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The final two names on the International Equestrian Federation’s dressage task force have been named.

Judges Elisabeth Max-Theurer (AUT) and Katharina Wüst (GER) join event organiser’s representative, Frank Kemperman (NED); rider’s representative and H&H columnist Richard Davison (GB); trainer’s representative Robert Dover (USA); and chef d’équipe Alain Francqueville (FRA).

Mariette Withages, chairman of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) dressage committee, finally quit her post on Friday, 21 November at the FEI general assembly in Buenos Aires, Argentina (17-21 November).

But some FEI insiders have criticised the way the situation was dealt with as heavy-handed.

One attendee told H&H: “It was one woman against the whole FEI machine — maybe she saw there was no way out.”

How it played out

FEI chairman Princess Haya and the executive board called for the entire committee’s resignations on 31 October.

But on 4 November, Ms Withages told H&H she had no intention of resigning. The issue was then taken to the FEI bureau on 17 November who voted to discuss the issue of Ms Withages’ removal at the assembly on 21 November.

Ms Withages handed in her resignation that Friday morning with the rest of her committee following suit.

Prior to the assembly, the German, Spanish and Belgian federations had objected to the “undemocratic” way in which the elected committee was asked to resign.

A source at the general assembly said: “There was a lot of unhappiness in many national federations about the direction and leadership for dressage. But many feel it could have been better handled.”

New priorities

The committee’s exit makes way for the dressage task force set up to deal with major issues until the appointment of a new committee at the assembly next year.

The FEI released a list of the group’s immediate priorities, which include evaluating the efficacy of the judging process and assessing and selecting judges for major championships.

The assembly also acknowledged that “competitions need a thorough review — in terms of the number of judges, their positioning and the judging process”.

When calling for the former committee’s resignation, the FEI cited as its reasoning that “the committee has been seen to work in isolation, not fully representing the interests of the dressage community as a whole”, being predominantly made up of judges.

The FEI added it would be necessary for the new taskforce to review the structure of any future committee to “ensure maximum involvement by the key stakeholders both internal to the sport and external within the greater sporting, Olympic and Paralympic environment”.

Read more news from the FEI general assembly in today’s Horse & Hound (27 November ’08)