In this week’s intrigues, I was curious to note both a presence and an absence from the latest FEI Dressage Committee meeting minutes, which were published and distributed, not by the FEI, but by its favourite non-associate, the IDRC. First, the absence. I dedicated my entire column in Horse Sport International’s latest issue to what was by far the hottest topic of debate at the FEI Sport Forum in April: the FEI’s proposal to yank one qualification opportunity from the Pan Am Games and essentially hand it on a silver platter to a European country by giving the extra spot to the fourth placed WEG Team (sorry Americans, but spades are spades; it really doesn’t look like you are heading to the top four next year in Normandy).
The controversy over the FEI’s revocation of one Pan Am qualification was really the ONLY dressage topic anyone has been talking about since the Sport Forum. So, how odd indeed that the FEI DC’s meeting a few weeks later barely mentioned the Olympic qualification at all, except for a single, vague sentence about the FEI DC ‘working on’ a proposal document prepared by DC member Thomas Baur that would be discussed at the next meeting. Another reference to Baur’s proposal suggests that his document is about the format of the next Olympics, and not about the (intensely with the Americas) unpopular changes to the qualifications at all. That’s the FEI for you. Confronting the issues, one denial at a time.
Now onto the curious presence in the FEI DC minutes and the inspiration for the title of today’s post: a proposed change to the Under 25 Grand Prix to make it Under 28. Where TF did that come from? I’d never heard about it, and I suspect nor had most of the DQ world, until it was mentioned in the FEI DC minutes. Again, just a single sentence was given to the topic, and that was one of dismissal since apparently the other disciplines don’t want to change U25 to U28. And why should they? Why on earth should dressage, for that matter? I’ve indulged my love of numbers and done a bit of analysis of how old you have to be to really good at the Grand Prix level. The answer: not very old. Not very old at all.
Isabell Werth: won team gold in Barcelona when she was 23. Four years later, at age 27, she won team AND individual gold in Atlanta.
Anky Van Grunsven: won team and freestyle bronze at the European Championships at 23, won team bronze a year later in Barcelona; won her first World Cup title at the age of 27.
Charlotte Dujardin: won team and individual gold in London last summer at the ripe old age of 27. In fact, two thirds of the British team was 27; Laura B was also 27, though she made her Olympic debut at the age of 23 in Hong Kong.
If you take the top ten individuals from London, three were under 28. Five of the top 15 were under 28. That’s a third of the best in the world. Changing the U25 to U28 is a bit like offering a U16 division in gymnastics. A dumb idea. It might have been motivated by a desire to see the classes in the U25 GP have more entries, but I think the FEI needs to give it a bit of time, and oh, I don’t know – a bit of promotion maybe? Given the flat-on-face landing of the Nations’ Cup dressage series that I wrote about last week, I’m not holding my breath. But increasing the age limit for the young rider GP is not the answer.
Speaking of entry numbers, I’d like to know what the French did so right to attract the numbers they got for the Compiegne CDI this weekend. There were 46 in the GP alone, and 31 in the FEI Pony division! Considering I didn’t recognize more than a handful of the names in the GP, it was a pretty strong class too – quality as well as quantity. If the field had all been Canadians (there weren’t any), all of the top ten would have achieved qualifying scores over 67% for WEG 2014, according to the draft criteria that were leaked to me last week.
So how about all that hopey changey stuff that had everyone walking on air at the Dressage Canada Summit? The rest of the world is not standing still waiting for Canada to pull up its bootstraps, and yet I haven’t heard even a peep in follow up to the Summit. In fact, the article I wrote in the June issue of Horse Sport is to-date the only coverage of the Summit as far as I’m aware (you’re welcome). When I worked on the article DC was very quick to send me the summary report from the Summit when I requested information for my article. The other day I realized I had not seen that summary distributed to the DC membership, so I went on the DC site and drilled down a few layers before I found it. Technically, it’s out there because it’s on the site…but I found it only because I a) knew it existed and b) went digging for it. The cloak of cheerful optimism I donned after hearing so many hopeful reports post-Summit is starting to fray. Would it have been so hard to put together a short email to members with a link to the summary? Or at least put a link to it on the DC homepage instead of burying it like a bad report card? It’s now almost three months, or one quarter of a year, since the Summit. It’s hard to imagine that it’s really had any impact at all if there isn’t even the most basic progress in the communications department.
In happier news, I’m off to hang out with my very favourite group of equestrians, the eventers! I leave tomorrow for Bromont, and you can expect to be kept up to speed on this blog all week from the CCI3*, which I am ecstatic to be attending for the second year in a row. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get wind of whether Bromont is getting WEG 2018 or not. I’m especially thrilled to be taking a wing
mandog with me in the form of my best friend, Chorizo. He heard there might be foie gras and insisted that I take him along. Oui Oui!