Maribel Alonso de Quinzaños On Her New Role On FEI Dressage Committee

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 Maribel Alonso de Quinzaños. © Ken Braddick/
Maribel Alonso de Quinzaños. © Ken Braddick/

Dec. 31, 2013


Maribel Alonso de Quinzaños brings a voice rarely heard before by the International Equestrian Federation’s Dressage Committee, a sophisticated world traveler and respected top judge but with views formed in a region where dressage has been a distant also-ran to the success of show jumping, not unlike some other big slices of the globe.

“I see part of my task to get a better understanding within the FEI  of the reality of the rest of the world in order to create convergence for the betterment  and continuous worldwide growth,” said Maribel of her position as the sole non-European on the six-member Dressage Committee that creates the format and the rules that govern the Olympic discipline.

Involved in horse sports from childhood in her native Mexico, she gave up active competition when a hip infection required surgery when she was raising her two daughters. Instead, she became involved in judging. She still rides and teaches regularly, especially eventing riders, and maintains a heavy schedule of involvement in equestrian governing activities both regionally and internationally.

She succeeded Anne Gribbons of the United States who had been a member of the FEI body for the first four years of a committee that was totally revamped after the 2008 Olympics. Her studies of psychology, finances and languages should be useful in her new role.

The views Maribel brings to the committee are more important than ever as the most knowledgeable voice from the region of North and South America embracing 30 national federations, about one-fourth of the total membership of the FEI. Major equestrian countries include Brazil, Canada, Mexico and the United States all of whom will have hosted an Olympic Games when Rio de Janeiro does so in 2016.

A major undertaking in which she took a leading role along with now fellow Dressage Committee member Thomas Baur of Germany was to upgrade the level of competition at the Pan American Games in Toronto the year before Rio. As a multi-discipline sports extravaganza second in size only to the Olympics themselves, the Pan Ams are vitally important as both a qualifier for the Games and as a showcase of region-wide representation.

The efforts led to the creation in Wellington, Florida of the first non-championship dressage Nations Cup to develop the new Pan Am format. It will be staged for the third year in February and is shaping up as among the most globally representative of any with teams from Australia, Europe and North and South America.

However, her drive to maintain the quota of two teams qualifying through the Pan Ams starting in Rio de Janeiro–excluding the host nation that always is awarded a place irrespective of the region–fell short. One nation will qualify a team  through the Pan Ams for Rio, though teams can qualify through next summer’s World Equestrian Games or have enough individuals make it through to create so-called composite teams of a minimum of three horse and rider combinations.

“There is no doubt that the final decision was not what the Americas would have liked,” Maribel told She has extensive experience with the Pan Ams including the highly successful 2011 Games at Guadalajara, Mexico

“The stronger countries of the Americas, based on their trajectory of the last 20 years, deserve to compete in the Olympics. Therefore, the Americas will have to work harder and prove that we belong there with no time to lose.

“In the next Olympics there will be more flags through individual representatives. However, the possibility to build up composite teams remains open.”

Individuals in Central and South America, Maribel said, will have to compete more at CDIs to gain the required experience and exposure. However, only Brazil, Canada and the United States have significant CDI schedules. Mexico has added two CDI3* events and Colombia a CDI2* in 2014.

“I would love to see more international events being organized throughout the continent,” she said.

“As of today every country will have to organize either CDNs or CDIs with at least two FEI judges from different nationalities than the competitors in order to qualify for every regional/continental  Games. As a result every  combination will have to comply  through a progressive qualification system.”

For countries with possibilities either for a team or an individual, riders will need support of their national federations, she said, “organizing international events, raising funds, finding sponsorship and better programming for the full Olympic cycles, not just because FEI thinks this is the correct way but because the sports authorities that depend of the International Olympic Committee have requested it. They want the best to compete in every Games and Championships.

“The Americas will have to become more creative in order to surpass our difficulties, our huge distances, geographical challenges, sanitary restrictions, complicated protocols, etc., not forgetting the extremely high cost all this involves.

“I know it is doable, but it will not be easy at all.

“It will be a hard work and will demand continuous group work to reach the goal hand in hand with the FEI’s support.”

Australia's Heath Ryan and Regardez Moi competing before Maribel Alonso in the World Cup Final at Las Vegas in 2009. Maribel was TD at the event but was coopted into the judge's position at "C" and her white coat startled some horses. © Ken Braddick/
Australia’s Heath Ryan and Regardez Moi competing before Maribel Alonso in the World Cup Final at Las Vegas in 2009. The always fashionably dressed Maribel was TD at the event but was coopted into the judge’s position at “C” in place of a judge delayed in flying from Europe and her white coat startled some horses. © Ken Braddick/

As a FEI 5* judge, the top ranking, she is keenly interested in issues affecting officials. She became FEI 3* judge in 1993, moved up to 4* in 1995 and 5* in 2008 as well as a FEI Technical Delegate.

Over the years, she has judged in more than two dozen countries on five continents including the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in 2010 and the Olympics in 2012, and will be TD at the WEG in Normandy, France next summer.

“It is my feeling that, at the moment, the number of judges versus the number of organized events throughout the world need to be in better  balance in order to provide enough opportunities to every one,” she said.

“The FEI’s criteria for judges to remain listed needs, in my opinion, to be  achievable.

“A broader and more comprehensive database of officials could provide a clearer view of dressage officials and from there better decisions can be taken.”