USA Championship Title Sponsor Tim Dutta Voices Strong Support for Elite Dressage Program, But Questions Event Scheduling
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
WELLINGTON, Florida, Dec. 26, 2015–Tim Dutta believes firmly in supporting American high performance dressage heading toward the Olympic Games next summer, but as the title sponsor of the national championships questions moving the event to different locations each year and splitting up divisions to widely separated parts of the country.
Tim Dutta along with The Dutta Corp., the global horse transportation business he founded more than 27 years ago, is title sponsor of the U.S. Equestrian Federation’s dressage Festival of Champions and the eventing national championships as well as a major sponsor of jumping competitions and polo. The eventing championships are staged at the same location each year, Fair Hill, Maryland.
Years long involvement in dressage led him to expand support to the program developed by American coach Robert Dover, including a much larger presence in Europe in the past two years. His wife, Susan, has been a Grand Prix competitor for many years, has competed on several United States teams and spends almost half the year based in Europe.
“We agreed to partner with the championships when Robert laid out his vision in 2013,” Tim said. “Our sponsorship is through 2018 but we leave the marketing message for the USEF to drive home.
“The Festival of Champions is an important event in dressage, especially coming up to an Olympics. It’s important for fund raising, to get the riders sharper and, at the end, for owners to buy better horses because without them we are not competitive.
“And the reality is we as a nation have to go to Europe on a routine basis, so it becomes second nature and the team is completely comfortable with competing against the best in the world on an equal footing before the same judges.”
The model, he said, was created by George Morris in response to a system where American riders would compete in European shows for a few weeks, return home for months then go back to Europe and “be a disaster.”
“It is about consistency,” in Tim’s view. “We have to show week after week, develop fitness, conquer nerves and, at the end, training with harmony between horses and riders to bring us up to a totally different standard.”
Sponsorship for Tim began with developing dressage championships and grew to become title sponsor of the annual national championships known as the Festival of Champions as well as the Grand Prix and Intermediate divisions.
The championships have traditionally generated excitement not just for the competitions of the top U.S. combinations for ponies, juniors, young riders and Under-25 as well as Big and Small Tours from around the country but as a vital step toward selecting teams for Olympics and World and Pan American Games.
They have most frequently been staged at the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation headquarters in Gladstone, New Jersey an hour outside New York City. The century-old complex was for many years the residence of riders selected for teams preparing for the three Olympic disciplines and was supported by surrounding communities that helped fill spectator stands and even donated generously to prize money.
Since Tim Dutta personally and his Dutta Corp. became title sponsor, the championships have hopscotched around the United States. Lexington, Kentucky in 2013, Gladstone in 2014, both in summer, the Grand Prix and Intermediate championships in Wellington, Florida in December, 2015 and to Thousand Oaks, California in November, 2016. The ponies through Under-25 divisions were peeled off in 2015 to go to Wayne, Illinois where they will return in 2016 alongside the U.S. Young Horse Championships in summer.
“As much as I support Robert’s vision and I sincerely believe in his cause and results, commercially, splitting the championships dilutes the value, prestige and brand building as it’s not the same,” Tim told dressage-news.com.
“Same as rotating the venues as we cannot build a brand.”
The Grand Prix and Intermediate championships at Wellington’s Global Dressage Festival grounds drew bigger crowds than have attended the event in recent years at Gladstone primarily, according to anecdotal reports, because of support from the large equestrian base and the local community that attends the Friday night Freestyles at the Global Dressage Festival throughout winter.
“It always takes some time to develop sponsorship programs,” Tim said. “There are many reasons for sponsorship. We’re not really an organization that uses sponsorship to drive business to us. We want to give back to the sports that have given us so much.
“Unlike most other corporate sponsors who must have a return on their investment, ours is a clear way to say ‘thank you’ to our customers, that we not only receive their business but also give back to the sports that have given us so much.”
Dutta Corp. business of flying sport horses around the world and a partnership from the beginning with Guido Klatte in Lastrup, Germany has grown so much that it has opened a year round office in Florida in addition to its base in New York to manage flights into and out of Miami and New York, the two major quarantine centers on the U.S. East Coast.