I guess I am expected to blog about the goings on of Eventing Canada (sigh). Actually they really wanted me to blog about it last year after the Pan Am amazement, but I’ve been putting it off (clearly, a year of procrastinating). It’s just that primarily I care to write about what I feel passionate about in some way…and the Canadian Eventing thing? It’s just exhausting and quite frankly a bit boring.

I will be honest. I was fairly upset last year. At the start of the year I was sat down very ‘principal office’ like by one of the selectors and the coach and told what I had to do, very specifically, to earn myself a spot on the team. I had to place in the top few at a CIC and finish well at a CCI without any time faults. I did both. Placed second in a large CIC with a quick time only beaten by one of Marilyn Little’s fancy ponies and placed again very well at the three day.

In between those, my horse also consistently threw down performances and at the end of the three day was listed the second highest pointed horse at that level in America (behind Marilyn’s horse that was put on the American team). So when the news of the team came out I was a bit shocked to be fair. My horse was 150% sound btw. Two people on the team I had beaten when I had come head to head with them and most unbelievable of all was the inclusion of Stuart Black as the alternate. This is nothing personal at all to do with Stuart certainly but, the fact that he was put on above me was incredulous. At the two FEI events I mention above I beat him by roughly 10 and 17 points and in general his results with that horse were very subpar all around. The only place he had earned a semi decent result was at Bromont in a division that was essentially just Canadians. How he got put on there reeked of foul play or dementia on the part of those that put him there. I believe I was punished for two reasons:

1) One of the selectors mentioned that they wanted me to do a different three day (Jersey) that spring to show my horse off over another facility (as the year previous my horse had placed in the top few at Ocala three day). However, Clayton encouraged me, and rightly so, to go back to Ocala as then, if we should run into an unfortunate incident like an abscess/nail, etc., I had a back up plan of going to Jersey as if I just left it to Jersey and had an incident I had nowhere else to go… Common sense really.

2) For not going to Bromont, an event that was not mandatory, another CIC after my horse had already placed over the years in numerous of those (including the recent second), and another CIC that was roughly 3,000 mile round trip on a horse that needn’t do that travel only then to turn around and do it again a few weeks later if they were chosen to go into training camp.

They made a big mistake with the Stuart thing. Everyone else you could have explained away, but including him with his results showed just how entirely faulty the system had become. In the end Jessie was a star as usual and although we won bronze, in reality what we did was lose the silver for the first Pan Am’s in a while. I sold my horse, did the right thing and put some money on our mortgage and bought some new young ones, and vowed to wash my hands of the entire Canadian thing until at least a time when the regime had change. Happily enough, though I got to see my horse win a medal this year on the silver Young Rider’s team with his new young lady!

Fast forward to this year and more eyebrow popping has ensued. There is no one place to lay the blame; it seems to be a cancer throughout the system. There is no coherent way to blog about this because the problems are all over the place.

I guess one can start with the fact that Clayton was named a selector. The moment that happened, it left us all shaking our heads. It pretty much states on page one of ‘Team Leadership for Dummies’ that a coach should never be a selector. I don’t blame Clayton for this occurrence aside from the fact that one would have thought him wise enough to realize what a can of worms he was stepping into and should have bowed out, but rather I place more blame on whom\ever thought it was a good idea to let this happen. I’ve asked around a bit, but never found two people that gave me the same answer about who condoned it. But whomever did should be taken out of position as just like the elderly relative who is starting to leave the stove on all night; they are making bad decisions, they are becoming a danger to themselves and others and need to be removed!

It was that decision that directly led to the Jessie appeal and her consequent win. For what my opinion is worth, which isn’t much I admit…lol, but when it was selection time I did give Jessie a 50/50 chance of being put on. I thought the obvious value of naming her was in her riding capability, but thought her only horses worthy of selection on was Pavorotti, provided he was sound enough, and her grey who, although I watched him at Jersey and he was brilliant, certainly did not have consistent results previously. So as much as I wanted her for her ability, I questioned her mounts and thus thought the selectors would have a chore deciding between her and Kathryn. So when Kathryn was named I quite frankly wasn’t surprised nor disappointed, the cards just lay that way, so be it. But, according to the transcript, it was Clayton’s offhanded remarks to Jessie and her owner that won her appeal BECAUSE he was a selector and the arbitrator also felt he was the largest voice within the selection process. A nasty situation all around for Jessie, Kathryn and Clayton, for all of this dirty laundry to be aired so publically and for the love of God, I hope Canada learnt something and never makes the same mistake again putting a coach in a selector’s chair.

