Phillip Dutton and Robert Costello have announced their plan to apply as a team for the position of U.S. Equestrian Federation Eventing Technical Advisor and Chef d’Equipe. The USEF is seeking applications, as the current leader, Capt. Mark Phillips, retires at the end of 2012. Dutton aims to assume the coaching role, and Costello would become chef d’equipe.
Costello, of Southern Pines, N.C., was a member of the Technical Advisor/Chef d’Equipe Search Committee until shortly after the U.S. Eventing Association’s Annual Meeting and Convention, Dec. 9-12. That’s where his casual conversation with Dutton about the job opening turned more serious.
“We were just kind of chatting about how nobody had applied for the position yet,” Costello said. “And the more we were talking about it, the idea of someone to kind of manage the team and someone to do the coaching part arose. And we started realizing that we might be a good team to do that together.”
Before the pair set any plans in stone, however, Costello resigned from his position on the search committee. He avoided any conflict of interest, since no other parties had submitted applications or unveiled any proposals of their own. After resigning, Costello headed to Dutton’s home in West Grove, Pa., for a two-day planning session.
“The application’s due by the end of January, and we’ll be ready by then,” said Dutton. “I think between the two of us we have the foresight to see where we need to go and how to get there. Bobby’s a really great guy to get along with, and he’s very organized and is very hungry for success for this country. I think we’ve made a good match of coaching skills and organizational skills.”
Dutton, 47, won team gold for Australia at the 1996 Atlanta and 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. In 2006 he obtained his U.S. Citizenship and won individual silver and team gold at the Pan American Games in Brazil the following year. He then represented the United States at the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong and the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (Kentucky).
Apart from coaching and riding, Dutton serves on the USEF Active Athletes (vice-chair), High Performance and Safety Committees. He currently sits on the USEF Board of Directors and is president of the Professional Riders Organization.
If hired as Technical Advisor, Dutton would retire from competition after the London Olympics in 2012.
“Certainly it’s not something I’ve taken lightly,” he said. “If we were to get the job, my representing days would be over after London, obviously. But to be a good coach I think it helps you if you keep riding and keep getting lessons and keep trying to up your skills, so I’d be definitely trying to keep going with that. My riding would be more working with various other trainers, and it wouldn’t be a commercial operation where I was bringing on young horses or competing, as such. It would be more for my own coaching and training benefit.”
Costello, 45, who finished eighth individually at the 2000 Olympic Games and won team gold at the 2003 Pan Ams, said he’s been looking for an opportunity like this one for a few years now.
“I’ve never been the type of person that has wanted to event forever and ever and ever,” he said. “I kind of had in my mind that I would compete seriously until I was about 40 and then start doing something else. So the last couple years I’ve been feeling like, ‘What’s out there that I’m supposed to be doing?’ I’ve been kind of patiently waiting for that thing to present itself, and now I’m very happy that I didn’t just rush into doing something different, because I think this really seems like a good fit for me—the next phase of what I’m supposed to do with horses.”
Costello was chairman of the USEF Active Athletes Committee from 2001 to 2008 and currently chairs the USEF Eventing High Performance Committee and contributes to PRO’s Athletes Advisory Committee. He previously sat on the USOC Athletes Advisory Council and USEA Board of Governors, and he’s a current member of the USEF Board of Directors.
“We’re very excited about this partnership and are currently hard at work putting the finishing touches on our comprehensive, ‘from the ground up’ performance plan,” Dutton and Costello said in a joint statement. “This will be an ambitious, energized and multi-faceted proposal that will require the passion and expertise of two people, accompanied by a committed back-up team, coming together with a singular mission: winning medals for the United States.”