I’m a muckraker. 

Two weeks ago I was called a muckraker by someone. The term has had negative connotations in our society for some years, but I had a dim memory of learning about muckrakers during my university days, and the meaning of the term was rather more attractive than current usage suggests. So I looked it up on my favourite open source of information, Wikipedia. Here is the Wiki definition of muckraker:

“A muckraker is, primarily, a reporter or writer who investigates and publishes truthful reports involving a host of social issues, broadly including crime and corruption and often involving elected officials, political leaders and influential members of business and industry.”

I’ve decided I’m okay with being a muckraker.  And it’s nothing more than synchronicity, but on Monday my favourite finding-humour-in-the-news role model Jon Stewart used the term in a positive way on the Daily Show. 

Now that we’ve cleared that up I will attempt to make some sense of the lunacy I described a couple of weeks ago (someone else didn’t appreciate my use of the word ‘lunacy’ but I am sticking with it, and you just might agree when you’ve read what’s below). I’m going to describe it in a rough chronology in order to make it as simple as possible, but you will still have to concentrate to follow the plot.

July 2009: The DC Board dismisses its entire HPC, citing a need to restructure their terms of reference to reflect the changing needs of high performance – or something like that. The dismissal comes without warning and not one of the departing HPC members is ever heard from again in regard to DC HP. Relevant names: the 2009 DCB included Sue Rothgeb (chair), Kim Goodyear and Libby McMullen. 

August 2009 – DC sends out a press release outlining the go-ahead plan for a new and improved HPC, which would be the brain child of a steering committee appointed by DC Board. Relevant names: the five-member steering committee included the following four people: Pauline Bosman, Libby McMullen, Liz Steacie and John Harris (medium relevance). 

October 2009 – DC sends out a press release announcing that the new terms of reference have now been created. The press release also announced that the genesis of the new HPC had begun. Relevant names: DCB asked Pauline Bosman and John Harris to “to commence the work of the new High Performance Committee for the balance of


March 2010 – one of the first press releases to appear on the 2010 DCB’s watch announces, among other things, that “The High Performance Committee underwent a face-lift this past year”.  Relevant names: Bosman and Harris are the only two names mentioned as the new HP Executive. Also relevant: Kim Goodyear and Sue Rothgeb remain on the DCB for 2010 (as per their term length).

Sometime around or after that – I don’t check the DC website every single day, so I am unsure at what point the remaining members of the HP Exec appeared on the list – but at some undetermined moment, the HP Exec was populated with six more people. No press release ever announced by what process or by whom these people were appointed to HPC. Relevant names: Sue Rothgeb became Chair of HP Exec; Liz Steacie, Kim Goodyear and Libby McMullen joined HPC. Bosman, Steacie, Goodyear and McMullen were all directors of working groups, which entitled them to be on the Exec Committee. For some unknown reason Steacie’s name never appeared on the HP Exec list (low relevance but curious all the same). 

May 26th 2010 – DCB receives five letters of resignation from the HPC; four of them come from the Exec as it stood on that day. Relevant names: Sue Rothgeb, Kim Goodyear (her second resignation from HPC), Pauline Bosman, Libby McMullen and Liz Steacie.  

Relevant facts worth pointing out:

1. Sue, Kim and Libby formed three fifths of the DCB (two Board members resigned before and around that time) when they disbanded the previous HPC – without warning or dialogue of any kind, according to at least one departed member.  These same three people were instrumental in appointing the steering committee, and the first two Exec members of the new HPC. 

2.  Since there was no transparency whatsoever in the forming of the born-again HPC, it is impossible to determine the exact dynamics of Sue, Kim and Libby becoming part of the HP Exec. I will refrain from speculating but it sure is tempting to play connect-the-dots with this migration.

3. Kim and Sue have not resigned from DCB. A widely circulated reason for the resignations from HPC was that DCB was interfering with HPC’s ability to do their job of running the HP Program, supporting the Team Technical Advisor (aka coach, but for some reason that term is no longer PC) and  supporting the athletes.  So let me get this straight: last year DCB made an unprecedented move and dismissed an entire HPC – I don’t know about you but in my book that is interfering with HPC’s ability to do its job. They then appointed people to create a new HPC with terms of reference that would address all issues – presumably including those of governance. Three of the DCB members ultimately became members – and chair, no less – of the reborn HPC. And then they quit a few months later because of governance issues. And two of the people who resigned from HPC are on the DCB that caused their resignations. 

For any of you who would accuse me of lying, here is my pre-emptive response: Are you kidding? I couldn’t make this shit up.  

If that’s not lunacy I don’t know what is. Unless we compare it to North Korean, Zimbabwean or Afghan politics. And the main difference there is the presence of violence. Oh, and freedom of speech. Thank goodness we have that here in Canada.

The same person who objected to my use of the word ‘lunacy’ accused me of sounding gleeful when I mentioned the resignations in the blog two weeks ago. I wouldn’t call it glee – more cautious optimism. See, as I told this person yesterday, I am entitled to my opinions and to sharing them on this blog – which I will point out yet again is NOT journalism, more like editorial gone wild. I believe that what is happening with our athletes and with Robert Dover is the most exciting thing to happen in Canadian dressage on a collective level since I began to care about it back about 10 years ago –  when I decided I was no longer a brave eventer and would rather dance with my horse to the Can-can inside an 18 inch white fence than send him at speed over obstacles that made a ‘crunch’ when you hit them. Hearing rumours that there are serious disagreements betwen HPC and DCB at an exciting time like this is one more irony I think we can do without just now.

There are many, many people who love dressage in this country, and who have much to offer as volunteers on an occasional or ongoing basis. Some of them are already doing so – and the 2010 DCB has quite a bit of new blood, which is a good sign. Another good sign is that they look to be walking the walk with transparency. The Mid-Year Report which was sent out last week, and which is on the DC website, is just about as transparent as it gets. The next time you see a volunteer – whether it’s a scribe at a show, a clinic or competition organizer, a member of a DC or Cadora committee, or a parent standing patiently by the warm up ring with water bottle and black coat in hand – please look at them, smile and say ‘thanks’. Why am I not volunteering in DC? When I was at the 2007 Pan Am Games in Rio (where I wrote the press releases for the Canadian dressage team among quite a few other things – not many journos made the long trip to Brazil for those Games), I was talking to someone who has been and remains a very active volunteer in Canada. I half-jokingly suggested that maybe I should run for the DCB. You know what she told me? She said that I could provide a much bigger service to dressage in Canada as a journalist – writing about the issues that sometimes no one wants to think about, never mind talk about.

A person who sees things very much like I do when it comes to the HPC resignations told me the other day it seemed to her that my detractors have forgotten or failed to understsand that the journalist’s role is to be a barking dog – to bring the issues to the public, particularly those that might otherwise stay nicely hidden under the covers. I don’t need to prove to anyone that I do write positively about equestrian sport inside and outside Canada – the articles are there for the reading. I don’t wake up on Wednesday mornings and think, ‘who can I piss off today?’ But when it comes to being a good barking dog, I would be wasting your time and mine to write only the good news – particularly on this blog. That’s what press releases are for. 

One final thing in this much-too-verbose post: if any of the people mentioned either directly or indirectly in today’s blog would like to share their points of view or opinions, I would like to invite them to post a comment at the bottom of this page. It is not rational to accuse me of not fairly representing the positions of all parties when some of those parties refuse to speak to me.