I’ve been so busy with events out there in the big bad world that I have been completely remiss in sharing all the many goings on right here in the Great White North (today that is a literal name for Canada – it’s even White outside my window here in Vancouver right now, yuck!). So, while my American friends are off gorging on turkey and lying around – bellies skyward and stoned on endorphins – I’m going to sneak in an all-Canadian post today. Well, it’s kind of all-Canadian. It’s all related to Canada anyway – that I CAN say.

Dover, it’s over – the news was delivered late last month via a tear-stained press release from DC that Robert Dover’s contract as Canada’s Official Dressage Guru was not renewed.  A lack of money trees in Canadian dressage is what broke the thread that connected Robert’s home in Miami with Canada – not just in terms of a salary, but also an overall shortage of dollareedoos to support the development of the sport from the bottom to the top in the manner to which RD has become accustomed as an American. When the Take the Podium fund raiser brought in over $60,000, Robert’s opinion was that it was a good start. Unfortunately, what it really represented was the most successful fundraiser in Canadian dressage history and unlikely to be repeated – never mind topped – any time soon. Robert probably thinks we Canadians are just a bunch of skinflints stuffing our mattresses with C-notes and putting lumps of coal in Dressage’s Christmas stocking. But the plain reality is that Canada is not like America in two ways which have an impact on how many people  throw how much money at dressage: 1. we have ten times fewer people and 2. culturally we don’t get off on trying to one-up each other by being the highest bidder at an auction. Ironically, what now hangs dangerously in the balance due to RD’s not being a renewable resource is what money has been coming Dressage’s way, in the form of Own the Podium. The eventers and jumpers are in fine shape, having accomplished missions and medals at WEG. Dressage had a good result too, but probably not good enough for the OTP gods to look past the fact that we are once again without a Team Technical Advisor only a year after hiring him. I’ve heard that there are efforts under way to collect potential names for a successor but with an OTP benchmark presentation looming just days away I am in a state of some fear and trembling. I know who I would recommend for the job, particularly with next year being a Pan Am Games year – but no one has asked me for my opinion and I don’t even know who I’d give it to at this point. DC committees have an unfortunate habit of circling around their programs like muskoxen around their young. Hey – we aren’t wolves you know. We’re just MEMBERS and PARTICIPANTS. Nothing to fear but much to gain – if only you would just seek input from a wider circle.


And speaking of DC and its hoarding of knowledge, some of us (ok, mainly me) had a bit of a set-to with the Rules Committee this past month.  DC members received an email on October 25th in which they were invited to review the rule changes proposed for 2011. Also in the press release was the request that we get back to the rules committee with any concerns by November 1st. Nice. Six days to review the changes before they would be swept into action. Democratic process at its best. Now for the most part, the proposed changes were mere ‘housekeeping’ items such as changing the jacket colour rule to reflect the relaxed rules in the FEI. But one proposed rule nearly sneaked its way in under our noses and it was NOT just housekeeping. It was a rule that would require the wearing of a helmet for all riders of all ages at all levels in the warm ups at all EC horse shows. No matter that you can still wear your top hat (or your bowler if you are stuck in the seventies) in the ring – you would have to change hats in the final moments before exiting the warm up. How many of us have different hair situations with a top hat compared to a helmet? Almost all that don’t have manly hair cuts I’d say. How many of us have to delicately time our exit from the warm up so that our horses don’t catch on that the circumstances have changed and it’s now time to either fall asleep or pull the ‘show ring stunts’ out of the bag? But really, my problem with the proposed rule had to do with that silly old word, democracy. As far as I know there isn’t a country in the world that has a rule requiring helmets for adults in dressage warm ups. Even the FEI decided to draw the line at recommending helmets in warm ups in one of the many dozens of knee-jerk reactions to Courtney King’s accident.

It was suggested by the chair of the DC Rules committee that Canada should take a leadership role with this new rule. A leadership role? Well we could hardly call it that if the rule was passed with ABSOLUTELY NO dialogue because the members were given less than a week to set aside time from their busy lives to even find out about the proposed rule. If more than 50% of Canadian dressage riders think we should all wear helmets in the warm up, then who am I to stand in their way? I may not want to live in a nanny state but democracy is democracy and I would abide by its principles of representing the majority. But I have the distinct impression that this rule was being slipped past us in the way that a teenager, at two am, might attempt to slip past the living room in which a parent has fallen asleep in front of the TV. So I squawked – as did at least a few other people who used terms like ‘dictatorial’ and ‘paternalistic’ in their emails to the Rules committee. But credit must be given to the Rules Committee, who tabled the rule for 2011 pending further review – in this case ‘tabled’ meant ‘shelved’ and ‘further’ should be replaced with ‘any’. If there is some kind of referendum and the vote is for helmets in warm ups, so be it. But let’s keep that word democracy afloat, shall we?

Just when I was starting to let myself think the Rules Committee had done THE RIGHT THING after all, I received another email this week in which it was announced that as of January 1, 2011 a new rule allowing half-marks was to be implemented. WTFudge? This one wasn’t even in the proposed changes that we were given six days to review. It just appeared out of nowhere as a fait accompli.  I am still waiting for a meaningful answer to my emailed questions about this rule (such as whether it applies to all levels – that wasn’t even mentioned in the email), but I know this for sure – if the helmet rule was the teenager that got caught, this is the one that got away. Among the many carefully chosen words in my email to DC was the suggestion that since the FEI is bringing in half marks, we should let them work out the kinks through 2011 and then consider whether this significant change to judging dressage tests could be easily introduced at national levels. Is this another case of the Rules committee deciding Canada should take a leadership role ? If so, I think maybe we should climb back into the back seat until we learn how to drive.


The “L” is for ‘learner’, not ‘leader’. 

This ‘rules out of nowhere’ trend is not the exclusive domain of dressage, by the way. EC issued a press release on November 16th announcing that as of January 1 Clenbuterol will be a banned substance. Of course I immediately thought they were talking about bute because the word is contained in the name of the drug – but it’s actually a respiratory medication which most of us know as Ventipulmin. There is no explanation as to why, when or how this drug was suddenly placed on ‘the list’, and so far Yves Rossier has not answered my email. Boy there sure are a lot of people ignoring me this week. Doping rule changes in Canada often happen to keep us up to speed with the FEI, but the FEI has issued no bulletins recently on the banning of this drug. The FEI has also, incidentally, improved its transparency and advocacy of fairness to riders by introducing a policy in which prohibited lists will be reviewed on a long pre-announced annual basis, with no less than 90 days between a change being made and its enforcement on the field of play.  Oh and I just checked the FEI prohibited substance list. Clenbuterol isn’t on there. I really think we need some driving lessons.

While I’m on the inspiring topic of leaders, here’s some breaking news from the breakaway provinces of AB, SK, QC, NS, PEI and NF. A joyfully worded press release came to me from the desk of Sonia Dantu, the exec. director of the Alberta federation, which trumpeted the news that these six provinces (formerly known on this blog as the ‘hell no’ provinces) have formed a “new Canadian Alliance”. The name of this new Alliance has not yet been finalized. Just in case they are still looking for name idea submissions, I’d like  to suggest the “North of 49 Tea Party Movement”. Their motto could be something catchy like “I am not a witch”.