USA Dressage Coach Candidates Face Questioning from Top Riders

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Robert Dover with Anne Grbbons. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Robert Dover with Anne Grbbons. © 2013 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

The two candidates for the position of United States dressage coach–American Robert Dover and the Netherlands’ Rien van der Schaft–face questioning from team riders meeting in private in South Florida on Saturday in another step in the process that began with the resignation of the previous coach more than six months ago.

Robert Dover was to meet face-to-face with the U.S. Equestrian Federation Eligible Athletes Committee–made up of riders who have competed on American teams–while Rien van der Schaft was to make his presentation via a computer telecommunications link because his American visa was not valid.

The athletes meeting in West Palm Beach, held at the same time as the Wellington Nations Cup, came after a search committee made its recommendations on a replacement for Anne Gribbons who rsigned last October after three years in the post that included the 2010 World Equestrian Games, the 2011 Pan American Games and the 2012 Olympics.

Robert, 56, had been a candidate three years ago and when he was passed over took a similar position with Canada.

The visa issue for Rien, 59, was noted by some riders as an embarrassment as the job description for the position that is officially described as Technical Advisor and includes that of Chef d’Equipe requires being domiciled in the United States.

The lack of leadership for American dressage–Eva Salomon, an experienced international official who had run the dressage program at the U.S. Equestrian Federation resigned in January to return to home in Sweden–has had an impact on programs.

The USEF announced two tours of riders for Europe, one beginning at Mannheim, Germany, in three weeks and the second at Munich a week later. No high performance combinations from the U.S. are entered at either compettion.

At the same time, issues of coordination of grants of funds for training and travel have arisen.

Grants were made to 10 riders–six on the U.S. West Coast and four on the East Coast–but some were made to riders whose horses are not sound and others complain that the amounts are not sufficient to meet transportation costs. At the same time, some of the same riders have applied for grants for small tour or developing horses but decisions on those will not be made until later this year. And some grants earmarked for roundtrip travel to Europe will not be made until later still, after the U.S. national championships in October.

The process of selecting a new coach still has more steps to take–the recommendation of the Eligible Athletes Committee goes to the High Performance Committee for its blessing and then to the Executive Committee for approval. Plus, the contract for the successful candidate has to be negotiated.