USA May Revamp Its International Dressage Programs

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Janet Foy, chair of the US Equestrian Federation High Performance Dressage Committee, withRobert Dover at "Prancing Wtth the Stars" gala to raise money for America's international dressage programs. © 2014
Janet Foy, chair of the US Equestrian Federation High Performance Dressage Committee, with Robert Dover at “Prancing Wtth the Stars” gala to raise money for America’s international dressage programs. © 2014


CHICAGO, Illinois, May 12, 2014–The groundwork may be laid this week for a major change in American dressage by creating a pipeline of international divisions from beginning ponies to championship Grand Prix into a coordinated program to develop the sport and return to Olympic and world championship medals podiums.

United States Equestrian Federation committees that write the rules for competitions and programs for ponies, junior and young riders, under-25 Brentina Cup, developing Grand Prix, young horse and small and big tours began a three-day meeting in Chicago Monday.

A goal of some at the meeting of the different committees dealing with dressage is to streamline and coordinate development of the divisions that are “FEI”–International Equestrian Federation.

Under the current setup, high performance Grand Prix and Intermediate levels are considered FEI.

Ponies, Juniors, Young Riders, Young Adult (Under-25) Brentina Cup, Young Horse and Developing Horse Championships are national programs even though the North American Junior and Young Rider Championships is an FEI event as are the World Young Dressage Horse Championships.

USEF coaches for junior/young riders and young horses are with one committee while other coaches work with another committee.

The World Cup North American League covering Canada, Mexico and the U.S. is yet another separate committee with representatves appointed by the FEI based on recommendations from national federations. At a meeting in Florida last winter the committee could not agree on some major issues and kicked them over to the FEI Dressage Committee to decide.

In the 15 months since Chrystine Tauber became president of the USEF and implemented a shakeup of committees with Janet Foy becoming chair of the High Performance Committee and Robert Dover selected as chef d’equipe a growing number of members have coalesced around an ambitious “Road Map to the Podiums” program.

It lays out an ambitious blueprint for all FEI levels from ponies to Grand Prix with increased funding and support for development of the sport. The U.S. has not been on the dressage medals podium at an Olympics since Athens in 2004 when the squad won their fourth straight team bronze medal.

Robert, a six-time Olympian and based in Wellington, Florida, has aggressively pushed to send more American horses and riders to Europe for training and competition, personally launching fund raising that has brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Another major change in direction in the USEF will likely come from the appointment of Chris Welton as USEF chief executive, a post he takes over at the end of this month.

For the past 20 years he has been highly successful creating global marketing and sponsorship deals for the Olympics and other premier international sports events.

Janet Foy has helped drive more coordination of international programs as well as efforts to send more combinations to Europe.

“My main objective is to change a little bit the thought process what we do with our riders,” she told dressage-news.como. “I firmly believe that not going to Europe unless you can win was the wrong idea.

“We need to send riders from the whole pipeline to Europe,” she said and described communication between the commitees as good to deal with the overlap of some programs.

Between 15 and 20 Grand Prix combinations are expected to compete in Europe this summer and Robert Dover plans to field teams in Nations Cup competitions at Rotterdam, Aachen, Germany and Hickstead, England as well as the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France at the end of August. The U.S. can qualify young horses for the world championships in Verden, Germany.