Happy Valentines. This is the most wonderful and terrible time of our year. I have gone into robot mode where I wake up and run on auto pilot for most of the day and try to make as few mistakes as possible.
I think we taught over 40 ship-ins last week and rode at least another 40 plus, and that doesn’t take into account our students in the barn.
On Thursday our son asked me why I had given him two lunches that day (as I forgot that he gets school lunch on Thursday this month and had packed him one as well), and when I remembered tomorrow was Valentines and there were 16 cards to be made and a box for the cards to be received into, I can promise you my face was only that of what you would regularly see in the movies after the shower curtain is pulled back and a dagger appears.
However, I had promised the good folks here that I would write something current on the state of either EC or eventing with regards to Canada, so here I am. I am not nearly learned enough on the topic to speak to the current EC debate, so I will have a go at expressing my current thoughts on the high performance scene.
This is what I have to say…
Canadian High Performance riders, and all tied to, supportive of, or interested in, should be ecstatic right now.
Why? A small atomic bomb if you will has gone off in our eventing committees/programs/areas of decision making, leaving a vacuum that will have to be filled up. This is exciting for three reasons:
1. When very few seemed to like the old, the prospect of having new is grand.
2. There will be two rider reps on the new five-person High Performance ‘Group’ and clearly those two out of a five-man group will carry an awful lot of weight when having a hand in the creation of this new world.
3. The new High Performance ‘group’ is being headed up by Rob Stevenson whom, although I know very little about him personally, seems to be very enthusiastic and positive about his new role. Now, I know enthusiasm and optimism are a far cry from being the sole ingredients of success in what is currently a quagmire, but surely it is a good place to start? He is so enthusiastic, in fact, that he has organized a Canadian High Performance clinic down here in Ocala in February with two of the biggest names in coaching: George Morris and Christilot Boylen. And he is actually funding this from his own pocket! That is extraordinary, if you ask me.
For those that don’t know, EC will not hand out a budget until March, and thus we cannot begin to hire a new coach (or anything of the like) until after that comes out. So, for Rob to step forward and organize this clinic as a stop gap to creating a national atmosphere of learning and training, if you will, I think is commendable and shows us his current level of dedication to the country.
OK, so what will be created? Two biggies:
1. Selectors – Most of the selectors from what I have heard are no longer interested, which is good as clearly there was a lot of issues from the past two Games. I’m not saying anything personal or negative. I will just leave it with, I think it is good. If any of them wish to remain on, I believe they will have to be voted in, or at least given a “blessing” to continue on for this next cycle. Who your selectors are, their knowledge base, their relevance and interest in the sport today, their understanding of the horses and the courses today, their ability to travel at their own time expense for the cause – this is VERY important people. The new rider reps will have a large hand in putting forth the collective ideas of the riders to push names forward for consideration or likewise strike down names if they think they are not qualified.
2. Coach? Technical advisor? Team manager? Lions? Tigers? OK, so we have none of the above right now. Mr. Fredericks is gone and we got nada. As I’ve said, we will find out what our budget is at some point in March and so, obviously, only then will we have a clue of what we can afford to hire. I know some people have been critical about not having a “plan” yet for what we are doing, but I think it makes more than perfect sense that until we are handed a budget from EC, how can we possibly make a plan? Unless some of the whiners would like to come up with the salary? Once we know the dollar amount “we” can choose whether “we” want a coach? A team manager? or both, but lol… who am I kidding? There is no way there will EVER be enough money to have both. So, basically “we” will be choosing which of the two “we” want to have and then have a hand in who that person will be.
I’ve been using the term “we” just then because while I say “we,” I clearly don’t mean “I.” “I” am no longer in this glorious can of worms, as I don’t have a High Performance horse at the moment, with my oldest steed being young and just a newly minted Intermediate horse. So, when I use the term “we,” I am really setting most of this chore at the feet of the current High Performance listed riders and their elected rider reps, as it is “they” that will have a lot of say in all this, and, of course, Rob Stevenson and his other two appointed “group” members.
But, if you were interested in what “I” think, for what it’s worth, I really believe that Canada needs a “coach” type; I do not think we will thrive under a manager alone. I think we have very few older “veterans” if you will, and our “veterans” are no Fox-Pitts, if you see what I mean. And then we have a small load of younger people coming up, and all of those mentioned need a coach, a mentor, someone to organize at team events, but also to guide and see people through for the rest of the year as well.
Basically, we need a coach that is what Leslie is like for the USA emerging athletes. I watch Leslie and not only does he do the odd training camp, but he is a lifeline to these people in terms of help with difficult decision making, program design, horse selection, etc. And I think many felt that way about David too, when he was part of our program. We need that because I believe as we are still a struggling country with very little experience trying to do things on a low budget on the seat of our pants. We need advice and guidance still. Our ‘veterans’ could still use advice and certainly our up and comings are so very inexperienced with maybe only ever the one horse under their belt they are just in the teething stages and could really use someone beyond just a training camp conductor, and for those that say that they can find their own coaches at home and cope that way I counter that many of them do not have a high enough calibre coach at home and if they do, they are sometimes working with very good dressage or show jumping trainers but then need a ‘go to’ person for when it comes down to making real eventing plans.
This is only my opinion, and like I said, “I” am no longer part of the “we” lol. Of course, in the most perfect of worlds we would have a coach and a manager. One to help with the programs, the riders, the horses and then the strategies at Games, and the other to help in a more administrative and business capacity, but, sadly, as I said, I am pretty darn sure the budget will not allow for both. Perhaps there is an owner out there or sponsor who has money burning a hole in their pocket and a high sense of generosity and charity towards our sport that would like to donate a salary for a few years?
Anyways, it is all very exciting, if you ask me. The fact that we have fresh eyes to work with, an enthusiastic new group leader, and such a large voice on this new group will mean that the High Performance riders, IF they do their job, meet regularly, form coherent and unified desires and then pass them on to their reps that will need to do a very good job, THEN the riders are going to have a very big hand in the creation of new selectors, if we end up with a coach vs. manager, and who we end up with.
And I will end my blog with this: as we are on the tail end of many upset high performance riders moving into this new blank slate of a world, I will remind everyone of the famous quote from my college day friend Voltaire, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Our High Performance listed riders must get organized and mobilized into a slick unit; not a Facebook chat board grief outlet. We need a professional group that meets regularly and forms concise opinions to bring forward to their reps who are then expected to do their jobs. Three key people, including two rider reps, were a major part of the process that hired Mr. Fredericks and then a few years down the line, those three were the ones that complained the loudest about him and lobbied for his exit out of there. I am not passing judgement here on anything other than the fact that they clearly came to regret their decision. Remember that. Remember that what you try to put in place over this next year will likely be what we are stuck with for the next cycle. So, do nothing in haste and truly think and calculate your thoughts, meet often and be dedicated, document things and get involved. Most of you wanted this opportunity to create a new world. We will look forward to seeing what you do with it.