Mariette Withages, Fired Decade Ago As Chair of FEI Dressage Committee, One of Six Candidates to Join Body that Sets Global Agenda for Sport

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Mariette Withages at her rtirement eremony from international judging. © 2013

June 15, 2018

Mariette Withages, ousted a decade ago as chair of the International Equestrian Federation’s Dressage Committee, is among six candidates seeking to fill a vacancy on the six-member group that sets the global agenda for the sport.

Mariette, now 77 years old and from Belgium, is one of the candidates for a four-year term on the committee that come open late this year, along with Canadians Cara Whitham and Christilot Boylen, Barbara Ardu of Italy, Russia’s Irina Maknami and Spain’s Beatriz Ferrer-Salat.

Current members of the Dressage Committee are Frank Kemperman of the Netherlands, chair and director of the World Equestrian Festival CHIO in Aachen, Germany, Andrew Gardener of Great Britain, Luis Lucio of Spain, Anna Paprocka Campanella of Italy, Klaus Roeser of Germany and George Williams of the United States. Luis Lucio’s term ends this year and so does that of Anna Paprocka Campanella but that position is filled by a vote of qualified riders.

The candidates that will be vetted by the dressage committee and decided upon by the FEI Bureau are:

Barbara Ardu, 60, of Italy–FEI 4* judge since 2009. She is involved with the Italian Equestrian Federation (FISE) development.

Christilot Boylen, 71, of Canada–competed in six Olympics–Tokyo 1964, Mexico 1968, Munich 1972, Montreal 1976, Los Angeles in 1984 and Barcelona 1992. She has an exotic heritage–born in Indonesia, her mother was of Chinese, Dutch, French, and Indonesian descent and her father an Australian soldier. She earned individual gold medals at the 1971, 1975 and 1987 Pan American Games, the only athlete to achieve three individual golds in Pan Am history. In addition, she was Canadian national dressage champion seven times. She lived in Germany and competed throughout Europe for several years, but moved back to Canada and is an active competitor in Canada and Florida in winter as well as a high performance trainer.

Beatriz Ferrer-Salat, 52, of Spain She is the daughter of Carlos Ferrer who played tennis for Spain in the 1953 Davis Cup and later became president of Spain’s Olympic Committee during Barcelona’s selection in 1986 as host for the 1992 summer Games that inspired Beatriz to pursue dressage as a profession. She competed in the 1996 Los Angeles, 2000 Sydney, 2004 Athens and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and 1998 Rome and 2002 Jerez, Spain World Equestrian Games that led to her becoming the most successful dressage rider in Spanish history. She has also declared her candidacy for election as the rider representative on the Dressage Committee.

Irina Maknami, 43, of Russia became a 3* judge in 2009, elevated to 4* in 2013 and to 5* a year ago. Irina first worked for Grand Prix rider and trainer Olga Soboleva in Moscow, riding at national shows then worked under the tutelage of Anatoly Antikyan. She moved to Virginia on the U.S. East Coast to work with Melissa Ash after the Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson imported some Russian dressage horses that she rode in national competitions. On her return to Russia she worked for the equestrian federation in charge of  international relations, helped organize international shows, was chef d’ equipe for Russian dressage teams and started judging national competitions. Judging assignments have included the 2016 World Cup Final and the inaugural European Under-25 Championships in 2016.

Cara Whitham, 73 years old, of Canada–appointed an “Olympic” or “O” judge later designated 5* for both dressage and eventing in 2004, continues as a top level official and for many years was organizer of top Canadian competitions. Judging assignments included the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, the 2003 and 2011 Pan American Games and the 2005 European Championships. She was on the eventing ground jury for the 2004 Athens Olympics as well as the 1998 and 2002 World Games. During a career in equestrian sports she was named several times as both short and long listed rider for Canadian dressage teams, was chef d’equipe for the Canadian team at the 2004 Los Angeles Olympics. She was technical delegate of the North American Junior & Young Rider Championships for several years and has been appointed technical delegate of the World Games in Tryon, North Carolina in September.

Mariette Withages, then chair, as well as the entire dressage committee whose six members included four judges, was fired by the FEI president at the time, Princess Haya, following controversial decisions at the 2008 Olympics amidst accusations of biased judging. She initially fought the ouster but departed when presented with a case that the princess said reflected so badly on the committee’s management of dressage that the sport was  threatened with being thrown out of the Olympics. A task force was set up that proposed ways to overhaul management of the committee, make changes with the aim of increasing popularity of dressage and deal with one of the most serious issues: judging.