Robert Dover: The FEI vs The Riders...Really?

Mon, 03/26/2012 - 23:09

Robert Dover, multiple U.S. Olympic team rider and former Dressage Task Force Member, penned down his views on the on-going controversy between the FEI and the IDRC about riding representation in the FEI Dressage Committee. Dover states that he's "shocked" by the fact that the FEI is "trying to get rid of a club which exists solely for the benefit of those who take part in the sport."

Dover wrote the following on his website Dover's World:

I can honestly say that I am shocked by the latest news from the FEI that they are even considering suspending the International Dressage Riders Club, who they say are not properly fulfilling their obligations to their constituents, the riders from around the world.  Now, I absolutely believe that ALL of the stakeholder clubs need to be reformed to create a direct line of continuity from National Clubs to the International clubs to the FEI and it is the FEI’s responsibility to create guidelines for everyone else to follow.  But this is very different from trying to get rid of a club which exists solely for the benefit of those who take part in the sport.

Here is what I know from my time as a member of the FEI Dressage Task Force which took over after Princess Haya determined that the former Dressage Committee could not be trusted and therefore “fired” them a la Donald Trump.  During the following year, Frank Kemperman (Organizer of Aachen- Nethelands), Katrina Wuest ( International O Judge- Germany), Alain Francqueville ( Chef d’Equipe - France), Elisabeth Max-Theurer (Owner - Austria), Richard Davison ( International Rider - Great Britain), and I, Robert Dover, (International Trainer - USA) were appointed to serve on the Task Force and given major tasks including giving a proposal for the creation of a new Dressage Committee as well as a formula for the upcoming London Olympics. 

As a group we proposed that the FEI mandate that all countries create national stakeholder clubs to advocate for and vote to elect their members to the international clubs which in turn each nominate and elect their member to go forward to become members of the FEI Dressage Committee.  This would be by far the most democratic way of not only involving national governing bodies in the process, but also ensure a direct line from the grass-roots to the elite group which governs the sport.  Such a process would also ensure that the most desirable designees from each Stakeholder Group be put forward to the Dressage Committee, also taking into consideration the notions of geographic diversity by having only one member from any country. One thing is for sure; as our year was ending and the creation of the new Dressage Committee was underway, we already knew that there was great danger of having both ambiguous and unclear rules in place to nominate and elect the new members. 

With our desire to have Frank Kemperman stay on for at least the first year, we proposed that the rest of the DC not include another “Organizer” and yet Thomas Bauer was put forward by Germany as well as the International Organizers Committee - the first problem.  Next, Great Britain put David Hunt’s name and since the International Dressage Trainers Club agreed to this, he was in.  A Judge was needed and America put forward Ann Gribbons.  And then the International Dressage Riders Club put forward the name of Wayne Channon ; but then came the problem since there was an unwritten rule that two members could not be from the same country.  Now, we discussed this situation since there were other names from the IDTC which we felt could be equally effective, but it was taken out of our hands and left with the FEI nomination committee, chaired by American, John Long, to decide.  At that point it was clear that the democratic policies of the FEI were clearly subservient to their absolute rule  their constituents.  Not only were there going to be TWO new members from the same Stakeholder group, but suddenly the IDRC was no longer allowed to name their representative as had always been the case.

Fast forward one year and the same situation is causing a huge stir within the Dressage community.  Kyra Kyrkland has stood up on behalf of the IDRC to say that the two candidates nominated by Spain and Colombia are not acceptable by virtue that they do not meet the criteria of the Club and were not even members until they found out they needed to be to meet the FEI criteria.  In the end, what is most undesirable is the aggressive behavior of the FEI toward the IDRC, made up of the exact group they are responsible to work for and on behalf of.  These are the riders who have dedicated their lives to the sport and have been in the trenches and down the Olympic center lines, I would wager far more than all of the FEI members combined.  To not respect and listen to them is an affront to our sport and should not be tolerated.  If anything, it is the FEI which requires the true reform I called for even before accepting the job from Princess Haya on the Dressage Task Force, but which has never taken place.  The FEI is absolutely not a democratically run organization and would never be allowed to act as it has if it were.

-- by Robert Dover

Related Links
IDRC President Kyra Kyrklund Issues Statement on IDRC-FEI Feud
IDRC Believes FEI's Initiated Suspension Proceedings "Misconceived"