Robert Dover Reported to Have Won Support in Latest Step of Hiring USA Team Coach

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Robert Dover. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Robert Dover. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

America’s Robert Dover won the votes but the Netherlands’ Rien van der Schaft won the respect as the only two candidates on Saturday made made their cases to become the United States coach through the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

The two candidates for the post of what is formally called Technical Advisor/Chef d’Equipe but really means of leader of the international dressage program for the United States made presentations Saturday to support their candidacies to a group of team championship riders that the U.S. Equestrian Federation calls the Eligible Athletes Committee.

It was another step–perhaps the most significant after passing muster with the selection commttee–in the process of being annointed coach of teams for the World Equestrian Games, the Pan American Games, Olympics and other high performance events. It coincided with this weekend’s Nations Cup competition in Wellington where there was no U.S. coach because the last holder of the position, Anne Gribbons, quit six months ago.

The presentations of the two candidates was something of an anti-climax.

Robert Dover, a six-time Olympian who the night before the presentation at a West Palm Beach hotel had been master of ceremonies of a glamorous event that raised $160,000 to support high performance dressage, met the committee in person.

Rien van der Schaft, not widely known in the United States but highly respected as a trainer, was reported to have made a big impact on the committee because he focused on the team.

But the impact of his presentation was muted because it was by transatlantic computer link rather than face-to-face as he did not have a valid visa for the United States. The job description lists beng domiciled in the U.S. as a requirement.

Even so the 59-yeat-old longtime trainer was said by members of the committee to have been impressive in his presentation and responses to questions about how he would handle for the position.

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

Although is presentation was said by some committee members not to have been as polished, he was more highly rated on the panel’s one-to-five scale.

He was a front-runner from the start of the process that now goes to the dressge High Performance Committee.

If that group goes along with the decision to support Robert, a contract will be negotiated to sign him up through the next Olympic cycle.

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.