he is launching an even more ambitious effort to raise money to send larger numbers of Americans at all levels of dressage to compete in Europe despite 2017 being an “off year” for the U.S.

Robert, whose career includes six Olympics including four team bronze medals, outlined his plans to dressage-news.com for the next two years as Technical Advisor/Chef d’Equipe with the U.S. Equestrian Federation extending as far as the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina in 2018.

The 60-year-old Robert explained that instead of the usual term of four years to match the Olympic cycle with the next Games in Tokyo in 2020, he was torn between wanting to spend more time enjoying his personal life.

“I have a great life outside of the horse world, of which I’m grateful for both but, honestly. you get to a place where you say, ‘OK, I have this window of opportunity in my life to truly enjoy my life doing all the things I like and going to all the places I want to go,’ and when you take on as much responsibility as this job dictates it truly controls your life.

“So rather than decide that I would take it on for four more years I thought. ‘let me do two more years and then re-evaluate’. I also think it’s incumbent upon us to groom the next leaders for our sport.”

When he took the job in 2013 after two Olympics in which the U.S. did not medal in dressage, he worked with other U.S. coaches, George Williams, president of the U.S. Dressage Federation and on the USEF board, and the staff to create “Road Map to the Podiums” that in 58 pages outlined what was felt to be the direction in training and competition programs and what would be needed to fund and administer them. Unlike most countries, American dressage along with other sports is supported solely by private funding.

The USA gold medal team at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, the start of the first official year of the trans-Atlantic series that was won by the United States. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
The USA gold medal team at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival, the start of the first official year of the trans-Atlantic series that was won by the United States. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

“When I look back on what we wrote that at the very beginning,” he said, “what I’m really happy about is that for the most part we were able to realize what was written in that document. I’m really grateful to everyone for supporting me and helping us to achieve the goals that we laid out.

“Now it’s time to write the next four-year plan and possibly a plan even beyond that, for sure a four-year plan regardless of whether I’m there for it.

“What I would say is that instead of the ‘Road Map to the Podiums,’  let’s call it the ‘Road Map to the Gold’.”

Ambitious

“You know how I am,” he laughed. “I’m one of the greatest optimists of all time.

“I don’t have any thought  in my head other than achieving what I set out to do. There’s  no doubt our country has the potential to be the strongest nation in world. We have more assets, we’re huge as a country, that works both for and against us. But if we as a community put our minds to it we can do anything.

“Americans don’t like to lose and we certainly do like to win in everything. Even when things can become not exactly what we thought somehow America over its history has always brought itself back to being the strongest nation in world and I believe that should be the same for Olympic sports and our own sport in particular.”

The next two years will see both global championships in America–the annual World Cup finals of dressage and jumping in Omaha at the end of March and the quadrennial world championships of the seven international horse sports and para-equestrian at Tryon, North Carolina in 2018. Historically, he said, home field is an advantage and the U.S. could finish in the top three at the WEG to qualify a team for the Tokyo Olympics.

“We’ve got to keep on pushing to insure our riders and horses have every advantage going into the World Cup and the WEG,” he said, “by their ability to dot every i and cross every t with our training and competitive programs.”

Programs have to be stepped up for both the WEG and the Olympics, he explained:.

“We have to double down on producing the most strategically adept programs for our training and our competitions going forward that insures we are keeping our eye on the prize of the next Olympic Games in Tokyo.”

A focus will be to analyze and learn to manage selection of teams for major competitions as to what it means for the format for the Tokyo Olympics of three combinations and no drop score. Teams at the 2018 World Games will have four combinations and a drop score as has been traditional at WEGs and was so at the London and Rio Olympics.

He wants to apply a “huge amount of energy and resources” to work with other coaches to develop the lower end of the pyramid to sustain dressage for the long term and to groom potential leaders of the sport to take over from him and other current leaders.

Robert Dover fixing the girth on Legolas with Steffen Peters in the saddle in the awards ceremony at the World Equestrian Festival CHIO in Aachen, Germany. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Robert Dover fixing the girth on Legolas with Steffen Peters in the saddle in the awards ceremony at the World Equestrian Festival CHIO in Aachen, Germany. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

“I want to send as many athletes to Europe on multiple tours in 2017, hitting as many if not all of the Nations Cups with a big goal to win the Nations Cup series again to posture us perfectly for the World Equestrian Games.”

To make it all work, Robert is working on fund raising efforts that will require considerably more effort and involvement by him than even the successful campaigns he waged in the past three years.

The “American Equestrians Got Talent,” a cornerstone of the effort will be staged on Wednesday nights over nine weeks beginning Jan. 11 during the Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida with the finale on Sunday Mar. 19.

Instead of the talent show being held at a restaurant or bar where all but a relatively small percentage of the food and drink sales goes to the restaurant, the ballroom of the Wellington community center will be the entertainment venue capable of seating at least 300 for dinner and more than another 150 for drinks with a much larger share of food and beverage sales going to dressage.

That means hiring a caterer and other essential services and making sure that it not only goes smoothly but generates excitement that Robert hopes will raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to plow back into American dressage.