Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include comments from Equestrian Canada
Canadian show jumping Chef d’Equipe Mark Laskin announced Nov. 9 that he is resigning from his position as Equestrian Canada’s Technical Advisor – Jumping, effective immediately. This role includes acting as the country’s chef d’equipe in show jumping at major championships and Nations Cup competition.
Equestrian Canada said in a statement that it has recently completed a “positional review process” for the technical advisor role, which Laskin participated in, and is on track to advertise for a new candidate with the goal of hiring someone before Jan. 1, as Canada looks ahead to next year’s Longines FEI World Cup Final (Germany) and FEI World Championships (Denmark).
Laskin has served as technical adviser since 2012, when he took over from Terrance “Torchy” Millar. In a press release announcing his resignation, Laskin cited several issues with EC that led to his decision. First, he claims that he’s been working without a contract since April but continued to fulfill duties regardless at the Tokyo Olympics and Longines FEI Nations Cup Final (Spain).
“I was told during the first week of April that a contract would be forthcoming,” said Laskin. “Seven months later, the contract promised to me still hasn’t been delivered.”
In addition, he said EC Director of High Performance James Hood recently informed him that the position of show jumping technical advisor, the position Laskin held, is being reviewed and new job description written to be advertised.
“Almost as an afterthought, he added that I would be welcome to apply,” Laskin stated in his press release. “This is EC’s version of a succession plan.”
In its statement, EC contradicted some of Laskin’s claims, saying the need for review was identified in 2020 during the run-up to Tokyo and that “Laskin’s contract was in extension, and he agreed to remain in the role during the process and his input and expertise were sought.”
“The review of the position was completed by an external specialist firm that conducted technical interviews and gathered input from stakeholders including jumping discipline experts, high performance committee members, National Team athletes, owners, and Mr. Laskin,” the EC statement continued. “The assessment has been completed with the support, advisement and knowledge of both Mr. Laskin and the jumping committee with a goal of setting up Canada’s high-performance athletes for success in the lead up to Paris 2024 and LA 2028.
“Mr. Laskin resigned from his position prior to the publication of the leadership review post Tokyo, the completion of the job description, and the move into the hiring process. We wish him all the best in his future pursuits.”
Laskin’s statement said he was supported in his decision by the members of EC’s High Performance Jumping Committee, a volunteer group of sport experts tasked with making recommendations to EC regarding the management and direction of the sport.
“The High Performance Committee-Jumping is 100 percent unanimous in its support of Mark’s decision and the rationale behind his resignation,” committee member Mike Lawrence said in the press release. “We share Mark’s frustration at the lack of communication and consultation with our committee. As the people who are ultimately responsible for guiding show jumping at the highest levels, we need to have a say in the high performance program and the process that is followed.”
Laskin, in his statement, also claimed that EC’s leadership group has interfered in the selection of athletes for Nations Cup competitions.
“The leaders at our national federation need to have understanding and experience with our sport,” Laskin stated. “Unfortunately, Equestrian Canada has had many people in leadership positions that have no background in the equestrian field. That depth of understanding is integral to any future success of the organization. Equestrian Canada’s leadership group are making decisions that aren’t congruent with my philosophy. It is my opinion that the high performance program has been adversely affected and will continue to be in the future with the current leadership group at the helm. Consequently, I felt that I had no choice but to step down.
“I feel very sad to be resigning,” he continued. “The management of an international team is a complex task that requires the full support and understanding of the National Sport Organization, and that has not always been the case recently.”
The announcement comes less than two months after the resignation of EC Eventing Committee Chair Nicolas Austin—the second head of the EC Eventing Committee to resign in 2021. Austin voiced concerns over EC’s management of eventing and its lack of regard for the volunteer committee in his decision to step down, saying, “There is little evidence to show they actually comprehend the ramifications of any of their decisions as it relates to Eventing.”
In EC’s statement, it emphasized its commitment to hiring a new leader for the show jumping squad by Jan. 1:
“EC remains deeply committed to strengthening the Canadian jumping team with a goal of being competitive on the world stage and having a strong showing in Paris and LA. Equestrian Canada, its leadership, and jumping committee will continue with the process that it has enacted to set our athletes up for that success.”