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November 9, 2011

The 2011 Global Dressage Forum

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!

InternationalDressage.com

Catherine Haddad
2 years 44 weeks ago
HEAT
Clearly, things are heating up. What I would like to know is: ...Why the FEI Nominations Committee feels that Luis Lucio is qualified and capable of representing the dressage riders of the world... Read More
Catherine Haddad
2 years 44 weeks ago
CORRECTION
The FEI has asked me to publish a correction to this blog. Luis Lucio (ESP) was nominated by his National Federation and was recommended by the Nominations Committee. He was not nominated by the... Read More

Comments

MESACREST
2 years 45 weeks ago

IDRC

Who exactly is qualified to be a member of IDRC?

equipoize
2 years 45 weeks ago

NO way to handle blood at the Olympics???

I am curious about your statement that we have no rule in place to handle if a horse exhibits blood at the Olympics. I think we DO have a rule in place - it is Instant Elmination. And I personally consider this right. EVEN if it is a minor unexpected injury, it would be TERRIBLE public relations to allow a horse to compete with bloody foam in their mouth. Even if the horse is rung off, recovers and then is re presented to the jury, it is NOT a good image. While it is Tragic for a rider to travel all the way to a top competition and have some odd freak thing happen that means they don't get to actually show - that is the nature of this business!!! Do we want to have a lameness rule also? So, if a horse steps on a stone, gets a bruise, and exhibits lameness, he can get a later reride? top Human athletes don't get such a thing. If a sprinter has a misfortune while racing, he doesn't get to complain to the jury for a second chance. Top Sport means accepting the risk that you will Not Always win - in fact some times you won't even get to compete. Personally, I think the Notable increase in the number of horses that ARE biting their tongue and displaying bloody mouths is a very SAD commentary on our sport. This should be SUCH a rare experience as to be considered Not even WORTH a rule!!! Think of Robert Dover's horse who got his tongue over the bits At The Olympics. Robert had to nurse that horse through the test and live with the score he got. Can you imagine implimenting a rule that says he would get a reride? There is a LONG list of stuff that can go wrong at the last minute that sabatauges a rider's chance to preform at their best. Often stuff that is truely temporary. But that is Just the Breaks of the game. I do not know your position on the current Blood Rule - it is not very clearly stated in this blog - but In My Opinion, we need to stick with what has worked since the FEI rules were formed. NO BLOOD at ANY time. Not on the horses sides from spurs, not in the mouth from any cause. This is simple and clear. If riders are having so much problem keeping their horses from biting their tongues now a days, maybe riders need to reassess their bits, hands or training. It has not been a common problem for the past 80 years, why is it suddenly a problem now?
Catherine Haddad
2 years 45 weeks ago

Answers!

Dear Susan and Monica, To answer your questions: 1) Any rider who has competed at a CDI (any level) may join the club as a full participating/voting member. Associate members (non-voting) are also accepted. As for the existing blood rule, it is true that we don't have one. This was researched only after Adelinde Cornelisson was eliminated from the WEG in Kentucky. Everyone in the sport had always assumed that if the judge at C saw blood in the test, anywhere on the horse, the competitor could be immediately eliminated. Turns out that no rule exists in writing for dressage. Other equestrian sports have them--eg, eventing, jumping. But our sport does not. So you can imagine the wheels that got turning after the WEG in Kentucky. Due to some questionable decisions on the part of our FEI Dressage Committee (which is why the riders MUST INSIST on proper representation in that committee from now on) before the Hong Kong Olympics, nations will only be able to field a team of three riders for the London Olympics and there will be no drop score. All three scores count. Every nation will be depending on three riders to bring home a medal so those nations who might have a few mouth problems.... In any case, you will be happy to know that the IDRC agrees with you. No blood. Bad for the sport. Full stop. Blood shows up, you are eliminated. The riders wanted that to be our written rule for dressage, but some prominent trainers in the IDTC wanted an exception for the upcoming Olympic Games due to the 3-man team/no drop score thing. Thus the furor. No worries, Mate! The rule proposal has been canned. Sadly, leaving the FEI open for major legal action should a judge attempt to eliminate someone in London for the appearance of blood. No legal justification for elimination because we don't have a bloody rule--sorry to stick my tongue in cheek. Hope this clarifies. Regards, Catherine
equipoize
2 years 45 weeks ago

