The 2011 Global Dressage Forum

Nov 9, 2011 - 12:34 PM
Catherine Haddad Staller is a member of both the IDRC and the IDTC. Photo by Anna Jaffe.

Dear Rita,

The Global Dressage Forum is an event I have always wanted to attend. Usually I am competing at the Lyon CDI-W in France on the same weekend, but this year due to my delayed return to Germany with Winyamaro, I couldn’t compete in France. So off I went to Hooge Mierde, the Netherlands, and the stable complex of the Bartels family for two days of stimulating debate and discussion. I loved it!

My first interest in going to the GDF was to attend the General Assembly meetings of both the International Dressage Riders Club and the International Dressage Trainers Club. Some very important issues concerning our sport were on the table for discussion at both meetings and as a member of both organizations, I wanted to take part.

I knew already that disagreement between the two clubs on one issue in particular—the so-called “Blood Rule”—was fueling a public debate. I had had a phone call from key players in the IDTC before leaving the USA in October requesting information and feedback. Some research and a few conversations with a few folks in the know brought me up to snuff on the facts before the meetings at the GDF. I wanted to be helpful to both clubs if I could. 

The meeting of the IDRC took place first on the Sunday, Oct. 30.  It was great to see so many of my colleagues there, especially because I felt out of the loop after spending three months at home in the USA.

In the IDRC meeting, three key issues were brought up, debated and voted upon.

Firstly, we discussed some important points about judging and scoring, which I will bring up in my next blog. What is important to mention here is this: Our judging system—the varied aspects of how it’s used at shows, its failings and strong points, suggestions for improvement—is openly discussed at nearly every IDRC meeting. Riders at every level of this sport want to see change and are not afraid to talk about it.

What makes me proud, Rita, are the riders at the very top of the sport (yes, those who are doing the winning and actually benefiting from the current system), who are courageous enough and care enough about our sport to speak out about changes they would like to see with the judging.

Secondly, we discussed the pending vote at the FEI General Assembly on the “Blood Rule” as proposed by the IDTC. Which is now a moot point as the FEI Dressage Committee has withdrawn this rule from the vote in order to consider some more thoughtful alternatives. Interesting move by the FEI DC. For the sake of the sport, I hope that no blood is drawn at the Olympic Games next year because…we have no rule about how that should be handled. Crikey, Rita.

Thirdly, we discussed and voted on a motion that will effect the representation of all dressage riders in the FEI Dressage Committee. Margit Otto-Crepin, the previous Rider’s Representative, has left the committee, and her position must now be filled. The IDRC nominated our Secretary General, Wayne Channon, to represent us in the FEI DC. The Spanish Federation nominated a rider from Spain (which was a recommendation for the FEI’s own Nomination’s Committee), and the Colombian Federation nominated a rider from Colombia.

Disputes have arisen over who actually gets to nominate people to this position. Traditionally, the Rider’s Representative has been nominated by the IDRC, which is the only organization representing all international dressage riders worldwide. There is even an FEI rule that sort of says that, but like many FEI rules, the English is unclear—thus the grounds for dispute. Why hasn’t an English-speaking lawyer read all the FEI rules and clarified them with precise language? Hmmm.

In any case, the riders who actively participate in the IDRC are those who provide input about the direction of our sport, and the organization itself is the only one with an infrastructure for contacting riders and getting their opinions about proposed rule changes, controversial issues, etc. Attendance and participation at the meetings is crucial for anyone wishing to represent dressage riders in the FEI Dressage Committee.

The nominees from Spain and Colombia do not participate in IDRC meetings. One of them just joined the club in August after being nominated to represent the riders! So the riders are wondering how the supporters of these two nominees expect them to speak on our behalf at the FEI DC meetings.

In any case, another FEI rule does clearly state that the Rider’s Representative on the Dressage Committee must be an active member of the IDRC, regardless of who nominates that person.

So we voted by majority to revoke the memberships of the Spanish and Colombian nominees at our General Assembly, as they do not actively participate in our organization and, by challenging Wayne Channon’s nomination to the FEI DC, they are acting against the best interests of the IDRC. We voted to nominate Wayne. Revocation of their membership is provided for in the Statutes of our organization. Sorry guys. Don’t take it personally. We’ll let you back in after the dust settles. And if you start participating in the shaping of our sport, we might even nominate one of you to this position in the future. But you have to participate and earn our respect before you can represent us.

Now understand this, Rita. The FEI Dressage Committee is the single most powerful committee affecting our sport today. National federations fight hard to get a representative on the six-member committee. We, as riders, must fight hard to get the representation we want on that committee despite the maneuvering of other interested parties.

It is our sport, and we MUST have a voice in the FEI Dressage Committee.

Moving on to the meeting later that afternoon of the IDTC, the hot topic of discussion was of course the proposed “Blood Rule.” And believe me, Rita, it was a hot topic! But again, this has become a moot point in the last 24 hours as the FEI Dressage Committee has announced the withdrawal of the rule proposed by the IDTC. So the debate will go on, and I hope, one day, we will vote on a rule for dressage that is acceptable to all the stakeholders in our sport.

More personally interesting for me was a short discussion about the Judge’s Supervisory Panel. David Hunt, president of our trainers club, is also a member of the JSP. Which again, I would like to discuss in my next blog! And wait ‘til you hear about the panel I got to take part in during a presentation on dressage judging by Katrina Wüst and Wim Ernes. Hangin’ on a cliff, Rita, hangin’ on a cliff…

I’m Catherine Haddad Stalle,r and I’m sayin it like it is from Vechta, Germany.

Training Tip of the Day: As a rider or a trainer, is there something you would like to see changed about the sport of competitive dressage? Bring it up at the next IDRC or IDTC meeting! Participate!


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