It appears dressage isn’t the only equestrian discipline lacking a solid base. George Morris has often expressed his frustration with the situation in show jumping, and when I spoke with him recently, he had some choice words for what he called the “complacency of the riders.” Mr. Morris could just as well be talking about dressage when he was quoted in the Chronicle just a few weeks ago, saying: “People are comfortable at home, and when you are comfortable in a competition situation, you get a bit deluded about how things go. We have to have a very strong base on our soil, and then the people who are ready should go to Europe to compete as a finishing school.”
It looks like we’re in the same boat, but at least in jumping things are less predictable than in dressage. A miracle round could happen on the jumper course to upset all the predictions, while this is indeed a rare event in the dressage arena.
On To London
The competition in London this summer will be incredibly intense. Anyone who has followed the results over the last year is aware of how fast things are changing in the ranks and how the scores are soaring as the Games get closer. The spotlight moves from one sensational new horse to another, and they all seem to offer endless possibilities. Whenever a new star arrives on the scene, that horse gives its team a boost, and the rapid changes in team status are fascinating to follow, especially since this is very much a new phenomenon on the world dressage scene.
A few weeks ago, the U.S. dressage team was selected at the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation headquarters in Gladstone, N.J. It was an extremely well organized and smoothly run event. The grounds have never looked more beautiful, the judging was spot on, and the quality of the competition high. Horses I have followed over the entire show season stepped up their performances to a whole new level, and there was no room for error. One mistake was a disaster, two would cost you the placing. It started to look like a “fault and out” division by the second weekend, and until the end of the last Grand Prix Special, we weren’t sure who our three team members and one individual would be.
The riding overall was sophisticated, and the atmosphere in the barns and during training, warm-up and competition was focused, yet positive and friendly. Naturally, some of the riders had more horse under the hood than others, but we can be proud of how well each horse was presented. In the end we’re blessed with a great team of experienced horses and riders: Steffen Peters on Ravel, Tina Konyot on Calecto, Jan Ebeling on Rafalca. Riding as an individual, we have Adrienne Lyle on Wizard making her debut as a USEF team member on the highest international level.
As a bonus, we had Stephen Colbert giving us a huge leg up by finally admitting dressage to prime time television on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.” We thank the Romney presidential campaign for the opportunity and embrace the foam fingers and the jokes. They even picked clips of Rafalca at her best and spelled dressage correctly. Life is good!
During the trials, the USEF had an in-person meeting for the Active Athletes Committee, and we invited all the riders in the competition to attend. The result was a most productive exchange of ideas for improving our sport countrywide. Although we conduct riders’ meetings at all the major CDIs, I never before had the feeling that the athletes had this kind of an inspired exchange while thinking of themselves as a part of a nation, rather than a region.
Americans are great visionaries. We now need to envision a plan for the next four years and beyond by pooling our resources in training ability and by starting and producing new horses at home, to make sure there is an even better life for American dressage after these Olympics!
In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for us in London.
Anne Gribbons is the U.S. Equestrian Federation Technical Advisor for dressage. She has trained and shown 15 horses of her own to Grand Prix and competed in 10 national championships as well as in Europe, including the Aachen CHIO (Germany). Seven of her horses have been U.S. Dressage Federation Horse of the Year, and she was a member of the 1995 Pan American silver medal-winning team for the United States. Anne is a Fédération Equestre Internationale five-star judge, and she’s been a member of the FEI Dressage Committee since 2010. She started contributing to Between Rounds in 1995.
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