Thank you for your timely response

Catherine - It is very surprizing to learn that there is No - No Blood Rule - I am sure it is in the General Rules of the FEI book - but I agree 200% that the rule needs to be added to the dressage rules just to clarify and give judges a solid leg to stand on. So much politicing going on in dressage these days - I admire every top trainer and rider who takes time to fight these battles on behalf of the horse. I am so prone to just go ride my hroses and want to bury my head in the sandy footing than go fight these wars with senseless humans. AS far as the rationale that anyone can bite their tongue by accident and it is no big deal, yes, occasionally $#it happens, but I think the idea of having some elaborate mechanism in place to vet inspect the horse, then allow a reride at the end of the day is senseless. Yes, I have bitten my tongue or my cheek - but usually while eating and being in a hurry - or when I am very out of alignment chiropractically. For a horse to bite his tongue while working in the bridle would imply an over busy mouth, a tongue pressed out against the bits and a lot of tension and Inattention on the horses part. Personally, I have NEVER had a horse bite his tongue while I rode. I have once had a horse present with blood in his mouth - he had shed a baby incisor in the process of the ride!!! I STILL finished my ride immediately. Since I cannot ask him if it really hurts or is distracting, it is my role as caretaker for my horse to err on the side of caution. I recall Robert Dover getting all the way to WEG and having to withdraw for the sudden appearance of a sole absess. I am sure the foot could have been opened up, packed, special shoe put on, etc etc and the horse might ahve 'gotten through' but the horse could not pass the ground jury. It is better for the rider to suffer disappointment than the horse be pushed for the sake of a medal. Blue hors Matinee similarly had a twist of a leg stepping off the trailer - had to miss WEG - should she have been given bute and allowed to compete with the rationale that the owners would give her a year off to recover AFTER the big show??? That is NOT what horsemanship is about, IMO. The NO BLOOD rule - with ZERO tolerance shows Good Horsemanship, I am proud that the IDRC is standing tall and putting the horse first. Thank you Catherine for keeping us informed - I am so far removed from such a level that often I forget to look up and see what is happening at the top - so busy down here in the sand box just happily riding and driving my horses at Sweetwater Ranch and Carriage Company! With Appreciation, Monica Whitmer
Catherine Haddad
2 years 44 weeks ago

Thanks, Monica. I would love

Thanks, Monica. I would love it if more top riders from the USA got involved in the IDRC. We need members who are willing to make a difference! C.
apollotops
2 years 45 weeks ago

Blood: common sense vs. pc

I was chewing gum today after lunch and bit my lip. Bled alot. Still put my running shoes on and ran 3 miles and then did a core workout to enhance my riding. My point...bleeding from my mouth didn't hurt, prevent my physical workout, or cause mental scarring from the trauma. Common sense would suggest most people have bit their lip, or tounge and didn't call in sick to work that day. (obviously I am suggesting a vet inspection at international competitions to determine what caused the bleeding: serious injury should lead to elimination). Although I do understand the politically correct reasoning considering high power cameras and posting bloody pics on the internet, I still think a common sense middle ground with clear lines drawn is the way to go. Can't people relate to biting your lip?
Catherine Haddad
2 years 44 weeks ago

CORRECTION

The FEI has asked me to publish a correction to this blog. Luis Lucio (ESP) was nominated by his National Federation and was recommended by the Nominations Committee. He was not nominated by the FEI Dressage Committee. I apologize for the inaccuracy. Sincerely, Catherine Haddad Staller
Catherine Haddad
2 years 44 weeks ago

HEAT

Clearly, things are heating up. What I would like to know is: ...Why the FEI Nominations Committee feels that Luis Lucio is qualified and capable of representing the dressage riders of the world in the FEI Dressage Committee? How many riders does he have contact to? Is he able to form a consensus based on riders' opinions on the subjects that concern our sport? How will he determine this and communicate this with us? Is he an effective negotiator? While we understand the desire of various factions to get a seat on the FEI DC, the rider members of the IDRC would like to have PROPER AND EFFECTIVE representation. We believe that is our inherent right.