Then there is the problem of Clayton as for whatever reason, he has not gained, or if he ever did, he has lost the respect of too many of the Canadian riders and that is not a good place for a coach to be. People don’t have to like their coach, but they darn well need to have respect for them and clearly all one has to do is look at anything these days to see that that respect is gone. Whose fault is that? It really doesn’t matter at this point. Clearly Kyle, Jessie and Kathryn’s opinion of the coach are very obvious publically, as well as a past medal winning Canadian has been very vocal about her opinion on social media and now there are large rumours about Selena being very disgruntled and speaking to people about it as well. There are five of what have been benchmarks of the Canadian Eventing component unhappy with the coach. Not to mention the other 10 or so that wrote letters to the topic last year. Do you dismiss all of these voices?

Then I noticed yesterday a new revival all of a sudden of Clayton clients all posting very similar public announcements on their Facebook pages, which funnily enough all mention ‘he’s not really arrogant’ or, ‘well, you have to be arrogant to be a success’ and ‘don’t blame him for all the mess.’ Although the wording is slightly different in them, they all contain the same points and start to feel like they should be followed by the small print ‘this endorsement paid for by the Frederick’s administration’ LOL (and I am sure they are not paid for by the FE admin, but it is funny none the less). I mean this is a sport and not life or death, so you just have to laugh really. But at the end of the day, RESPECT is necessary, I firmly believe, for a coach to have and if you cannot, be it your fault or not, hold your riders’ respect it is game over. And FYI kiddies, no, you don’t need to be arrogant to be a success. Ever met Leslie or William Fox-Pitt?

Then there is the administrative debacles. The situations where the bad or missing paperwork got overlooked in the Kathryn Robinson case back during the WEGS, the fact that the Canadian entries were sent in late to Great Meadows this year and the fact that Kyle’s horse Parker was unceremoniously dropped or forgotten off the Olympic list. Too many administrative issues in an already weak eventing country.

Like I said, the problems are too widespread to lay at the feet of just one person and the next big question is who will step up to take the lead in correcting all of it and who will join them? I am not sure who is wise enough to fix all of this and who would want to at this point. I hope someone will as for a long time my dream was to be part of the Canadian team and for many years during the Wofford presidency and then the O’Connor term I was involved and did get to do a lot of great things with both of those coaches. I almost got my time in the sun for Beijing before my horse unceremoniously did a leg a few days before travel, but all of that meant a great deal to me and I was so proud to be a part of it all. But now it has become a bit like growing up wanting to be a top hockey player, but then being told that the only team you will be allowed to play for is The Leafs (and not during their golden era lol). Kinda takes the wind out of your sails a bit and all of this bad press is doing NOTHING to promote our sport within the country and attract new owners or encourage existing ones which is the scariest part of all in a country where we are so weak on horse power. How can we as riders attract owners when we have experiences like mine last year or Jessie and Kathryn’s this year? And what about sponsors? Do you think these very public appeals, disgruntled athletes taking it to social media or video blogs is creating an atmosphere that sponsors want to dive into?

Phew. I have done my expected bit. I don’t think I have said anything that people didn’t know already, sadly, but I will say as I look forward to watching the opening ceremonies tomorrow night I do wish all the best for our Canadian gals there. I have no doubt Clayton will as well be doing his upmost to get the best out of everyone. Stats would dictate that aside from a personal best from Rebecca, which would get her somewhat up there, we don’t have a chance in hell of accomplishing much at these Olympics as far as placings go, but what those ladies can do is set personal bests, which would fulfill their souls, give them something to remember forever and give the younger kids and fans something to aspire to. All of them have made a lot of sacrifices personally and financially to be there and I hope it is all they wish for it to be. Now let’s watch as New Zealand and France battle to dethrone Germany! (Although you know my better half will be pulling for a Brit or a Yank to pull it off!)

~ Lesley Grant-Law