Eventing Chef d'Equipe

Monday, March 7, 2011

In 2013 Captain Mark Phillips will step down at the US Eventing Chef d'Equipe and Technical Advisor.  At the beginning of the year it was announced that applications were being accepted for the position and a lot of talk was made that the people most impacted by this choice would have a say in who the new Chef was was.  In other words, the riders would be able to have their say.  Well, as applications started arriving, I for one got very excited by the prospect of the new ideas that we would be hearing.  I know that I am not a rider who will be affected by this choice.  I'm just feeling my way around beginner novice and novice, I'm not a team rider.  But I am a member of the USEA and I am an eventer. I have always supported our teams, no matter who was named or how they placed.  However, I won't lie and say that I wouldn't love to be able to speak proudly about my medal winning team.  And let's be honest, lately we have not had a team that was competitive on the international stage.  Hong Kong was pretty much a disaster for our eventing team, other than the outstanding performance of Gina Miles and McKinlaigh.  At the World Equestrian Games, held right here in the United States for the first time ever, the team placed a disappointing 4th.  Boyd Martin was the highest placing US rider in 10th place.  And he only just became an American citizen a few years ago.  That should tell us something.  In 2010, William Fox-Pitt of Great Britain won the Rolex Kentucky 4* event, the year before it was Lucinda Fredericks of Australia.  The year before that it was Phillip Dutton, who although he rides for the US now, he originally rode for Australia.  Before that it was Clayton Fredericks from Australia, and the year before that it was Andrew Hoy also from Australia.  What is that telling you about the US eventing program?  To me, it says something is not working.  And I have many ideas on what that might be.  But that's for a later blog post.

So I was excited as news of who was throwing their hat into the ring began to spread.  David O'Connor, joint application of Phillip Dutton and Bobby Costello, Leslie Law, Jimmy Wofford, Andrew and Bettina Hoy.  The possibilities!  To have Bettina Hoy's dressage expertise for our team.  That is the one area that I feel our riders have always lacked.  We cannot compete (for the most part) in the dressage phase.  Or Phillip Dutton who has consistently produced top results, from both his horses and his riders.  Not to mention that he has many top horses going at the upper levels for years.  Obviously he knows how to keep horses in top competitive shape.  I knew all the applicants would have great ideas for the team and the future of this sport we all love so much.

And yet, last week, after so much talk of how the riders would get to choose, we were told that the short list had been narrowed to David O'Connor and Leslie Law.  Out of the nine applicants only the ideas of those two people will be heard by the Athletes Committee.  It's very disappointing.  Not that I have anything against the two applicants.  I am sure that both David and Leslie have great ideas.  And maybe they one of them would have been the rider's ultimate choice in the end.  But I firmly believe that if this was going to be the rider's choice, then the rider's should get to hear everything before making their choice.

I don't know.  I just know that we have the talent out there.  We have the riders and the horses that can compete on the international stage and be successful.  And I just feel that we are somehow settings ourselves up for failure by not giving a fair shot to all the options out there.