US Federation Dressage Director Quits

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USEF Director of Dressage Gil Merrick "O" judge Anne Gribbons who has been named as USA chef d'equipe. © 2009 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com
USEF Director of Dressage Gil Merrick and "O" judge Anne Gribbons who has been named as USA chef d'equipe. © 2009 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WINDSOR, England, Aug. 29–Gil Merrick, who had been the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s official most involved in the selection of a new American dressage chef d’equipe, has resigned from the organization.

Merrick was assistant executive director of Sport Programs and headed up the USEF’s High Performance Dressage program based at USEF headquarters in Lexington, Kentucky.

The resignation takes effect in two weeks.

At the same time, pressure is being applied by numerous riders for Anne Gribbons to remain as an “O” judge–the highest level of judges of which there are only four in the United States–and not to pursue contract negotiations with the USEF to fill the chef d’equipe’s position.

Without Gil Merrick, who has been with the USEF for four years after a successful international business career and whose skills include proficency in German, the job of chef d’equipe may be more difficult. Merrick had performed the chef d’equipe functions on many occasions at championships around the world.

John Long, the USEF Chief Executive Officer who is at the European Dressage and Jumping Championships, would not comment on the Merrick resignation or any other issue.

Long is reported to have met with Gribbons to discuss the chef d’equipe contract. Anne is one of the judges at these dressage championships.

Although she would be able to continue judging duties even as chef d’equipe, she could not serve in a dual function of chef d’equipe and an “O” judge at major championships in which the U.S. competes, such as the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, the Olympics in 2012 and the Pan American Games in 2011.

The USEF circulated a statement to the USEF staff about Merrick: “I have tendered my resignation as Assistant Executive Director for Sport Programs. I have the opportunity now to pursue some projects that will take my career in a different direction and although I will miss working with all of the friends I have made here at USEF, I am also excited about what lies ahead for the future.”

Gil Merrick’s resignation comes in the midst of the controversy surrounding the appointment of Anne Gribbons as chef d’equipe and the naming of Morten Thomsen of Denmark to coach the top U.S. riders.

The final recommendations were made by the dressage High Performance and Eligible Athlete committees after a search for several months for a replacement for Klaus Balkenhol, the German Olympic gold medalist who coached the U.S. for eight years until the end of 2008.

Three final candidates were interviered for the position: Anne Gribbons, Morten Thomsen and Robert Dover, a six-time U.S. Olympian.

The process of selecting the chef d’equipe/national coach–essentially the leader of high performance dressage for the United States–has been questioned as some committee members and applicants for the position believe that the stated procedures were not followed.