USA Spending Record Amount to Fund 24 Dressage Combinations to Compete in Europe
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
WELLINGTON, Florida, May 4, 2015–Record spending by the United States is enabling at least 24 dressage combinations to compete in Grand Prix, Under-25 and Young Rider events in Europe this summer to prepare for the Pan American Games and the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro next year.
The USA’s most ambitious program ever is centered around eight Big and Small Tour pairs being prepared for the Pan Ams, three separate teams for Nations Cups in Rotterdam; Hagen, Germany; Falsterbo, Sweden and Hickstead, England and other premier shows in at least six countries.
More money is being sought to help pay costs of Americans competing at the World Young Horse Championships in Verden, Germany and to launch a pony division to complete the pipeline of programs from beginners to the elite level.
The first group of horses and riders arrived in Europe this week for Pferd International at Munich, Germany, the first of four shows the Pan Am squad of eight pairs will compete to select the team of four combinations for the team at Toronto in mid-July.
The rapid expansion of America’s dressage presence in Europe is a direct result of aggressive fund raising by Robert Dover who was appointed U.S. Technical Advisor/Chef d’Equipe two years ago this month to implement the “pipeline” program to return the U.S. to Olympic and World Games medals podiums.
U.S. high performance dressage programs could end up with $2 million this year made up of a commitment of up $500,000 from Claudine and Fritz Kundrun if matched by other contributions totaling $1 million, a winter-long fund rasing effort personally undertaken by Robert in Wellington, an extravaganza in California and other donations.
“It’s quite amazing,” said Robert. “this is exactly where we need to be” to provide funding for young horse, youth riders, developing and high performance programs to be competitive with Germany, Netherlands and Great Britain.
It will support the programs of coaches Christine Traurig for young horses and George Williams and Charlotte Bredahl-Baker for youth that were separate but are now under the “pipeline” umbrella with Debbie McDonald for developing who also works with Robert Dover on overall high performance.
“It’s going to work in a much more cohesive way to produce a very well oiled machine and pipleline,” Robert said.
The pipeline was created to build a program that would lead to medal-winning teams after the U.S. failed to finish in the top three in 2008 and 2012 Olympics following four consecutive Games–1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004–of bronze medal performances. Robert was on all four of those teams. In the same period, the U.S. won team silver at the World Equestrian Games in 2002 and bronze in 1994 and 2006.
“I think that there always have been great people involved in our sport,” he said, “both athletes and owners that produced great teams.”
“What we were was a country that had the nucleus of a very well mounted teams with very excellent riders and great owners. That nucleus aged out, both horses and riders.”
Robert met with the U.S. Equestrian Federation High Performance Committee in 2006 about the lack of a strong national program that could produce the next stars from Young Riders on up.
“If something was not done from 2006 to 2008,” he warned, “we would not medal. Sadly that’s what happened. We dug ourselves a deep hole and took a long time to dig our way out.”
Coincidentally, the new organizers of the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida were looking at restoring dressage to the schedule. The complex was built on what had been the original polo fields and which had also given birth to the winter jumping circuit in its parking lot a quarter century earlier.
Millions of dollars were invested into what became the launching of the Global Dressage Festival in 2011 with world class show grounds and the highest non-championship prize money. GDF has attracted sharply increasing numbers of competitors from both sides of the Atlantic and has become the center of competition dressage in the Americas.
The Global circuit of seven CDIs with almost $700,000 in prize money, he said, has been game-changing and is “nurturing our fututre stars” but California lacks a comparable show ground.
With most of the pieces of what could be the future makeup of dressage in the U.S. a next step, Robert said, “is the need to create a harmonized show calendar on the West and East Coasts that are not constantly in competiton with each other for riders.”