Future Direction of International Dressage to be Decided at FEI Annual Get-Together Next Week

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Gary Rockwell. File photo. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Nov. 11, 2021

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

The direction of international dressage for the next few years will be decided next week when a new chair of the currently all-European six-member committee that decides how the sport works is elected at the annual International Equestrian Federation (FEI) General Assembly. The United States, with the second largest number of combinations after Germany on the world rankings and silver medalists at the most recent Olympics and global championships, is seeking a voice on the dressage committee as it currently has none.

The decisions will be made at the General Assembly, nominally staged in Antwerp, Belgium, Nov. 14-17 but also online. The general assembly of 136 member national federations is the ultimate decision-making body of international horse sports, including the Olympic disciplines of dressage, eventing and jumping. The general assembly meets only once a year so implementation is left to the powerful executive board.

Three candidates for chairman of the so-called technical committee and a seat on the executive board to replace Frank Kemperman who took over the role after the scandal-plagued 2008 Olympics when the judge-dominated committee was replaced are:

–Martin Richenhagen of Germany, now retired as the head of the U.S.-based AGCO, one of the world’s leading agricultural equipment manufacturers, with years of support for German and American dressage as well as a background of competing and judging. He is viewed as a business-oriented breath of fresh air able to attract untapped sources of support for dressage.

–Maribel Alonso of Mexico, a top rated 5* judge since 2009, active in staging regional championships and involved in Mexican federation and regional activities. She is the choice of the FEI nominating committee that gave no reason for its choice and has raised questions among some national federations whether she will be beholden to the FEI.

–Ulf Helgstrand, president of Denmark’s Equestrian Federation. Years of involvement in equestrian activities including vice president of the European Equestrian Federation since its founding in 2010. He is a retired professor of vascular surgery at the University of Copenhagen. He readily acknowledges questions raised as the father of Andreas Hegstrand, one of the most successful sales and equestrian development entrepreneurs in horse sports.

Also important is the appointment by the FEI board of a successor to Andrew Gardner of Great Britain whose four-year term on the dressage committee expires.

Candidates for the position are Gary Rockwell of the United States, Maarten van der Heijden of the Netherlands, Maribel Alonso, who is also up for election as chair of the dressage committee, and Peter Storr, a fellow Briton who wants to replace Andrew Gardner.

Gary Rockwell is a top ranked international 5* judge who officiated at Olympics and World Cup Finals, was on the U.S. team that took bronze at the 1994 world championships at the Hague, Netherlands. He is active in U.S. dressage activities.

Remaining members of the committee are: Beatriz Ferrer-Salat of Spain as the athletes’ representative, Irina Maknami of Russia, Patrik Kittel of Sweden and Monica Theodorescu of Germany.