Two days in the job as World Class Performance Manager for Dressage and David Trott is already thinking of taking on the Germans.
“We have a number of horses that can produce 70% plus tests and, with Carl [Hester]’s current performance, he could be at 74%. The Germans without Rusty were in the 73% region. It’s the closest we are likely to get this time if all things are in our favour.”
Trott sees himself very much as a facilitator to help the team achieve this extraordinary result. “I shall be involved with the individual [riders] on a regular basis and watch them training. I shall also be involved with vets and sports psychologists, ensuring that we make the most of it,” he says.
His first project is to start squad training sessions, which proved very successful with eventers and the Paralympics.
“I want us all to come together far more than we have done [in the past]. I want to start having group sessions — some mounted, some unmounted. [When riders] have a training session with Ferdi [Eilberg], I want to video it so we can review it together. We can split screens and compare moves from tests you did at different stages and see the progressions. And we can hear the selector’s point of view or the trainer’s point of view. But the most important thing is that we all come together and build a team atmosphere.”
Team spirit ranks high in the list of Trott’s priorities, because he sees it as a key to success. “Look at the eventing world,” he says. “They work really well together and it makes a huge difference. I will have a serious chat with Yogi [Breisner] to see how it works with eventers and make thing happen [for us] in the same vein.”
It won’t be easy, partly because three World Class Performance riders are based abroad — although Trott plans to visit them and “check they are all OK” — and partly because dressage is, by its very nature, a very individual sport.
But Trott is undaunted. “We all compete as individual but seeing Carl [Hester] and Richard [Davison] work together at the Olympics…it worked really well,” he says. “I think we started on [building a team spirit] already. Everyone is coming towards the idea of working together anyway. Of course, you have to adapt to individual needs. My job will be to weave it carefully sometimes and sometimes to put my foot down.”
His volunteer work as chef d’equipe at the European Championships and the Olympics has given him an insight into the riders and their needs, which will be invaluable. But Trott can also draw on his vast experience as a trainer, which has been his main career during the last 10 years. “[When training] you also end up being a bit of a psychologist, which will help me quite a lot when dealing with the psychology of riders as individuals.”
Because his new role is so varied, he will draw on his background as a competitor, trainer and FEI international judge. But perhaps he didn’t expect to make use of the accounting skills he acquired during his stint as finance officer for the Local Authority’s Development Department. “I ran the finance office when I left [to work with horses full-time]. I was responsible for making sure that contractors were paid for building new schools, elderly homes and council homes. I hope dishing out finances [to riders] isn’t going to be as complicated as that!” The fervent tone of relief in his voice is unmistakable.
But, he adds, his multi-faceted career gave him “quite a good all-round insight into things.” Although his teaching and competing are going on the backburner after a final blitz “soon”, Trott intends to continue judging, which he hopes to juggle with his commitments as World Performance Manager. “I’m doing the Under 21 Europeans, which is a great honour. Fortunately, the dates don’t clash,” he says. “From the FEI judging, I have the international perspective.”
The fact that he may one day be judging them will also undoubtedly help in his relationship with the World Performance Class riders. “I think we have a mutual respect with one another, and a very open relationship. I’d like to feel I can have an input [in their work] and we can all get together — Ferdi, myself and each of the riders — and have a say to make sure we achieve results.”
Together to achieve is Trott’s motto. And the targets he’s setting for himself are nothing short of grand. “I’d like us to better our bronze medal, if we can. It would be great for Britain. And I would also like Carl to win the World Cup.” He stops for a second, pensive, then adds: “I don’t want much, do I?”