Mariette Withages, Chair of FEI Dressage Committee, Replies

Wed, 11/05/2008 - 00:00
FEI Dressage News

H.R.H. Princess Haya Bint al Hussein
Schoten 4th November 2008

Your Royal Highness:

With reference to your letter dated October 31st 2008 we would like to submit our comments, by making reference to the points raised as follows.

1. Although we still do not understand the negative implication, if not actual discrimination at times, for being a judge, D.C. decided to comply with your wishes and reduce the number of judges on the committee and therefore decided to suggest Mrs. Bobby Bobadilla (non judge) instead of Mrs Maribel Alonso de Quinzanos who incidentally is an FEI judge.

The reference made in your letter to “personal issues” was not well received from D.C members on the grounds that, on the contrary, they retain the highest appreciation of Mrs De Quinzanos as a person and as a judge however the committee did not believe that her strengths lay in working on a committee.

This is so true that at the D.C. meeting in Antwerp she was recommended for promotion to “Official judge” (see the D.C. minutes).

2 and 3.
Following a letter dated April 27 2007, again from Margit Otto Crepin for the IDRC, as to the composition of the jury for H.K. and a subsequent letter from Mr. De Jong for the Dutch Federation, you gave us, during the D.C. meeting in April 2008 in Interlaken, some suggestions in this respect, which were all examined and debated in great detail and seriousness.

We came to the conclusion that it was not legitimate, under present FEI Statutes and regulations, to deliberate or even make recommendations against FEI rules and specifically art. 437 which, just as a reminder, states “ At Olympic Games and Senior Championships at G.P. level, the FEI Dressage Committee will appoint a Ground Jury consisting of seven members . The President of Ground Jury will judge all classes with the rest of the panel rotating”.

Despite this lack of legitimacy, it was anyway decided, in order to be proactive towards your suggestion, that any decision on such a matter be deferred to the final deliberation of the FEI Bureau.

Meanwhile the legal dept of FEI had investigated as to any possible conflict of interest of the HK jury members coming to the conclusion that no such conflicts existed for all of them.

Furthermore, in order to comply with the request of FEI Bureau for supporting evidence as to the competence of the appointed judges, D.C. fully supported the HQ initiative to request an independent statistical research (Mr. D. Strickland) on the performance and quality standard of judges in general and in particular for all Official judges, including those that officiated in H.K..

The result of such extensive statistical work is available, and can be requested at any time, in FEI HQ and shows that almost all official judges have a very high so called “quality factor” including the panel of judges for H.K. Same evidence, from the same source, exists for the performances of such judges in H.K.

The letter of Mr. De Jong was addressed to the Dressage Dept. and Dressage Manager was instructed to give a due reply to such a letter reporting nothing more than the above.

We might have missed some steps under development, but we could not find any rule which prevents the Chairman of D.C. to act as a Technical Delegate, whereas such a rule was introduced for the case of a judge.

The Dutch Federation states in its letter: “the position of FEI TD is a function that can be fulfilled by a member of D.C. like Mariette Withages is doing for the Olympic Games in H.K.”

Furthermore, we do not understand how the jury of the Athens Olympics is relevant in this context, but may be worth mentioning, that such a Jury was considered as the highest technical level or at least one of the best ever
6, 7 and 8.
No dressage committee meeting was called or held in H.K. Some members were not even present there! The matters referred to in your letter do not relate to Dc functions which are quite different from TD functions

You will recall that the 2nd Vice President and member of the executive board made a report at the Olympic Games and stated that the Judging was of the high standard expected at such an event.

We would like to point out that we strongly believe that FEI dressage judges do not deserve comments such as “fear for their displeasure through their judges’ role”.

On the contrary D.C. is proud of the professional and ethical attitude shown by all judges at all occasions

We stated in our previous letter that we really thought, or at least hoped, that some misinterpretations had occurred with journalists as to what reported by them in relation to “popularity of dressage abnormally low” (Horse and Hound) or to the fact that the selection of judges for championships be made within a restricted circle of friends (EPERON, translation from French).

Just in order to avoid speculations like the latter and use the full range of O judges , previous members of D.C. had decided, long time ago, to apply an unwritten rule whereby all Official judges had to be employed on a rotational basis and therefore no judge was to officiate in more than one edition of O.G.

Under new FEI Statutes and regulations the appointment of officials for O.G and Championship is not any longer under the responsibility of D.C, which acts only as a consulting body and as such making recommendations to FEI H.Q, who can even decide to ignore their suggestions completely
It is then up to FEI H.Q, and not to DC, to decide to change the the method of selection of judges for such championships

D.C members are convinced that acting according to the FEI Statutes and Regulations will, in the long range, prove their dedication to our sport and their integrity despite the unfounded accusations that have been made in various newspapers and magazines.

We intended to remain within FEI boundaries when we referred our comments to the Bureau of FEI.

We trust that members of Bureau will appreciate our full respect and observance of FEI rules.


Mariette Withages Chairman of Dressage Committee 
and on behalf of DC members

Photo courtesy: Koenraad Cappon

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