USA Pan Am Team Selection to Include European Competitions for Big & Small Tour

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Robert Dover and Debbie McDonald at the World Games in Normandy. © 2014 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com
Robert Dover and Debbie McDonald at the World Games in Normandy. © 2014 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Selection for the United States team for the Pan American Games team next summer will include European competitions for big and small combinations, Chef d’Equipe Robert Dover said Thursday.

An even bigger push for a U.S. presence in Europe extending to all divisions including Young Horses, Young Riders and Under-25 is also planned for 2015 (See separate story on the 2015 Youth program).

And American teams will compete in as many as possible of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) series of seven Nations Cup competitions–one in the United States and six in Europe–despite some date conflicts.

An outline of plans for the ambitious campaign ever by the United States to improve high performance dressage through the “Pipeline Program,” will be matched by an equally ambitious fund raising effort centered around three events spearheaded by Robert in Florida and California.

Since being appointed Technical Advisor/Chef d’Equipe in April, 2013, Robert has implemented the so-called Pipeline Program of development for all levels of dressage in an effort to get American teams back on Olympic and world championship medals podiums. The last occasion was at the World Games in Aachen, Germany in 2006, though Steffen Peters and Ravel won two individual medals at the WEG in Kentucky in 2010.

This year saw perhaps the biggest presence ever of about 20 American combinations in Europe, mostly at Grand Prix but including a small number of Prix St. Georges combinations.

The Pan Am Games in Toronto in July are a unique format of teams made up of both big and small tour combinations.

The Festival of Champions, the U.S. national championships for ponies through Grand Prix, typically used for team selections, will not be the case in 2015.

Only a single nation will qualify through the Pan Ams for a team berth at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. No teams from the Americas qualified at the World Games in Normandy. The only recourse for nations not successful in Toronto will be to qualify enough individual pairs to make up a “composite” team of a mnimum of three combinations.

While the United States has usually provided financial support for a limited number of Grand Prix combinations to compete in Europe there has been no continuing program for other divisions. Individual efforts in recent years have included the success of Caroline Roffman and Sagacious HF in the Under-25 Division and Steffen Peters and Weltino’s Magic at small tour, both in Aachen, Germany, the world’s premier horse show.

Although the U.S. is invited to send multiple combinations to the World Young Horse Championships in Europe, the American presence has been limited by a lack of financial suport.

The prospect of financial aid for European tours in divisions below the Big and Small tours is seen as an enticement for more participation at those levels at American horse shows.

U.S. Young Rider and Under-25 programs are impacted more than most nations by the education path of four years of college–typically away from home–following high school and where equestrian programs are not part of the structure.

An addition to the fund raisers in Florida and California organized by Robert is the debut of “American Equestrians Got Talent” to showcase the non-horse talents from all disciplines.

The Grille Fashion Cuisine in Wellington will host auditions of the equestrian community, including riders, grooms and others involved in any discipline every Wednesday evening from Jan. 7 through March 4.

A pair of celebrity judges will critique the performances from 7:30 pm to 10 pm but audience applause will determine who moves forward to the final.

The final will be at the Global Dressage Festival international arena on March 15 with a prize of $5,000.

Proceeds from all three fundraisers will go to the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation to support High Performance Dressage programs.

Prospective sponsors can contact Sara Ike (908-234-1251 or sara.ike@uset.org) or Robert Dover (Rdover2@aol.com).