Laura Tomlinson of Great Britain – Candidate for Election as FEI Dressage Athlete

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Laura Tomlinson. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Laura Tomlinson. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Laura Tomlinson is one of two candidates for election as the FEI Athlete on the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) Dressage Committee and the FEI Athlete Council. The successful Athlete will serve for four years.

Laura Tomlinson of Great Britain and Anna Paprocka-Campanella of Italy answered questions from dressage-news.com on why they are standing for the first direct election of Athletes in the 93-year history of the FEI.

Athlete details:

Age: 29. Born: Mainz, Germany. Citizen: United Kingdom. Languages: English, German
Championship history:
1999 – European Pony Championships
2000 – European Pony Championships
2001 – European Junior Championships
2002 – European Junior Championships
2003 – European Junior Championships
2004 – European Young Rider Championships
2005 – European Young Rider Championships
2006 – World Equestrian Games, Aachen, Germany
2007 – European Championships, Turin, Italy
2008 – Olympic Games, Hong Kong
2009 – European Championships, Windsor, England
2010 – World Equestrian Games, Lexington, Kentucky
2011 – European Championships, Rotterdam, Netherlands
2012 – Olympic Games, London
(FEI competition records available at: https://data.fei.org/Person/Performance.aspx?p=98DA772E641CCD4DFA8801570A3299EA)

Dressage-News.com: Why are you standing for the position?

Laura: Dressage needs to be modernized. We need to make it more commercial and attract more sponsors. More can and must be done to promote the sport. At the same time, I feel very strongly that dressage is a classical sport, founded on the basic skills of horse and rider and its essence must be safeguarded. I have competed at the highest and lowest levels in dressage, I understand what is needed to develop the sport and I am on the side of riders that want a level playing field in competition.

I am passionate about dressage and I believe I can represent the interests of riders and horses for the benefit of our sport. Additionally, I believe I have the leadership and diplomacy skills that certainly will be needed.

D-N: What strengths/experience would you bring to the position?

Laura: Personal experience–I have competed from international pony level right through to international seniors. I have competed in 14 consecutive championships from the age of 14 to 27. I plan on being back out at championship level next year again but have witnessed not only my recent medal successes but also years of starting at the bottom, hard work with no medals and competing just to gain the experience. So I know what it is like at both ends of the sport and how important it is not only to facilitate the top riders but also make sure we have a broad base of competitors from all ages and all corners of the globe.

Education–I have a deep interest in politics and management. I have a joint honors BSc in philosophy and politics from Bristol University. Good training for a role in dressage politics. I have had to balance a competition career with full-time education such as doing my final university exams in the same year as competing in the World Equestrian Games in 2006. My personal philosophy is that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing properly.

Global development–I am spending a month a year in Argentina and have seen at first hand how the developing Olympic equestrian disciplines are growing. It is important that dressage supports this growth without curtailing the progression at top level. I believe my experience both academically and in my sport would enable me to have a positive influence on shaping our sport leading up to the next Olympics in Brazil, the next big opportunity to showcase dressage to the world.

D-N: What do you see as the major issues facing FEI athletes?

Laura: The issues facing the riders over the next few competition seasons are likely to still be related to the judging system, for example freestyles and degree of difficulty and also the relevance and weight of collective marks.

After each Olympics, the current tests are reviewed and new tests are written. We need to ensure that the tests are really testing the essence of correct training.

Finding ways to make the sport more appealing to sponsors, TV and the general public without turning it into circus riding and still keeping it fair to our horses.

There will also be potential issues coming up prior to the next Olympics regarding technicalities there, which I believe my experience at many championships will be invaluable.

D-N: How would you address these issues as a member of the FEI Dressage Committee?

Laura: Firstly, my job as the rider representative would be to represent the interests of all riders, not just present my personal opinion. For riders to truly influence the direction of the Dressage Committee, we have to speak as a concerted group.

Of course, I will be the only rider and there are five other members whose opinions have to be swayed. Having grown up with three older brothers I know what it’s like not to get heard. I also learned how to get heard! I can hold my own in a debate and am sure that during committee meetings and when dealing with the FEI that I would be able to help find solutions that suit all parties and have the interest of my sport at heart at all times.

I am approachable and love to discuss new ideas and issues within my sport in a positive way so I hope that people would feel like they could get involved and really be ‘represented’ by me. I am also extremely honest and say what I think is right or wrong, I will not be ‘played!’

D-N: How much time and effort do you expect the position to require and do you have the time and ability to make the effort to properly meet the requirements?

Laura: The time it will take is non-trivial but it is crucial that riders participate in the development of dressage–it is for our own good.

It is not just attending and preparing for the monthly meetings, but all the work that goes on behind those meetings. Communicating with other stakeholder groups; liaising with riders at shows–staying close to the competition circuit… it all takes time but it has to be done. Fortunately, the IDRC (International Dressage Riders Club) has a structure that allows me to communicate and coordinate with riders and has a very experienced Board that has deep knowledge of the issues that affect riders.

As you may know, I am having a baby in July. This means I will not be competing or training as hard for the time being and then when I do come back to competition I only have three or four top horses to focus on leaving me time to dedicate to this side of the sport. This gives me the chance to give something back to the sport which has given me so much.

D-N: The FEI Dressage Committee is made up primarily of Europeans–Frank Kemperman (NED), Thomas Baur (GER), David Hunt (GBR), Hans-Christian Matthiesen (DEN) and Kyra Kyrklund (FIN). Maribel Alonso de Quinzaños (MEX) is the sole non-European representative. Do you think it is important to take into account the views of athletes in other regions of the world and how to address issues facing those athletes if they are different than European athletes?

Laura: When you are on the Dressage Committee, you do not represent a country, you represent dressage globally. You are responsible for its global development.

The next Olympics are in Brazil and we want more riders from different parts of the world able to work at Grand Prix level and compete at championships. We need to make sure that whilst the sport is charging ahead at the very top end, the standard is raised at the lower end of the scale too.

I am committed to ensuring that the needs of riders from developing countries are heard and represented fairly at the Dressage Committee.

Election is via a secure online voting platform and voting is open until 2359 Central European time (2159 GMT) June 1  (click here to go to voting platform).