WC, WDM And WSJ, Part I: On Sponsorship

Jul 11, 2011 - 12:10 PM
"Catherine Haddad Staller expects Cadillac to be back on the start in international competitions this summer."

Dear Rita,

It’s been a long time since I’ve written to you. Six weeks actually, but those weeks felt like six months. Sometimes I have to step back from my sport and dig deep for a reason to keep doing it. That can take hours, or it can take months depending on how strong I am and how much time I take to actually think about it.

Unfortunately, the last six months have found me traveling, teaching or competing in Germany, New Jersey, Michigan, New York City, Gothenburg (Sweden), San Francisco, Reno, Morro Bay, Den Bosch (the Netherlands), Lyon (France), Flen (Sweden), Leipzig (Germany), Virginia, Brottsby (Sweden) and Falsterbo (Sweden). Time for reflection and rejuvenation has been minimal. (Airplanes used to be a great place to think, but don’t get me started on the dismal state of air travel in modern times.)

World Cup at the end of April sent me into such a downward spiral that pulling myself back into a level flying position has been difficult. While qualifying my super, young, talented Winyamaro for the World Cup in the Western European League was one of my greatest achievements in dressage, competing at the Final was one of my greatest disappointments—on so many levels that I won’t open that discussion here.

The key here is JOY, Rita. I train my horses in the art/sport of dressage because it creates joy—in both my horses and me. My goal in competing has always been to bring that joy to the show ring and present it for the public to see. And when I can achieve that, I am always successful no matter what marks are given at the end of the day. But when I lose the joy of riding because I am traveling too much to maintain my level of excellence, I cannot find solace in anything I do.

Now you should be asking yourself at this point: “What is a top international competitor doing flying around the world? Shouldn’t she be home training her horses? I am sure that Adelinde Cornelisson did not spend five of the last 14 days before World Cup teaching in foreign nations.”

And of course this is another element of my recent state of ennui. I have been without a sponsor since the end of 2009, and I can’t get the bills paid by staying home. This is one piece of the problem I have not solved yet.

I spent eight weeks asking myself this question: “Sell or compete?” I have two top international dressage horses that could bring excellent money in this year before the Olympic Games when teams around the world are trying to find last-minute mounts for London. Ownership of all team horses has to be resolved by Dec. 31, 2011. That means that every horse that competes at the Olympics has to be owned by a citizen of the nation it is competing for by the end of this year….

Which creates frenzy at the top end of the market. So here sits little old me, no shoe-in for the U.S. Team, trying to create some strategy for success. Cash in or push on?

Without staying home and concentrating on my riding, there is no way I can expect to compete at the level necessary for making a team. And since I cannot pay my bills by staying home and training for the Olympics, I need a sponsor or a group of sponsors if I am going to pursue a shot at London in 2012.

So, do I cash in or push on? Many weeks of deep contemplation have kept me away from this keyboard, Rita, but I have reached a practical decision: Push on, for now. Can you guess the final deciding factor in all my soul searching? I’m not a quitter. It’s that simple. I just don’t give up.

Cadillac is back in action. I hope to start showing him by the end of this month or possibly in August in the USA. I’m packing him up along with Winyamaro and Gizmo (my trusty Corgi and Jedi Master) for two months on the East Coast of the USA. My plan is to compete at Saugerties (N.Y.) in August and September with one or both horses and possibly Devon (Pa.) in October. (Of course, I have WAY TOO MANY clinics booked across our glorious nation during those months to stay fully concentrated on showing, but somebody has to pay for the horses’ shipping…)

Cadillac training at Falsterbo CDI5*:

The current U.S. Dressage Team (I was named alternate) going to the Aachen CDIO***** this week has four members—Steffen Peters, Jan Ebeling, Guenter Seidel and Todd Flettrich. Seventy-five percent of our riders are Germans who moved to the United States and found sponsors and/or supporters. They have all become successful in the sport and have contributed greatly to the advancement of dressage in our country.

Is there anyone out there who would support an American who moved to Germany and became successful in the sport? I know that I also have much to contribute to dressage in our country, and my plan is to move back to the USA after the London Olympics.

I need to find an American sponsor, Rita. Put the word out for me please because “push on” could become “cash in” before the end of this year. And that would feel like quitting to me. I need help!

I’m Catherine Haddad, and I’m saying it like it is from Vechta, Germany.

Training Tip of the Day: Find the joy in what you do every day.



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