I had hoped to write about something optimistic. But grumbles keep coming my way. Sometimes I wish those often big-name grumblers spoke publicly. But maybe they tell
me because they know I’ll say it like it is. Yes, concerns about the way dressage, eventing, showjumping and para dressage are being run in Britain are reaching a near crescendo.
From Carl Hester’s H&H comment (11 May) “Where have all the sponsors gone?” to Nick Skelton (1 June) on “Cost-cutting the wrong people” and Anna Ross highlighting dressage’s loss of World Class performance manager Dickie Waygood to eventing and Caroline Griffith’s appointment as his replacement — it’s all kicking off.
Tucked into all this is the almost unnoticed move of Britain’s para dressage team trainer Michel Assouline to the USA. How was that allowed to happen? Losing Michel is very careless. Much more careless than letting slip those loyal team sponsors who understandably napped when asked for substantially more money for the next Olympic cycle.
Mention of Michel leads on to our equestrian teams’ many medals — especially the paras with their clean sweep of Olympic gold. Then to analysing who else was steering our sports to more fantastic results.
There are now many more non-horsey people in these key jobs; or are least there used to be more who knew about horses!
I’ve never named sources in my comments, and I’m not about to start. But one nervous I may break that rule told me: “There are more chiefs than Indians now — and some don’t know how to light the fire.”
Other heartfelt remarks from international riders and trainers include: “The money isn’t going to those who do all the work”, and “I can’t get any communication despite trying”.
Now to Caroline Griffith’s new role. Caroline has shown nothing less than brilliance in her previous posts. But with her daughter Lara Butler on the team long-list, she cannot keep her new job. And that’s for one reason — how it’s perceived by the rest of the world, those within the sport and, crucially, by all other long-listed riders.
Anna Ross’ observation that Caroline’s appointment raised a few eyebrows is an understatement. A probable team rider told me: “How can openness be kept? It will put the sport back 10 years.”
I’ve been reassured that all selection meetings will be held without Caroline present. But how can a team operate when essential decisions are made undercover?
Caroline has all the right credentials, but her daughter is vying for the team. And it’s all about perception, transparency and being seen to be fair.
“This would be a law case in the USA,” one experienced source told me. Who remembers the US Equestrian Federation introducing temporary objective selection after being sued by a piqued parent whose offspring was omitted from its showjumping team?
When money and ambition are involved, being seen to be fair is paramount. There’s also the question of accountability to every ordinary member of British Dressage, British Showjumping and British Eventing whose subscriptions and registrations ultimately support those the top.
Thank you to the many readers who wrote in support of my rollkur-related comment (27 April). The backlash from other quarters has been at times horrid and personal. Many won’t even accept horses being worked “long, deep and round”.
I urge them to go and X-ray a few horses that have bobbed along hollow and above the bit for years. Similar problems are surely found in those forced to endure pain upside-down. Both extremes are sins.
Ref: Horse & Hound; 22 June 2017