Cesar Hirsch, Pan American Equestrian Confederation New President, Sets as Priority Upgrading Pan Am Games Dressage
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Jan. 3, 2020
By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
Cesar Hirsch, newly installed as president of the Pan American Equestrian Confederation, has set as a top priority upgrading Pan American Games dressage after another country with a team of mixed levels earned a reservation for Tokyo Olympics but fell short of meeting required scores at Grand Prix.
Cesar, 49 years old and from Venezuela who lives in Wellington, Florida, intends to set up group of riders, trainers, officials with knowledge of the Pan Ams and other stakeholders.
Thomas Baur, sports director of the Global Dressage Festival and working with several major shows in Europe who helped develop the current format to replace Small Tour only, is working with Cesar on the project.
Combinations representing about 12 nations typically compete at the winter-long Global circuit in Wellington.
The goal is to raise the level of competition from the current mixed Small and Big Tour riders and horses at the Pan American Games held once every four years to be closer Grand Prix, the Olympic level.
And to consider whether to recommend making the Pan Ams a qualifier for individuals so as to help boost participation.
What has brought the issue to a head was the failure of Brazil to earn sufficient minimum scores to qualify for Tokyo after claiming bronze medal at Lima, Peru to be penciled in for one of the Olympic team slots allocated to the Americas. A similar situation occurred in 2011 when Colombia was the Pan Am bronze medal team but also failed to qualify for London.
The stakes for the Americas are high.
The International Equestrian Federation (FEI), according to sources that did not want to be identified, delivered an ultimatum to Pan Am officials at a meeting late last year: Move the Pan Am team competition up to Grand Prix or risk losing designation as an Olympic qualifying event.
The effect would be serious as equestrian federations would not receive funding from their national Olympic committees. Such a step would diminish the importance of dressage at the Pan Ams that was also an Olympic qualifier for eventing and jumping.
The Pan Ams were launched in 1951 and have become one of the world’s largest sporting extravaganzas and an Olympic qualifier for many sports. All 41 nations in the Pan American Sports Organization competed at Lima that included 39 sports. About 9,500 athletes and team officials were accommodated in the Athletes Village.
The next Games, in 2023, are scheduled for Santiago, Chile. With the last three Pan Ams, Guadalajara, Mexico in 2011, Toronto, Canada in 2015 and Lima in 2019 all providing championship quality facilities, including all-important footing in warmup and competition arenas the standard is set for Santiago.
A tally of FEI rankings show a total of 21 Grand Prix horses in 11 countries in the Americas outside Canada and the U.S. There likely are many more competing at national level. The official calendar for 2020 lists four CDI3* events in Brazil and one CDI1* in Colombia.
The first step in upgrading what had been Small Tour levels came after Guadalajara and at Lima at least one Grand Prix combination had be on a team to qualify for the Tokyo Games.
At Lima, there were 30 Prix St. Georges combinations and eight Grand Prix. Canada, Brazil and Mexico each had two Big Tour and two Small Tour pairs. Canada won gold to earn an Olympic start while Brazil took bronze for the second slot. The United States was already qualified with a silver medal team performance at the Tryon World Games.
Cesar Hirsch is highly respected among both competitors and officials in all disciplines though his primary focus up to now has been jumping. He was chief steward at the Pan Ams at Guadalajara in 2011 and in Lima, as well as at the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon.
Thomas Baur, sports director of the Global Dressage Festival and several major shows in Europe who helped develop the current format to replace Small Tour only, is working with Cesar on the project.
“It’s important in our plan to have feedback from the people that are actually in the arena, ” Cesar told dressage-news.com, “in the warmup, in the training, because we can make our best decisions in a perfect scenario but if we don’t have their support we’re not taking into account all the different variables.”
Dressage, he said, needs to come up with a plan and PAEC’s aim is to establish a group to find the best solution to this formula, to have good representation and the teams have a clear plan for qualifying for the Olympics.
“We have a situation and we have to address it,” Cesar said. “We have to work diligently, we have to be responsible and we have to act fast.
“Every day is crucial. I’m going to take advantage of the fact I live in Wellington and we have all these people coming to Wellington. We can start orgasnizing what I call a working group, ad hoc committee, and to start having conversations.
“The idea is to propose something for the national federations to have a common approach and from there go to the FEI.
“We’re talking about Intermediate Tour instead of Small Tour. Intermediate II to go to Grand Prix is basically just a little step.”
Change, Cesar said, is “not only what we want it’s what we need. We always ask for more slots. At the end we have to be realistic.
“We need to send teams that are competitive and meet the standard and are going there for a reason. We’re going to document it. We’re not going to sit at a round table and say, ‘We want this.’ Everything needs to be documented, we need numbers, we need statistics. The riders and the trainers need to be involved.
“For sure it’s our priotiy right now.
“There are a lot of people into the sport, they want to invest. You give them a clear picture of what’s ahead of them I’m sure they’ll be more motivated, more willing to go for it. We have to work a lot with the motivation of the riders and the trainers.”